Austrian-born architect Richard Neutra was known for his client-centric designs: instead of forcing his own architectural vision upon a client, he created buildings that would best suit them and their needs. In fact, he was known for occasionally giving clients lengthy questionnaires to fill out to understand what they wanted.

richard neutra kaufmann house
Designed for the family of Edgar Kaufmann (for whom Frank Lloyd Wright had designed Fallingwater), the Kaufmann Desert House was built in Palm Springs in 1947. The home was later made famous by a series of photographs taken by Julius Shulman. Courtesy of Rost Architects.

His buildings were often rigidly geometric yet airy, and combined landscape, art and practical comfort. The structures had motifs common to International Style, like the use of glass, concrete and steel. The majority of his designs were built on the West Coast, and there’s a high concentration of them in California.

landfair apartments richard neutra
The Landfair Apartments in Los Angeles were built by Neutra in 1937. The long, linear look of the building is typical of International Style. The apartments are now owned by UCLA. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Neutra’s Life

Richard Neutra was born in Vienna, Austria in 1892. Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Neutra was trained in architecture and studied under architects like Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner at the Vienna University of Technology.

In 1921, Neutra was the chief architect of the German town of Luckenwalde, and married Dione Niedermann in 1922. They emigrated to the United States in 1923, and Neutra began to work under Frank Lloyd Wright until moving to California a few years later.

richard neutra robert schindler
Neutra (top left) and Schindler (top right), along with his wife Dione Neautra and their son. Courtesy of American Theatre.

Once he was on the West Coast, Neutra worked primarily in landscape architecture until he formed an architecture firm (Architectural Group for Industry and Commerce) with his friend and peer Rudolf Schindler.

richard neutra lovell health house
The Lovell Health House was built in 1929 and helped put Neutra on the map as a renowned architect. It sits on the outskirts of Los Angeles and was revolutionary for its time. Courtesy of Curbed.

Eventually, Neutra designed the Lovell Health House in 1929, a building which skyrocketed his fame. He was soon featured in MOMA exhibition of Modern Architecture in 1932, which was put together by architect Philip Johnson.

richard neutra time magazine
Neutra on the cover of Time Magazine. Time called described his homes’ beauty as “like that of any sea shell, is more than skin-deep—practical, not pretentious.” Courtesy of Architectural Digest.

Over the following decades, Neutra’s popularity only grew. He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1949, and was called “second only to Frank Lloyd Wright.” He teamed up with architect Robert E. Alexander in 1949 and began designing larger commercial and industrial buildings with him until their partnership ended 10 years later.

karachi embassy richard neutra
The US Embassy in Karachi, Pakistan, designed by Neutra and Alexander. The bold geometry of the structure shows off Neutra’s characteristic style. Courtesy of Lamprecht Architextural.

In 1955, Neutra was asked to design the the Pakistani embassy in Karachi. The task was part of a larger initiative on behalf of the State Department to commission well-known architects to build US embassies.

richard neutra portait
A portrait of Neutra. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

Neutra’s Legacy

Throughout the 60’s, Neutra began designing villas across Europe. By the time he passed away in 1970, he had designed over 300 homes since the start of his career. He was posthumously awarded in AIA Gold Medal in 1977.

richard neutra dion neutra
Richard Neutra and his son, Dion. Courtesy of Neutra.

Neutra’s legacy lives on in his homes— many of them still stand today. They’re celebrated for their simple and streamlined look, and sell for millions of dollars. But he is well-remembered as a person too. His son Dion, also an architect, still keeps the his father’s design firm open. And Neutra is memorialized even on the computer— the font ‘Neutraface’ was named after him.

Learn more about another famous architect, Albert Frey, here. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!