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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.