Page N1.1 . 24 April 2002                     
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    Neutra House in Palm Springs Destroyed

    by ArchitectureWeek

    Preservationists and admirers of modern architecture were angered to learn of the surprise demolition last month of the Samuel and Luella Maslon House. This house in Rancho Mirage, California, designed in 1962 by Richard Neutra, was a celebrated residential work by the modernist master.

    The new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Richard J. Rotenberg of Hopkins, Minnesota, had recently purchased the property for $2.45 million. They had the building destroyed within 30 days of taking possession.

    Before granting the demolition permit, the city conducted only one review: for the presence of asbestos. This according to Peter Moruzzi, chairman of the Palm Springs Modern Committee, a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving the modernist heritage of the area. He says: "Even in 2002, the iconic work of a world-renowned architect such as Richard Neutra can be destroyed with an over-the-counter permit in many American cities. No public comment, no public review. This is an outrage which must be corrected." Moruzzi wants to convince cities to enact historic preservation ordinances to at least allow public review before such properties are torn down.

    The original owners were collectors of modern art who had commissioned Neutra to design the house to combine their ideas with his and those of of Frank Lloyd Wright. According to Barbara Mac Lamprecht, author of Neutra: Complete Works, the Maslon House was "a residential palazzo of art that embodied sophisticated abstractions about positive and negative space in a structure that was equally sophisticated in construction... beautiful materials used to accomplish richer human relationships with the outdoors and with other humans, placed in ways that spoke to the beauty of asymmetry."

    Richard Neutra is considered one of the world's most influential architects. He responded to the Southern California climate with designs in which indoor and outdoor spaces flow freely together and into a carefully arranged landscape. He believed that modern architecture should act as a social force in the betterment of mankind.

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    ArchWeek Image

    The 1962 Maslon House in Rancho Mirage, California by Richard Neutra.
    Photo: 2002, David Glomb

    ArchWeek Image

    The historic house was torn down this month without public review.
    Photo: 2002, David Glomb

     

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