Richard Neutra and his Kaufmann Desert House

We are all affected in one way or another by buildings, they are around us, we live in them, and we were born in them, study in them, work in them and usually we get married in them.

That is why we study, examine, learn and observe existing buildings, not to intentionally to copy them but to learn from its mistakes and to improve its excellent areas. It is very rear nowadays to find a unique building which was never built before, it could be different in the design but its principles is copied from an old existing building.

Many people do not understand the different between good architecture and bad architecture and this is a misunderstanding which comes from the fact that the term architecture is misunderstood.
Sir Henry Wotton came with a definition which clarifies what we mean by architecture:
“Well-building has three conditions: firmness, commodity and delight”

This is why some buildings more interesting, more memorable and better loved than others.

I’ve chosen Ritchard Neutra’s house for this week's famous architectural house, The Kufmann Desert House for the following reasons:

• The architect’s history and teachers
• The previous projects before this house
• The actual design of the house and it’s surrounded landscape
• The achievements of the project as one of the most important house of the 20th century
About Richard Neutra:

Richard Joseph Neutra was born on the 8th of April 1892 in Vienna. He graduated in 1917 from the Technische Hochschule, , Vienna, where he had been studying under Adolf Loos who was one of the most important and influential architects of the modern period in European architecture. Richard Neutra was influenced by Otto Wagner.

Otto Wagner believed in changing the current way of design buildings and he called for an architecture based entirely on modern materials and modern construction methods. Wagner was a highly influential figure in the development of Modern architecture and he is one of the architects whom had a great influence on Richard Neutra.

Later after graduation, Neutra worked in Germany in the studio of Erich Mendelsohn a German architect who was known for his expressionist buildings in the 1920s, after that by few years Richard Neutra moved to America in 1923 where he worked for Frank Lloyd Wright who was one of the world's most prominent and influential architects and a good friend of Neutra.

Richard Neutra the met his close friend from the university Rudolf Schindler and accepted his invitation to work and live communally in Schindler's Kings Road House in California. Neutra later opened his own practice in Los Angeles.

Although Neutra was influenced by the architecture of Vienna which left a sense of prosperity and elegance that was to come forward in his work, but he also came with in entirely new forms of design.

He was famous for the great attention he gave to defining the real needs of his clients, whether he was commissioned to build a simple house or a mansion. This was in contrast with other genial architects, who would often do everything to impose their artistic vision on a client, regardless of what was really needed to create a home. He would sometimes use detailed questionnaires to find out exactly what the owners would need, much to the surprise of many of his clients. His domestic architecture was a blend of Art, landscape and practical comfort.

Neutra believed that the architect should strive for a response to space and time that may be only momentary, yet in its intensity becomes truly memorable. Both houses have such: a chance reflection in the pool, or glass in shadow; the roof hovering above the sunset, or the rustle of leaves.

About Kaufmann Desert House:

The Kaufmann House, or Kaufmann Desert House, in Palm Springs, California, was one of the last domestic projects conducted by Richard Neutra in 1946, but it is also one of his most famous homes.

The house was one of the fines masterpieces of the Modern movement, and it was among the houses which inspired many architects to adapt the unparalleled modernism and sophistication of Richard Neutra in their buildings.

Now fully restored the house will soon take its rightful place amongst the five most important house of the 20th century among:

1. Falling Water,
2. Robie House,
3. Gropius House,
4. Kaufman House, Gambell House)

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Kaufman House, 1946 Richard Neutra 470 W. Chino Canyon Road, Palm Springs

"The Kaufmann house, Palm Springs, 1946, moved in the direction of the pavilion, which is Neutra's last development in domestic architecture. Horizontal planes resting on horizontal planes hover over transparent walls. The material loses its importance—magnificent as the dry-joint stone walls are in themselves—and the gist of the house is the weightless space enclosed. The victory over the front door is almost complete; it is reached by slow stages, like the Mexican house whose entrance on the street leads through a garden to an unemphasized door." Esther McCoy. Richard Neutra. p16-17.

The House was an isolated five-bedroom, five-bathroom vacation house in Palm Springs, California and it was sited on 60 x 90 meter (1200 x 300 foot) plot, it was designed to enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding desert and mountains it was also offering shelter from the harsh climatic conditions.
The main entrance was to the south, and from it a covered path led past a large carport to the living and dining areas, organized around a central fire place. The savant’s quarters were placed to the west and guest accommodation to the north, across a covered patio which was later filed in. The master bedroom was to the east, beyond the living room to allow a stunning view of the swimming pool. Both living spaces and master bedroom has a large sliding glass walls opening to adjacent patios.
The over all feeling of the house is light and airy, spacious and it emphasizes a connection to the desert landscape.
The house could be one of its kinds at the time, the heaviness of the stone walls being set off large areas of glass; it was also a model of sophisticated design by today’s standards, fully energy conscious and environmentally friendly design, the roof overhangs and lows adjustably with an under floor heating and cooling system combined to provide comprehensive and unobtrusive climate control.
Around the house Richard Neutral created a natural garden of indigenous rocks and cacti this was to prove even more that the building is connected to its surrounded desert landscape.

"As an architect, my life has been governed by the goal of building environmental harmony, functional efficiency, and human enhancement into the experience of everyday living. These things go together, constituting the cause of architecture, and a life devoted to their realization cannot be an easy one.
"I have been privileged, or perhaps doomed, to eschew simpler, lighter burdens. Shaping man's surroundings entails a lot more than spatial, structural, mechanical, and other technical considerations—certainly a lot more than pontificating about matters of style. Our organic well-being is dependent on a wholesome, salubrious environment. Therefore exacting attention has to be paid to our intricate sensory world."
Richard Neutra. from William Marlin, ed. Nature Near: late essays of Richard Neutra. p1-2.
Kaufman House, 1946 Richard Neutra 470 W. Chino Canyon Road, Palm Springs


* Hines, Thomas S. Richard Neutra and the Search for Modren Architecture: A Biography and History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
* Neutra, Richard Joseph. Nature Near: the Late Essays of Richard Neutra. Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1989.
* Neutra, Richard Joseph. Richard Neutra, Promise and Fulfillment, 1919-1932: Selections from the Letters and Diaries of Richard and Dione Neutra. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986.
* Sack, Manfred. Richard Neutra/ Sack Manfred. Zurich: Artemis, 1994.
* Francis D. K. Ching. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1979.
* Thomas S.Hines. Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture. New York: Oxford University Press. 1982.
* John Julius Norwich, ed. Great Architecture of the World. London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1975.
* Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

• Troxell Residence (
• (Info from the Winkens family with photos)


* Richard Neutra’s picture, source:
* Kaufmann Desert House • Palm Springs, California, source:

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