The race to save a neglected midcentury house may be coming to an end for Los Angeles architect Dion Neutra. The 7,000-square-foot residence, designed by Neutra and his father Richard in 1955, is now owned by a third party who intends to cap the sewer line – a sign some see as a final step to demolition, the L.A. Timesreported Sunday.
In a July 22nd letter to the Beverly Hills City Council, Neutra writes: “Demolition of a historic property of this high caliber by world-renowned architects, the Neutras, would cause harm to the City’s reputation through the loss of a nationally significant masterpiece of Modern architecture.” He urges the council to “issue an urgency ordinance” that would permit a review of the property and, presumably, allow time for it to be purchased for the purpose of restoration.
Neutra’s battle has been mostly uphill in a city without a preservation ordinance – something he began chronicling in a blog on his practice’s website earlier this month. The Los Angeles Conservancy is also campaigning for the site to be spared but told the Times that demolition is likely unless the third party that owns the site changes its mind or a buyer for the $14 million property is found. The city of Beverly Hills has “no ‘stick’ in the form of protections,” Linda Dishman, the executive director at the conservancy, told the Times.
In an article on its website, the Conservancy notes a “disturbing trend” that has resulted in the demolition of Sidney Eisenshtat’s 1961 Friars Club building and the Shusett Residence built by John Lautner in 1951. Neutra reflects similar sentiment in a comment in his blog’s initial post, writing that “… the $14M price tag for 2 acres of prime McMansion level land in Beverly Hills may be fair for an empty lot. To create it in this way seems unconscionable.”
Update: In a letter Tuesday, the Los Angeles chapter of the AIA encouraged the Beverly Hills City Council to protect the Kronish House from demolition, calling the residence “an excellent example of modern architecture,” with “the potential to serve as a valuable cultural asset for Southern California.” The letter also suggests the adoption of a preservation ordinance by the city of Beverly Hills. Read the letter here.