Kettal has replicated the design by Dion and Richard Neutra, while
updating the materials and construction techniques. All the structural
details, as defined by its creators, have been adhered to.
"This house - in its free relation to the ground, the trees, the sea -
with constant proximity to the whole vast order of nature, acts as a
re-orientator and 'shock absorber' and should provide the needed
relaxations from the complications arising from daily problems."
The most outstanding morphological traits are:
1 > Predominantly horizontal lines, emphasised by the wooden
strips running across the structure, protruding 500 mm at the ends.
Richard Neutra himself referred to them in various texts, as:
Designed by Dion and Richard Neutra
"Traditional Japanese architecture is horizontal; space is
exclusively horizontal. Without a defined centre or axis, it
extends as an aggregate of rooms of equal value, none of which
is complete except in relation to the others. The space is flexible
and transferable, without a fixed function. The use of the rooms
varies over the course of the day and throughout the year."
2 > The columns are set back 100 mm to give full prominence to the
roof. In addition, the columns are understated and the roof is slightly
oversized. In spite of its formal strength, to some extent it seems as
if the roof is floating lightly over the shell of the house.
3 > The characteristic chimney on the roof has been maintained,
which houses the light sensors, air-conditioning unit and a small
weather station. The technology used by the architect in this project
is still quite astonishing even today, evidenced by the complex
electrical installation, the special lighting systems, the telephone
installation, the projectors, the electric stoves, the radio, the signage
system and the temperature control device. This whole technological
deployment has been updated with the development of a specific
smart system to control everything in the house: air-conditioning,
central heating, lighting, etc.
4 > The trellis structure continues beyond the roof to create an open
space that can be used for different activities, while at the same time,
accentuating the horizontal nature of the building.
In 1932, Richard Neutra built his house thanks to a donation
from the Dutch philanthropist Dr Van Der Leeuw (hence the
acronym VDL). This house is a particularly important example
of Richard Neutra's work because it encapsulates all the
architectural theories that he first posited in his book Wie
Baut amerika?, 1927 and later on in his more philosophical
reflections Survival Through Design, 1953.
Seven years later, when the family had grown, he built an
annex in the garden. In 1963, the house was devastated by
fire, leaving only the annex standing. At that time, Richard
Neutra and his son and colleague Dion Neutra rebuilt the
house and added a solarium/atrium on top of the original
structure. He incorporated everything he had learned over
the years in this reconstruction: modularity, natural climate
control, water roofs, interaction with the natural environment,
technological advances, etc.
Apart from being his home, the VDL Research House was
also his office. In this building, over 30 years, he designed
hundreds of international projects. Some of the most
representative architects from the Modern American
movement also spent time in his practice as apprentices.
The house was also a meeting point for the cultural milieu
of those times, with visitors such as Julius Shulman, Frank
Lloyd Wright, Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames, Jorn
Urtzon and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.
In 1990, on the death of Dione Neutra, Richard Neutra's
wife and Dion's mother, the house was donated to the
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.