Purple Diary

[May 23 2014]

“How House” 1925 by R.M. Schindler tour hosted by MAK Center, Los Angeles

Just five years after his arrival in 1920 to Los Angeles from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Chicago office, architect R.M. Schindler completed the How House for Dr. James How, a psychotherapist who had moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles. The interlocking volumes, cubic form, and repeating geometric lines of the How House demonstrate the close relationship of the origins of Southern California modernism to the work of European architects, such as Adolf Loos and J.J.P Oud. Schindler felt that the location of the house on a ridge blocked the natural vista, and thus he blended the How House with the landscape by pushing vertically up from the ridge and extending horizontally out with multiple terraces, including a roof terrace. Due to the ridge’s steep grade, the house required a limited footprint, which Schindler approached by creating two separate geometric portions, the upper in California redwood battens stained green-grey to match the existing eucalyptus trees on the site and the lower in “slab-cast” concrete that was horizontally scored to visually unite the two materials. This geometry not only defines the exterior of the structure, with its horizontal battens and vertical rise from the hillside, but also its interior forms which layer upon one another at opposing right angles, clerestory windows, varying ceiling heights, a characteristic wrapping wall plate at door head height, and a continuous pattern of horizontal lines. A double-winged entry at street level leads to a piano nobile featuring a living room, dining room, and study, which rests above the lower-level bedrooms. Two large outlook corner windows in the living room create a diagonal bilateral flow, and offer views of the urban basin towards the west and the Los Angeles River to the east. Interior glass partitions framed in wood connect interior spaces with one another to offer open views throughout the house to exterior spaces, and a skylight on the living room terrace gives natural light to an otherwise dark downstairs corridor. Photo Jessie Askinazi

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