Construction of the VDL houses spans the period of 1932-1965, the years when Neutra made his greatest impact on world architecture.
History of the Neutra VDL House I built in 1932 illustrated by photographs taken by Julius Shulman in 1958
The 1963 fire destroyed the mature trees in front of the VDL House, which had provided shading and privacy. To compensate for the loss of trees, aluminum sun louvers and gold polarizing film for the windows were added on the southern end of the west elevation. The louvers, which resemble jet-plane wings, track the sun powered by a motor connected to a solar sensor on the roof. Gold window film provides additional privacy for the bedrooms and bathrooms, which face the street.
During construction of VDL II a ten by five foot construction sign was posted in front of the house advertising the names of the architect and his consultants to the neighborhood.
Julius Shulman Photograph of Richard Neutra on the penthouse of the Richard and Dion VDL Research House II in 1966
Neutra, Richard J. WIE BAUT AMERIKA? [Die Baubücher Band I]. Stuttgart: Verlag Julius Hoffmann, 1927
Historical Houses in Silverlake, from “An Architectural Guidebook To Los Angeles,” David Gebhard and Robert Winter (2003)
Visiting the house in 1997, the Los Angeles Times architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote of the rooftop reflecting pool: “The effect is mesmerizing. Gazing towards the sunset from the penthouse, your eye travels across the reflecting pool over a sliver of land to the glimmering lake. Looking back from the sun deck, the effect is equally transparent; your eye bounces along a series of reflected planes – glass, mirrored wall and water – or straight through the room to the greenery in back. Sometimes the effect of lightness is overwhelming enough to make you queasy.” (Jan 30, 1997)
“At night, when the interior lights are on, the interior is mirrored in the glass. There results a feeling of being enveloped by the night.” (Neutra, “Survival through Design”)
In 1970, having lived in VDL II for several years, Dione Neutra wrote of the house: “Only those, who have lived in a Neutra house, would ever understand how wonderful the daily satisfactions and delights are and how much this experience helps augment the joy of living... With the many glass surfaces, mirrors, pools that reflect trees and flowers, every step from room to room, stairway up and down, is an aesthetic and artistic experience, which I have the good fortune to enjoy, while I move about the house and watch the changing weather.”
In 2017 the Neutra VDL House was named a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Sarah Lorenzen spreaking about the preservation of VDL through art at the 4th International Iconic Houses Conference, Getty Center