There are hundreds of architectural treasures scattered throughout Los Angeles, but there are only a few masterpieces, and the Lovell Health House is one of them. On the market for the first time in sixty years with an undisclosed, super-secret price tag, and designed by Richard Neutra between the years 1927 and 1929, the house is a veritable shrine to high modernist architecture, and was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark exhibition of 1932, “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition.” Co-curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, that exhibition officially anointed the international style.
Perched on a sharply pitched hillside in Los Feliz, the 4,807-square-foot Lovell house is a symphony of white geometric planes — there are no curves in this house — and massive windows. The place feels as if was built out of light, and the panoramic views are spectacular. Neutra perceived the city as only an immigrant can, and reveled in the glorious sense of space he found in Los Angeles. Located on a half-acre lot just east of the Griffith Park Observatory, and a stone’s throw from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan revival textile block extravaganza, the Ennis house, Neutra’s Lovell house is surrounded by historic properties.
Born in Vienna, in 1882, to a prosperous family, Neutra moved to the United States in 1923. Two years later he and his wife moved in with Rudolph Schindler and his wife at the house Schindler designed on King’s Road; Neutra’s first project in Los Angeles, in fact, was the design of a garden for a beach house health and fitness guru Philip Lovell had commissioned Schindler to build for him. The Neutras continued to live with the Schindlers until 1930, and it was during those years that Neutra designed and built the Lovell house.
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Neutra had a rigorously geometric aesthetic, yet was known for how accommodating he was with his clients. He felt it was his job to serve their needs, and he sometimes employed detailed questionnaires in an effort to discern what those needs might be. He strove to create spaces that were open and flexible, and the Lovell house could be described as a kind of laboratory for living. In the parlance of the time, Philip Lovell was “a health nut,” and his house features outdoor sleeping areas, space for Leah Lovell’s day school, a kitchen specifically designed for a vegetarian diet, an outdoor gym, built in sofas and shelving, and private nooks for nude sunbathing. It’s a sparse building with few frills or embellishments, other than the occasional flagstone fireplace, and two Ford Model-A headlights that were procured by Neutra’s assistant, Gregory Ain, and installed in the main stairwell.
Neutra was eager to experiment with innovations then taking place in the building of skyscrapers, and he pioneered the use of industrial methods of production in residential architecture. The Lovell house is essentially an open-web steel armature that’s been clad with walls of thin concrete that was shot from hoses. Everything was fabricated off-site then brought to the building site for assembly, and in an effort to keep costs down, Neutra served as his own contractor
In 1961, the Lovell house was purchased for $60,000 by Morton and Betty Topper, and although both have passed away, the house has remained in the family and is currently occupied by their son, Ken Topper. The family is to be commended for the excellent care they’ve taken of the house, which was designated a cultural monument in 1974. The Lovell house is in need of structural upgrades and cosmetic repair; nonetheless, that it looks as good as it does almost hundred years after Neutra finished building it is a testament to his genius.
This iconic property is available for purchase outside the Multiple Listing Service with an undisclosed asking price available only to qualified buyers upon request from listing agents Jonathan Mogharrabi and Marci Kays of The Agency.
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