A visionary who helped develop the cornerstones of not only California Residential Modernism, but also Modernism in general, R.M. Schindler created beyond structure, allowing life itself to take the main stage in the intimate setting of the home.
We all recognize the name Frank Lloyd Wright and his contributions to Modernism, but the lesser known R.M. Schindler worked for and alongside Wright on multiple projects before taking his own path. Their styles differ, yet genius is evident in both.
Born in Vienna to a middle-class Jewish family, Schindler trained in art and engineering, studying under Otto Wagner. He moved first to Chicago and came to Los Angeles in 1920 to supervise Wright’s Hollyhock House while Wright was in Japan.
Schindler quickly developed his own style, marrying the indoor and outdoor in an unprecedented manner, but his aesthetic was did not quite fit the International Style of Modernism sweeping the country. International Style embraces the use of steel framing, heavy glazing and prefab construction and his work was featured in the MOMA’s exhibition. Schindler actually sent his portfolio to those organizing the exhibition for the International Style of Modernism at the MOMA. Philip Johnson, architect and organizer of the exhibition wrote in response to Schindler’s work, “he did not fit.” Surely, Johnson was right! Schindler’s bohemian modernist vision did not fall into such a category.
Instead, Schindler was concerned with the architecture of space which was uniquely manipulated in each building based and location. Implementing certain ideas of the International Style, he constructed with concrete slabs, but he framed his buildings with wood, opting always for a natural element. Light itself was created through windows and doors, allowing for a flow of nature. Angles and corners, which are normally not considered “dramatic,” were made as such to create the illusion of space and to offer a playful setting. His homes were never static. Instead, the roofs shot off at odd angles keeping the eye engaged and toying with the notion of “perfection.”
“The sense for the perception of architecture is not the eyes—but living. Our life is its image.” –Rudolph Michael Schindler (1887-1953)