The strange saga of Neutra’s 1934 Sten-Frenke House

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ross
Posts: 223
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:49 am

The strange saga of Neutra’s 1934 Sten-Frenke House

Post by ross »

In the 4/10 issue of Architectural Record there is the very odd story of the 1934 Sten-Frenke house by Neutra. When built, certain elements were changed by the clients during construction, such as the bathrooms, and a long pergola was only partially constructed (one bay long).

The house can be seen in the movie Laurel Canyon (even though the house is located in Santa Monica).

In 2002, the house underwent a restoration and renovation by architects Pentagram, with Marmol Radziner. The latter, of course, famously restored the incredible Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, while infamously “enhancing� other historic properties.

In the 2002 work, the pergola was extended, based on a very clear drawing by Neutra (the pergola was one bay originally because the lot next door, where the pergola would have extended, was not available when the house was built. The lot was later acquired). All the original plywood paneling was ripped out and replaced with upgraded redwood plywood. The original bathrooms, while not what Neutra would have preferred, were carefully restored. And on and on.

Then, the celebrated Julius Shulman was brought in to photograph everything for the first time.

One would have thought the house was now safe for many decades. But…the house was sold in 2009 and the new owners were disturbed by how NOT original the house was. So they ripped out virtually everything that had just been done, including truncating the pergola back to one bay. Although this was all done in the name of bringing the house back to its 1934 condition, the original, just-restored bathrooms were ripped out in order to build what Neutra intended.

I can find a lot of information about the house post-Pentagram, but very little pre-Pentagram, and nothing about the latest version.

Here’s the Arch Record article online:

http://archrecord.construction.com/feat ... uses-2.asp

From the Pentagram site:

http://pentagramarchitects.com/case-stu ... ouse-1.php

This is full of interesting information, including PLANS:

http://blog.pentagram.com/russiangarbo/

From Curbed, post-Pentagram:

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2008/01/n ... lkthro.php
.
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SDR
Posts: 18838
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

"So they ripped out virtually everything that had just been done, including truncating the pergola back to one bay."

I hear a tearing-out sound right now !

Oh, wait -- that's my hair . . .


SDR

ross
Posts: 223
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:49 am

Post by ross »

If I had any hair left, I, too, would have torn it out while learning about the above. An advantage of being bald.

It seems extraordinary that while most architecturally significant homes suffer from a lack of funds to do a proper restoration, the Sten-Frenke house has had ample funds poured into it not once but twice, and all during a ten-year period.

Astounding.

You know of course that a later owner will re-re-extend the pergola.

Tom
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Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Could someone explain from the drawing of the pool on the Pentagram site the detail that is supposed to separate a plane of water from the pools edge.
I could not tell what they were referring to.

Tom
Posts: 2940
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Strange to read that the recent "renovation" removed all the redwood veneer panels. Wonder what they did with all that? Think I would have kept them in place.

peterm
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Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:27 am
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

I must say that I don't really like the redwood plywood in this house, and there doesn't seem to be much of a precendent for it. Neutra always used birch or fir plywood. It says that the original wood was "tobacco" stained. Hopefully the new owner will bring that back...

ross
Posts: 223
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:49 am

Post by ross »

The original was fir plywood. Yes, the new owner is replacing all the brand new redwood ply with fir ply.

SDR
Posts: 18838
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I think "tobacco-stained" was a reference to age and deterioration, not to a color choice. Perhaps the old fir had merely taken on that wonderful amber tone, which was mis-read by someone who didn't care for fir in the first place ?

That said, the new plywood is certainly an unusual and (by some) prized material, a highly-figured flitch that would do any Art Deco interior proud. It is overkill in this context, I suppose -- but it's hard to understand why this exemplary restoration wouldn't (other than the re-truncated pergola) be "good enough" for any Neutra lover.

I don't find the drawing of the pool that Tom speaks of, so can't comment on the curious detail or note mentioned.

SDR

Tom
Posts: 2940
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:53 pm
Location: Black Mountain, NC

Post by Tom »

Here's the link to the pool drawing:
http://blog.pentagram.com/russiangarbo/

Yeah, gotta admit ,Doug Fir ply panels are a beautiful wood and the Redwood did have an exotic presence. The expense of all that re-work though. Ouch.

SDR
Posts: 18838
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

The only thing odd about the pool drawing is the caption -- as far as I can see. I don't get it either.


S



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