Art: New Shells

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In deciding what sort of house he wants, many a 1949 house-hunter begins with the notion that it ought to be something like Grandmother's. One of the first things he finds out is that the old place needed at least a servant or two to keep it up. Furthermore, it got that spacious look by having a lot of unused space, which Grandmother could afford when her house was built. Perhaps the home-builder should try something new. Flat-roofed, wide-windowed homes that looked queer ten years ago have since become a decorative part of the residential landscape Every major school of architecture in th U.S. emphasizes the modern, and thi year every honor award presented by thi American Institute of Architects in thi residential field went to a modern house.

Why Not Stucco? Nonetheless, the average citizen is apt to want to loot around a bit, and find out what is going on and consider what his neighbors or potential neighbors think. Last week, one oi the best places in the U.S. to watch what was going on was southern California

"Traditional" houses, built in any one of a dozen old-fashioned styles, were still away out in front. Driving along any street of new, custom-built homes in Los Angeles, the pondering home-builder could see U-shaped ranch houses, French provincials, New England colonials, Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouses and scaled-down copies of Mount Vernon, set in neighborly alignment on 90-or 100-ft lots.

With the residue of still older favorites—from Spanish (and stucco-Spanish) to the gingerbread and rocking-chair porches of Victonanism and an occasional Mediterranean villa—the region showed most of the trials, errors and nostalgias in U S architectural history.

But southern California is also the stamping ground of one of the world's best and most influential moderns-Los Angeles Architect Richard Joseph Neutra The broad, glassy brows of Neutra's buildings (and those of such onetime Neutra apprentices as Gregory Ain, Raphael bonano and Harwell Harris) line the Pacific shore, nestle in the canyons and beam down from a hundred hilltops. After 23 years in the neighborhood, 57-year-old Vienna-born Richard Neutra has gone a long way toward making the place one of the hotbeds of the U.S. modern.

Why Not Schizophrenia? A grey-haired, owl-beaked dynamo of a man who rises at 4 a.m. and has never, since the age of eight, doubted his own mission in life, Neutra takes great satisfaction at the advance of modern designing in all fields. His impatience is with those who come to the new faith haltingly. In his softly accented English he complains:

"A person drives home from a modern office building in a 1949 Studebaker into a tairy-tale garage with artificially caved-in rafters—a hut of the witch in the woods where the babes got lost! Is there nothing wrong with it, this architectural schizophrenia?"

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