Richard Neutra's Son Is Selling Off a Precious Family Heirloom to Save His Childhood Home

Richard Neutra's Son Is Selling Off a Precious Family Heirloom to Save His Childhood Home
A Richard Neutra prototype lamp from the Channel Heights Housing Project.
(Photography courtesy of Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA))

Richard Neutra’s architecture calls to mind minimally-designed homes made of natural materials, generously supplied with windows (frequently echoed by crystalline swimming pools floating in Utopian Los Angeles backyards). When it came to designing housing for the shipbuilders of San Pedro, California, during World War II,  he was able to convey the essence of his aesthetic within the constraints of the government-commissioned Channel Heights Housing Project. While the project no longer stand, one of its lamps survives, and it is now going up for auction. 

A prototype of the modernist light fixture, made of four planks of wood, a pane of glass, and a bulb, so characteristically Neutra in its simplicity, will be part of the Los Angeles Modern Auction (LAMA) Modern Art & Design sale. Although it's a family heirloom, having stayed with three generations of the Neutra family since 1942, the architect's son, Raymond Richard Neutra, decided it was worth parting with for a just cause: to save his childhood home. 

“This lamp and I have grown old together, surviving the batterings of seven decades and showing the inevitable scars,” the younger Neutra said in a statement. “Recently when I discovered how potentially valuable this surviving lamp was, I decided that my parents would agree that I should donate it to the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation so that the proceeds could be used to repair the leaking roof of the Silver Lake Neutra VDL compound where the lamp and I began our lives.” A piece of Neutra history can now be yours, for an estimated $20,000-$30,000, to help preserve a much larger piece of Neutra History. 

The LAMA Modern Art & Design Auction takes place May 6.