|Image courtesy Not PC Blog|
|Image courtesy LAPL by Luckhaus Studio|
|Both images courtesy LAPL by Burton O. Burt top and bottom|
|Image courtesy Triangle Modernist Houses|
|Image courtesy CSUN Digital Library|
“I selected a distant meadow,” von Sternberg recounted later, “in the midst of an empty landscape, barren and forlorn, to make a retreat for myself, my books, and my collection of modern art.”
|Image courtesy Mid Century Modern Home|
The design of the Von Sternberg House contrasts with the typical homes built at the beginning of the 21st century. The Von Sternberg House had a very small number of rooms and a relatively small surface area which played up its unique design features. While it did have a few features of ostentatious display, such as a separate, larger and higher garage bay for a Rolls-Royce in addition to the two other garage bays for lesser automobiles (in an era where even rich homes had only one or two garages) most of its characteristics were original and discrete, showing Neutra's attention for the integration of custom details.
The exterior look of the house and of its landscaped surroundings was made of sinuous lines, yet the interiors were orthogonal, making furniture placement simple and easy. As in many others of his domestic designs, Neutra made heavy use of industrial windows and sidings, fulfilling both aesthetic and practical functions, such as making privacy screens and windbreaks.
Neutra was mindful of his customer's desires even when he found them absurd. He would later regale his friends with the story (among others) of Von Sternberg asking that none of the bathroom doors have locks, in order to prevent his party guests from locking themselves up in there and threatening to commit suicide. As a movie director Sternberg was well acquainted with the theatrical behavior of many Hollywood actors, while Neutra had a social life which kept him in touch with artists in other domains.
|Image courtesy Not PC blog|
...a house fashioned of glass and steel and surrounded by a 16-foot moat with drawbridge. Modernist architect Richard Neutra designed the house in 1935 so that hte master bedroom opened onto a rooftop pool stocked with tropical fish, and a drip system cooled the living room with "aritifical rain." Von Sternberg could look from his bedroom through glass to the open living room below, and enjoyed views of the Santa Susana Mountains and across the orchards and horse ranches of the west Valley.
He cluttered his home and 36-acre estate with paintings, drawings, sculptures, and lithographs. When his collection later went on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it included works by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Renoir, Seurat, and Gaugin.Also from the America's Suburb: San Fernando Valley website on the Josef Von Sternberg house:
All-steel and glass with rounded edges and a moat, it drew raves for Neutra and also made an inviting landmark for World War II pilots to buzz during training flights over the Valley.
|Image courtesy Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner|
Jeff Britting, archivist at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, recounted to Patch the details of the author's stay in Chatsworth.
According to Britting, Rand and O'Connor moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1943, after she had sold the movie rights to The Fountainhead. While they were staying in apartments in Hollywood, her husband was scouting for a possible house when he found the Von Sternsberg house in Chatsworth.
"He [O'Connor] came up with the idea that this would be a good investment property," said Britting, "he anticipated the growth of Los Angeles into the Valley and into the Western end of the Valley."
Britting said that O'Connor had peacocks that roamed freely in the land that surrounded the home, and cultivated alfalfa and hybridized gladiolas for commerical sale. Rand, meanwhile divided her time between writing screenplays and fiction. She wrote the scripts for three produced films and a number of unproduced ones during her time on the ranch, according to Britting, and it was there that she began work on her novel Atlas Shrugged.
Ultimately, said Britting, the couple left the house because "she [Rand] didn't care for California particularly, she really wanted to go back to New York. She was looking for a point in the novel [Atlas Shrugged] where she could stop writing and consider a major move."
|Image courtesy The Hollywood Reporter|
|Images courtesy The Hollywood Reporter top and bottom|
|Image courtesy Historicaerials.com; showing 1952 with orange groves surrounding home|
|Image courtesy Historicaerials.com; showing 1959 with nearby areas slowly being developed|
|Image courtesy Historicaerials.com; showing 1969 with Von Sternberg home still present but Nobel Jr. Middle School built and surrounding areas being developed|
|Image courtesy Historicaerials.com; showing 1972 with Von Sternberg House demolished|
|Image courtesy Historicaerials.com; showing 1980 with former Von Sternberg Housing being developed|
|Image courtesy Historicaerials.com; showing 2003 with housing tract fully developed|
|Former Josef Von Sternberg House today replaced by the Buckingham Estates at the corner of Tampa and Mayall. Nothing of its existence remains today.|
Going back to Richard Neutra, he was known for his Modernist architecture and designed many architecturally significant homes throughout the L.A. area and other parts of the world. The website Triangle Modernist Houses organization has provided an exhaustive collection of Neutra homes (not including businesses, schools, etc). There are roughly 22 Neutra buildings (including homes, schools, etc.) just in the San Fernando Valley with only a handful that have been altered or demolished. These buildings are located throughout the entire Valley and can be found in the upscale and trendy Studio City to the equestrian friendly blue collar Sylmar which can be viewed in a post solely dedicated to Neutra works in the SFV.
You can read more historical posts of the SFV at the Back To The Future Series.
Triangle Modernist Houses organization by George Smart containing photos of Neutra homes around the world
Neutra In The 818 by Rachel Heller at Our Ventura Blvd Magazine; July - August 2011
Ayn Rand, Barbara Stanwyck, and Wally Wood by Eddie Fitzgerald at Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner on March 26, 2008
See A Vanished Gem by Kevin Roderick at The Valley Observed on August 20, 2006
Richard Neutra: Rediscovering the Architect's Vision for Josef Von Sternberg by Thomas Hines at Architectural Digest Magazine; July 2001 also includes slideshow of Julius Shulman photographs
Pacific Coast Architechture Database for Josef Von Sternberg House
Destruction (Andy Moore); Video of Josef Von Sternberg Home being destroyed
Chatsworth Shrugged: Remembering Author and Screeenwriter Ayn Rand by Anna King at Northridge-Chatsworth Patch on July 27, 2011
Von Sternberg House - Richard Neutra by Peter Cresswell at Not PC on May 27, 2009
Wikipedia - Marlene Dietrich
Wikipedia - Josef Von Sternberg
Wikipedia - Richard Neutra
Wikipedia - Von Sternberg House