Rudolph Michael Schindler,born in 1887, was an Austrian and later, an American architect whose most important works were built in or near Los Angeles during the early to mid-twentieth century. Although he worked and trained with some of its foremost practitioners, he often is associated with the fringes of the modern movement in architecture. His inventive use of complex three-dimensional forms, warm materials, and striking colors, as well as his ability to work successfully within tight budgets, however, has placed him as one of the true mavericks of early twentieth century architecture.
Rudolf Michael Schindler was born on September 10, 1887, to a middle class family in Vienna, Austria. His father was a wood and metal craftsman and an importer; his mother was a dressmaker. He attended the Imperial and Royal High School, from 1899 to 1906, and enrolled in the Wagnersschule of Vienna Polytechnic University, being graduated in 1911 with a degree in architecture.
Schindler was most influenced by professor Carl König, despite the presence of many other famous professors such as Otto Wagner and particularly, Adolf Loos. Most notably, in 1911, he was introduced to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright through the influential Wasmuth Portfolio.
Schindler also met his lifelong friend and rival Richard Neutra at the university in 1912, before completing his thesis project in 1913. Their careers would parallel each other: both would go to Los Angeles through Chicago, be recognized as important early modernists creating new styles suited to the Californian climate, and sometimes, both would work for the same clients. At one point, they and their wives shared a communal office and living structure designed by Schindler.
Early Professional Career
In Vienna, Schindler acquired experience in the firm of Hans Mayr and Theodore Mayer, working there from September 1911 to February 1914. Schindler then moved to Chicagoto work in the firm of Ottenheimer, Stern, and Reichert (OSR), accepting a cut in pay to be in that progressive American city, which was the home of Frank Lloyd Wright. He found New York, which he visited along the way, to be crowded, unattractive, and commercial. Chicagowas more appealing to him, however, with less congestion and providing access to the architectural work of Henry Hobson Richardson, Lo uis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Schindler continued to seek contact with Wright, writing letters despite his limited English. He finally met him for the first time on December 30, 1914. Wright had little work at this stage, was still plagued by the destruction of Taliesin and the murder of his mistress earlier that year, and did not offer Schindler a job. Schindler continued work at OSR, keeping himself occupied with trips and study, notably familiarizing himself with the early tilt up slab work of Irving Gill.
Wright was able to hire Schindler after obtaining the commission for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, a major project that would keep the architect in Japan for several years. Schindler's role was to continue Wright's American operations in his absence, working out of Wright's Oak Park studio. In 1919, Schindler met and married Pauline Gibling (1893-1977) and in 1920 Wright summoned him to Los Angeles to work on the Barnsdall House.
Schindler was engaged to design several private commissions while in Los Angeles, notably, he completed what many think is his finest building, the Kings Road House, also known as the Schindler house or the Schindler-Chase house, as an office and home for two professional couples by late spring 1922. He and his wife were one of the couples living in the communal structure. He also started to take on several projects of his own.
During this time, fractures started to appear in the Schindler-Wright relationship. Schindler complained, with some validity, of being underpaid and exploited. As well as his architectural affairs, he was running Lloyd Wright's businesses, such as the rental of the Oak Park houses.
Of the houses Wright built in this period, the Hollyhock House was undoubtedly the most significant, for which Schindler did most of the drawings and oversaw the construction of, while Frank Lloyd Wright still was in Japan. The client, Aline Barnsdall, subsequently chose Schindler as her architect to design a number of other small projects for her on Olive Hill and a spectacular beach-side 'translucent house' in 1927, which remains one of the great uncompleted projects of the twentieth century.
As Schindler was applying for a Los Angeles license to practice architecture in 1929, he mentioned his extensive work on the architectural and structural plans of the Imperial Hotel. Wright, however, refused to validate these claims. Eventually, disputes over whose work was whose, escalated until Schindler released a flier for a series of talks with Richard Neutra, describing himself as having been, "in charge of the architectural office of Frank Lloyd Wright for two years during his absence". Wright refuted this claim. The two split in 1931 and never reconciled until 1953, less than a year before Schindler's death.
Schindler's early buildings usually are characterized by concreteconstruction. The Kings Road House, Pueblo Ribera Court, Lovell Beach House, Wolfe House, and How House are the projects most frequently identified among these.The Kings Road house was designed as a studio and home for Schindler, his wife, and their friends Clyde and Marian DaCamara Chace. The floor plan worked itself around several L-shapes. Construction features included tilt up concrete panels cast on site, which contrasted with the more 'open' walls of redwoodand glass. It has largely become the symbol of Schindler's architecture.
In a search to create a more inexpensive architecture, Schindler abandoned concrete and turned to the plaster-skin design. This type of construction is characteristic of his work throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but his interest in form and space never changed. He developed his own platform frame system, the Schindler Framein 1945. His later work uses this system extensively as a basis for experimentation.
Schindler's early work, such as the Kings Road House and Lovell Beach House, largely went unnoticed in the wider architectural world. As early and radical as they were for modernism, they may have been too different for recognition and Los Angeles was not a significant location on the architectural map. Schindler was not included in the highly influential International Style exhibit of 1932, while Richard Neutra was and, to add insult to injury, Neutra, incorrectly, was credited as the Austrian who worked on the Imperial Hotel with Wright. His first major exposure came in Esther McCoy’s 'Five California Architects' of 1960. His work is undergoing somewhat of a contemporary revaluation for its inventiveness, character, and formal qualities, which are making his designs familiar to a new generation of architects.
""I consider myself the first and still one of the few architects who consciously abandoned stylistic sculptural architecture in order to develop space as a medium of art... I believe that outside of Frank Lloyd Wright I am the only architect in U.S. who "