August 15, 1949, architect Richard Neutra appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. Back then, that was about as significant as
it got. Times and Time have changed, but Neutra’s mid-century modern architecture is
as distinctive as ever. The architect’s
style and methods are explored through the lens of one of his most personal
commissions in Mike Dorsey’s The Oyler
House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat (trailer here), which screens
this weekend during the 2013 Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York.
an involuntarily stint with the Austrian army, Neutra immigrated to America and
briefly studied with his idol, Frank Lloyd Wright. Ayn Rand was the second owner of Neutra’s Von
Sternberg House, so you know Howard Roark would approve of his work. Despite his fame, Neutra often accepted
relatively modest commissions, including that of Richard F. Oyler.
assumes Neutra was initially struck by his layman’s regard for the architect’s
work, but his site sealed the deal. The office
worker and family man had just purchased a parcel in Lone Pine with a dramatic
view a huge natural rock formation.
Neutra was always careful to harmoniously incorporate his buildings into
the surrounding landscape, but the Oyler House might have been his masterwork
in that regard.
shows us quite a bit of the Oyler House, without poking into the bathrooms and
cupboards of the current co-owner, actress Kelly Preston. He also brings Oyler to revisit his former
home and reminisce about his long continuing friendship with Neutra. The famous architect’s sons, Dion and Raymond
round out the small but knowledgeable cast of talking heads, along with Crosby
Doe, a realtor who specializes in prestige properties like the Oyler Houe.
forty-six minutes, Retreat offers an
in-depth but not overly long case study of Neutra’s architecture. It nicely captures the vibe of the building,
but it fails to ask a few rather obvious questions, such as why Oyler was
forced to move. Perhaps the considerable cost of upkeep. Presumably that flat roof can be an adventure
when it rains. Fortunately, it is in the
desert. Preston, a good sport
throughout, also knowingly observes “preservation is not for the faint of
Just like the ADFF, The Oyler House is clearly intended for audiences who appreciate the
work of Neutra and stylistically related architects like John Lautner and even
Wright. Recommended accordingly, it
screens tomorrow (10/19) and Sunday (10/20) at the Tribeca Cinemas as part of
ADFF in New York.
Labels: ADFFNY '13, Documentary, Richard Neutra