From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Neutra was born in Vienna, Austria in 1892. He studied under Adolf Loos, was influenced by Otto Wagner, and worked for a time in Germany in the studio of Erich Mendelsohn. He moved to the United States by 1923 and became a naturalized citizen in 1929. Neutra worked briefly for Frank Lloyd Wright before accepting an invitation from his close friend and university companion Rudolf Schindler to work and live communally in Schindler's Kings Road House in California. Neutra subsequently opened his own practice in Los Angeles with his wife, Dione.
He was famous for the great attention he gave to defining the real needs of his clients, whether he was commissioned to build a simple house or a mansion. This was in contrast with other genial architects, who would often do everything to impose their artistic vision on a client, regardless of what was really needed to create a home. He would sometimes use detailed questionnaires to find out exactly what the owners would need, much to the surprise of many of his clients. His domestic architecture was a blend of Art, landscape and practical comfort.
Neutra had a sharp sense of irony. For example in his autobiography, Life and Shape, he included an anecdote about an anonymous movie producer-client who electrified the moat around the house that Neutra designed for him and had his Persian butler fish out the bodies in the morning and dispose of them in a specially designed incinerator. This was a much embellished account of an actual client, Josef von Sternberg who indeed had a moated house but not an electrified one. In a case of art imitating life, Ayn Rand based part of the character of Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead" on Neutra (1) and lived - herself - in the Sternberg house (a photo of Neutra and Rand at the home was famously captured by Julius Shulman).
The revival in the late 90s of mid-century modernism has given new cachet to his work, as it's become (along with Lautner and Schindler's) trophy property for wide variety of Los Angeles pop culture, arts and media figures from hair stylist Vidal Sasson and ex-Gucci and YSL head Tom Ford, actress Kelly Lynch and her screnwriter husband Mitch Glazer to more cutting-edge personalities such as XL clothing line founder Eli Bonerz and hardcore punk musician Jonathan Anastas. Prices have topped $4 million for Case Study 20 and $6 million for the Singleton House (purchased by Mr. Sasson in 2004 - the Singleton house is now back on the market, post rennovation, at $20 million dollars).
Neutra died in Wuppertal, Germany in 1970.
Neutra's son Dion has kept the Silverlake office open as "Richard and Dion Neutra Architecture" in Los Angeles. The office building itself - designed and built by Neutra - is currently on the market for $3.1 million dollars.