A design ahead of its time.
The Schindler House, also known as the Kings Road House or Schindler Chase house, is located at 835 N Kings Road in West Hollywood. It was built by famous modern architect Rudolf Schindler in 1922 for his primary residence.
Schindler house was one of the first modern houses ever built. Schindler was a free thinker and a radical. Many people during his time didn’t understand his designs- they didn’t resemble anything that had been built previously. For this house, Schindler pioneered a new kind of structural engineering technique known as tilt-up construction.
Unlike other homes of the era that were mainly period revival styles with heavy ornamentation, the floor plan of Schindler house was completely open, reversing the Victorian aesthetic to have a house divided into many small rooms, each with a very specific purpose.
In Schindler’s House, it was basically a duplex with a common kitchen designed to be a communal premise. The rooms had no purpose- they were just open space. The floor-plan had no, dining room, living room, or bedrooms. Where did people sleep you ask? Residents slept outside in the open air on the roof in “sleeping baskets”.
Schindler had a fixation on space. To him, the shape of the space within the house was what made it alive- and his definition of good architecture was not what the house looked like but how it was to live in.
Tilt-Up Construction 1922 Image courtesy of MAK Center
The building department refused to issue him a building permit for the house at first because the design was so foreign to them. They later relented, but only granted a temporary permit that could be revoked at any time. Pictured above is the tilt up method of homebuilding. Precast concrete slabs are being hoisted into place with pullies. This method is still used today albeit with much more advanced cranes. The house was completed a year later. Schindler borrowed a large sum of money from his family to build the house, which was done on a tight budget. The investment would pay off because the recognition created from the house in a small influential circle led to more commissions.
What makes the Schindler house unique was the revolutionary design elements of the house that were a foreshadowing of what was to come in the Post World War II boom and beyond when the modern aesthetic really took root. The Schindler house is a very early example of an open floor plan, seamless indoor-outdoor transitions perfect for the Mediterranean Southern California Climate that was accomplished by using sliding panels, and the clean horizontal lines of the buildings elevations (Schindler perhaps assimilated the last on the list from Frank Lloyd Wright who he had worked with prior to building Schindler House).
Inspiration comes from Yosemite
The inspiration for the King’s Road House supposedly came from a family camping trip Rudolf and his wife took to Yosemite shortly after completing the Hollyhock House. During their camping trip, Rudolph enjoyed the community living aspect he experienced at the campsites.
When he returned to Los Angeles, he designed the Kings Road House for himself and his wife and their friends Clyde and Marian DaCamara Chace. Clyde Chace served as builder for the 2,500-square foot house.
Schindler house is designed as live-work space for two couples with a shared kitchen and an apartment for guests.
Living in the Schindler house was like camping. Sleeping baskets on the roof allowed residents to sleep in the open air. They were made with an overhanging canvas tarp and a flat sheet of wood.
Even though 1920’s had mechanized heating, Schindler opted to heat the house with wood burning fireplaces only. Some of the rooms in Schindler house were too far away from the fireplace and would be cold at night.
The ceilings are very low, probably only about 7.5-8 feet.
Materials used for the house are natural- concrete, redwood, and glass. The building has an economical concrete slab foundation.
Schindler lived and worked in the house for the rest of career, which was about 30 years until his death in 1953.
In the 1920s and 1930s the house was a hotbed for radical social gatherings. Creative thinkers from all walks of life visited and cavorted here. Richard Neutra, Edward Weston, John Cage, Dancer John Bovingdon, poet Sadakichi Hartmann, and Galka Scheyer were among the many notable people to pass through. Later, Schindler’s wife Pauline organized many political events at the house.
With their two very strong personalities, Pauling and Rudolph were just waiting for an explosive collide. In 1927 they separated. Rudolph remained at the house while Pauline traveled from place to place for the next decade. At the end of the 1930s she returned, and moved back into the Schindler House. The two never remarried but continued living together until Schindler’s death. The houses design as a duplex was to prove ideal. Pauline lived in the Chace wing while Rudolph stayed on the other side of the house.
The City Moves in
West Hollywood has developed all around the Schindler House. Mid Rise apartment and condo buildings loom over the house now. There is a thick hedge of bamboo that obscures the house from the street. You may have driven by the Schindler House and not realized it!
Today, Schindler House is a museum and protected by being on the US National Register of Historic Places.
The Austria’s Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) runs tours Wednesday through Sunday, 11am to 6pm. The tours help maintain the building. There are occasionally special events and exhibits as well.