Years ago while visiting a friend in L.A. I was driving up Laurel Canyon and decided for some
reason to hang a left on one of the myriad winding roads and see how far up the mountain I could get. The tightly packed homes all seemed to display a combination of affluence due to location and a certain worn around the edges dilapidation I imagined was from the owners inability to afford both their inflated property taxes and a minimum amount of home maintenance. As I wound higher up the hill, the lots grew larger, the worn edges crisper, the views more expansive. Arriving at last at the headwaters of this asphalt tributary, satisfied that I had gone as high as you can go above Sunset without abandoning my car, I sat on the hood for awhile with my back against the windshield and soaked in the views and late afternoon sun.
Back in my rig and turning to descend, a small driveway leading a bit higher caught my eye. Not wanting to return to base camp without an actual summit, I turned up and drove the remaining fifty yards to the top of the ridge. Built on the apex of this summit was a home that changed forever my idea of what a house was. I didn’t know it at the time but it was a house designed by Richard Neutra. It was vacant and in pretty bad shape, the landscaping obviously once grand but now wild and overgrown with native vine and brush. Observing the expanses of glass, the classic Neutra spider leg beams, the thoughtful siting of the home to take full advantage of the 360 degree views of the Pacific and surrounding hills, my reaction was as if I had stumbled on a Mayan ruin and was the first to see it in a millenium. From that moment I realized that what had previously to me been only a place to live could be much much more. What had been just a place with four walls to put my feet up after the day could be something that was spiritually uplifting. Something that could open your mind, to art, to history, to philosophy, to beauty. I understood on that day what good architecture was meant to convey.