Neutra Kaufmann House Auction / Palm Springs, CA

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Neutra Kaufmann House Auction / Palm Springs, CA

Postby ch » Wed Oct 31, 2007 3:04 am

From today's New York Times, a chance to own this incredible icon.

Should we start a contest for the final sale price?


October 31, 2007

Auction of Modernist Landmark Raises Concerns
By EDWARD WYATT

The Kaufmann House, a 1946 glass, steel and stone landmark built on the edge of this desert town by the architect Richard Neutra, has twice been at the vanguard of new movements in architecture — helping to shape postwar Modernism and later, as a result of a painstaking restoration in the mid-1990s, spurring a revived interest in mid-20th-century homes.

Now the California homeowners who undertook that restoration hope Neutra’s masterpiece will play a role in a third movement: promoting architecture as a collectible art worthy of the same consideration as painting and sculpture.

Those owners, Brent Harris, an investment manager, and Beth Edwards Harris, an architectural historian, are finalizing their divorce, and plan to auction the Kaufmann House at Christie’s in New York in May. The building, with a presale estimate of $15 million to $25 million, will be part of Christie’s high-profile evening sale of postwar and contemporary art.

Commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., the Pittsburgh department store magnate who had commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright about a decade earlier to build Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, the house was designed as a desert retreat from harsh winters. Constructed as a series of horizontal planes that seem to float over glass walls, the house seems to absorb the mood of the surrounding desert.

Auctions of such midcentury landmarks have become more common in recent years. In 2003 Sotheby’s sold the 1951 Farnsworth House southwest of Chicago, designed by Mies van der Rohe, at auction for $7.5 million. In June Jean Prouvé’s 1951 Maison Tropicale, a prototype for prefabricated homes for French colonial officials stationed in Africa, sold at Christie’s for $4.97 million.

Such auctions are bringing a new level of scrutiny to a form that, little more than a decade ago, attracted so little notice that the Kaufmann House was being offered for sale as a teardown.

Still, such sales sometimes draw criticism from preservationists who would prefer that the houses be tended by a public institution or trust that guarantees continued access for architecture students and scholars rather than sold to the highest bidder. (The Farnsworth House, now open to the public, was bought by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, while the Maison Tropicale went to a private bidder.)

But Dr. Harris, who worked toward her doctorate in architectural history while restoring the Kaufmann House, said she believed an auction would further the preservationist cause.

“It’s an odd thing, but the more money this house goes for, the better it is for preservation in my point of view,â€￾ she said on Monday while giving a tour of the house to a reporter. “I think it will encourage other people who have the income to go out and get places like these to restore, rather than just looking for some pretty palace somewhere.â€￾

The Kaufmann House is one of the best-known designs by Neutra, a Viennese-born architect who moved to the United States in the 1920s and designed homes for the next few decades for many wealthy West Coast clients. His buildings are seen virtually as the apotheosis of Modernism’s International Style, with their skeletal steel frames and open plans. Yet Neutra was also known for catering sensitively to the needs of his clients, so that their houses would be not only functional but would also nurture their owners psychologically.

When Brent and Beth Harris first saw the Kaufmann House, it was neither a pretty palace nor an obvious candidate for restoration. Strikingly photographed in 1947 by Julius Shulman, it stood vacant for several years after Kaufmann’s death in 1955. Then it went through a series of owners, including the singer Barry Manilow, and a series of renovations. Along the way, a light-disseminating patio was enclosed, one wall was broken through for the addition of a media room, the sleek roof lines were interrupted with air-conditioning units, and some bedrooms were wallpapered in delicate floral prints.

In 1992 Beth Harris, an architectural tourist of a sort, scaled a fence one afternoon to peek at the famous house while her husband discovered a for-sale sign in an overgrown hedge.

“It quite clearly was at some risk of being severely modified by whoever was to buy it, or potentially demolished,â€￾ Mr. Harris said, recalling his first glimpses of the house.

In Palm Springs, increasingly dominated by faux Spanish estates, Neutra’s Modernism “wasn’t the prevailing style,â€￾ Mr. Harris said, and the Kaufmann House “had been for sale for at least three and a half years.â€￾

He added: “No one wanted it. And so it was a gorgeous house, an important house, and it was crying out for restoration.â€￾

After purchasing the house and its more than an acre of land for about $1.5 million, the Harrises removed the extra appendages and enlisted two young Los Angeles-area architects, Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner, to restore the Neutra design. They sought out the original providers of paint and fixtures, bought a metal-crimping machine to reproduce the sheet-metal fascia that lined the roof and even reopened a long-closed section of a Utah quarry to mine matching stone to replace what had been removed or damaged.

Without the original plans for the house, the Harrises dug through the Neutra archives at the University of California, Los Angeles, looking at hundreds of Neutra’s sketches of details for the house. They persuaded Mr. Shulman to let them examine dozens of never-printed photographs of the home’s interior, and found other documents in the architectural collections at Columbia University.

The Harrises also bought several adjoining plots to more than double the land around the 3,200-square-foot house, restoring the desert buffer that Neutra envisioned. They rebuilt a pool house that serves as a viewing pavilion for the main house, and kept a tennis court that was built on a parcel added to the original Kaufmann property.

The Harrises “were visionaries in their own way,â€￾ said Joshua Holdeman, a senior vice president at Christie’s who oversees the 20th-century decorative art and design department. With the renovation “they created a whole new public awareness of midcentury-modern architecture.â€￾

Describing the results of the restoration in The Los Angeles Times in 1999, Nicolai Ouroussoff, now the architecture critic for The New York Times, said the house could “now be seen in its full glory for the first time in nearly 50 years.â€￾

The pending sale is bittersweet for the current owners, who said they planned to give a portion of the proceeds to preservation groups. Asked how it felt to be close to selling the property, Dr. Harris looked back at the house, blinking away tears.

“Oh, it’s horrifying,â€￾ she said. “But we did our time here. There will be other things.â€￾

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Postby Tony » Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:09 am

The auction is not 'till May, so start saving your pennies.

Here's the link to the article:

And a picture from the article:

Image

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Postby jeffgent » Thu Nov 01, 2007 12:23 pm

"as a result of a painstaking restoration in the mid-1990s, spurring a revived interest in mid-20th-century homes."
Give me a break, like this house started it all? I don't think so. Don't get me wrong, I love this house and the restoration is the best possible.

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Re: Neutra Kaufmann House Auction / Palm Springs, CA

Postby jesgord » Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:06 pm


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Postby rockland » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:36 pm


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Postby Tony » Thu Nov 01, 2007 5:39 pm

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Postby rockland » Thu Nov 01, 2007 6:13 pm


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Postby ch » Fri Nov 02, 2007 3:07 am

The Harrises did restore at least two other modern homes, one being the incredible New York City townhome designed by William Lescaze in the 1930s - (oh the money, the money!) Since they give divorce as one of the reasons for selling the Kaufmann house it appears their restoration days are over too.

Here is another article about the Kaufmann restoration:


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Postby Tony » Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:47 am

Yes, that Lescaze townhouse is really something!

Haven't seen the Morphosis house near the beach yet.

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Postby jessesgirl » Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:37 pm

Nice find, Craig. Just came across more pictures of the house. I am breathless.

Image

Link:

http://realestalker.blogspot.com/2007/1 ... block.html
Last edited by jessesgirl on Tue Dec 25, 2007 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby scowsa » Thu Dec 20, 2007 12:21 pm

scowsa

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Postby Futura Girl » Thu Dec 20, 2007 12:48 pm


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Postby moderns-r-us » Thu Dec 20, 2007 6:42 pm

My butt clinched after just seing the photos of the freshly restored Kaufmann House back in the late 90s. I still remember picking up the book Palm Springs Modern and some other MCM coffee table book and seeing those great photos.
"Better Living Through Modernism"

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Postby Tony » Thu Dec 20, 2007 6:43 pm

Futura Girl,

The fight for the Tramway Gas Station was in 1996. It was the first such attempt to save a modern building in Palm Springs.

Scowsa,

Thanks for your compliment! And you are exactly right, the rebirth of South Beach Miami was also driven by the fashion industry angle. The successes in Miami were a great model for all of us to follow.

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Postby ch » Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:09 am

Tony,

I lived in Miami Beach in 1992 and was involved in the "renaissance" of South Beach. It was amazing how the city seemed to fight the preservationists right up to the bitter end - they wanted the beach lined with towers like the rest of Florida.

When I visit South Beach now it's quite bittersweet. Much has been added but so much has been lost. I see buildings being re-renovated into this year's version of Art Deco. Small, interesting shops have given way to chains and designer-driven merchandise. Every square inch of land is now crammed with something. Also lost is the funkiness, diversity and sense of community that once existed.

Palm Springs has come a long way but I would be wary of the kind of "success" that has improved/destroyed Miami Beach.

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Postby Tony » Fri Dec 21, 2007 8:52 am

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Postby PaulKaplan » Fri Dec 21, 2007 3:44 pm

What do you think the better use of the old Fashion plaza/Saks would be rather then demoing it?

Also, what do you think the reason is no one has ever bothered to restore the Town and Country? (even prior to Wessman owning it).
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Postby Tony » Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:53 pm

Fashion Plaza and Sak’s are two different issues in two different locations.

Fashion Plaza is the horrible Charles Luckman mall that rests on the site of numerous historic buildings, including the Desert Inn, the first hotel in Palm Springs. The mall was very successful when built, but as development moved down valley towards Palm Desert, it was left in the dust. I think most people in town would be happy to see it go, the problem is what to replace it with.

Most developers want to put in 4 or more story condo's on both sides of Palm Canyon, turning it into a real canyon and blocking the views of the mountains. The original plans for this development were for buildings over 8 stories tall. No one but the city and the developers want that.

The Town and Country Center is across the street from the Fashion Plaza and should not be considered to be connected to that parcel. It is convenient for the developer to consider that so, but it’s a different project. Why has no one restored the TCC? Well, I don’t think anyone has restored any commercial buildings in the downtown area. It’s much cheaper to demolish and build new than to fix up old, or do an adaptive reuse. Additionally, the developers have a modus operandi of creeping demolition by neglect. We saw this with the Biltmore Hotel and recently with the Potter Clinic building by E. Stewart Williams.

Sak’s Fifth Avenue is located at South Palm Canyon and Ramon, blocks away from the Fashion Plaza. There a developer wanted to demolish it to build 4-storey condo’s. Looks like he may have lost his financing, as the once-vacant building now has a tenant. Yes, the building has been badly altered with some hideous steel structures, but most of the exterior fabric remains. This includes wonderful volcanic stone walls and very interesting dimensional concrete walls.

Not that this has anything to do with the Kaufmann House.

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Postby ch » Sat Dec 22, 2007 5:05 am


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Postby luther » Mon Feb 11, 2008 4:19 am

Found this on Flickr. A poolside party from the 70s at the Kaufmann House.



Image

Image

Image

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Postby scottkaycee » Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:04 am

You just gotta love that green floral print blazer with white slacks- I'm running to Desert Fashion Plaza right now to get me a set, seriously, just fantastic, okay so the now closed DFP will be a dead end, but I can probably find a coat like that at Revivals on Palm Canyon !
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Postby spinsLPs » Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:20 am

Luther -

There's probably a little copyright conflict with these being on Flickr. :roll:


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Postby Pal George » Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:20 pm

these photos were taken by society photographer Slim Aarons in 1970.

per photo caption:

A desert house in Palm Springs designed by Richard Neutra for Edgar Kaufman. Lita Baron approaches Nelda Linsk, right, wife of art dealer Joseph Linsk who is talking to a friend, Helen Dzo Dzo

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Postby egads » Thu May 08, 2008 12:29 pm


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Postby nichols » Mon May 12, 2008 10:24 am


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Postby spinsLPs » Tue May 13, 2008 10:05 pm

Sold for $15 million plus $4 million in commission fees!


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Postby jesgord » Wed May 14, 2008 11:11 am

Based on a comment on the La Curbed blog:

"actually it sold for the minimum estimate: $15M. With bidder's commission, the total was $16.8M. The owner also bought an optional lot next to it for $2.1. That brought the total to $18.9M."

and from another blog

"After the sale, Marc Porter, Christie’s president in America, said the buyer, whom he declined to name, exercised an option to purchase an orchard adjacent to the property for an additional $2.1 million that includes three cacti that were a present from Frank Lloyd Wright to Mr. Kaufmann on his first visit to the home."

Considering the estimae was $15-$25 Million plus the three FLW cacti, it sounds like the mystery buyer got a great deal


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