The Richard Lechner House

Rudolph M. Schindler's Modernist, Cliffside Masterpiece

Designed in 1947-1948 by Viennese Modernist Rudolph M. Schindler, the expansive Richard Lechner House at 11600 Amanda Drive in Studio City, California was inspired by the architect's exploration of the American Southwest. In particular, Schindler took cues from the natural adobe residences built by the Anasazi Pueblo Indians. With ingenious dwellings constructed in caves or on cliffsides, like the elaborate Mesa Verde, the Anasazi worked with nature to create villages that contoured to and were protected by existing landforms.

Perched on high over Laurel Canyon, Schindler designed the Richard Lechner House for the client and his wife in the shape of a large V, such that the structure latched onto the rock of the adjacent Hollywood Hills. Not unlike similar building plans envisioned by one of his mentors, Frank Lloyd Wright, Schindler gave the house multiple floor-to-ceiling glass walls and clerestory windows to make use of the location's ample light and offer stunning views. For the most part, the original interiors were made from plywood to evoke an organic, minimalist ambience. The Lechner House is one of Schindler's last major works and a prime example of his postwar "space" phase that drew heavily on Expressionism as well.

When the Lechners divorced in the 1950s, their Modernist masterpiece of a home was sold. Over the next fifty years, eight owners would hold the property at various points, and make a range of changes that deviated from Schindler's initial vision. From 2008 to 2016, designer Pamela Shamshiri worked to restore and renovate the Lechner House. Generally speaking, this entailed a less-is-more approach, such as removing Sheetrock that was added around the stainless-steel fireplace and replacing modern windows with metal hardware with large, clear glass panes. As of fall 2022, the Lechner House is on the market for $4.8 million.

Rudolph M. Schindler

Rudolph Michael Schindler was an Austrian-born architect and designer who came to define the landscape of mid-century modernism in Southern California. His education began at the Imperial Technical Institute in Vienna from 1906 to 1911 before studying under Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos at the Academy of Fine Arts from 1910 to 1913. Schindler eventually sought the mentorship of Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago. In 1920, he was hired by Wright to oversee the important Hollyhock House commission in Los Angeles. Schindler would remain in California for the rest of his life.

His iconic home and studio, the Schindler Chase House on Kings Road, set the stage for California Modernism. The construction featured a minimalist approach and linear form built in sleek concrete with sliding glass doors opening to gardens — all of which became staples of the Southern California style. The space was designed for communal living and Schindler shared the space with his wife Pauline among many other important figures, including Richard Neutra and John Cage. Between the years of 1920 and 1953, Schindler designed numerous residential commissions such as the Lovell Beach House (1922), Rodriguez House (1942), Kallis House (1946), and the Tischler House (1949). While Rudolph Schindler’s death was untimely, his legacy and philosophy continue to be celebrated in his iconic structures.

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