Houses often outlive their architects. To date, The Neutra VDL Research House has survived its creator by 47 years. This survival has special significance, because Richard Neutra built the home for himself and his wife to live in. He built it to respond to their personal needs and desires, and today the house continues responding to those who enter. Neutra described architecture as alive— even going so far as to liken the experience of certain buildings to “the thrill of a lover.” I’ve been blessed to work inside his house’s crafted embrace.
The work I’m creating for the house involves some surprises I don’t want to divulge until I perform them. What I can tell you is that I’m attempting to embody this kind of posthumous life — the kind that Richard Neutra left breathing on Silver Lake Blvd. The agency that a house can possess is truly passive, and that’s a magical paradox. The house depends on the movement of others to animate, and at the same time its animations were premeditated. In this sense they are endowed with intention, despite being passive. They are designed reflexes.
The house responds constantly to light, wind, and, when they’re present, people. The design of these responses might be as simple as the positioning of a bed near a generous window. Afternoon sun turns commonplace wrinkles in the bedlinen to dramatically outlined fractals. They resemble human veins.
In this same bedroom, there is a double mirror. It allows you to see some piece of yourself reflected infinitely. At the same time, because of the way the mirrors are sized and arranged, it’s impossible to see your whole body duplicated more than once. With each duplication, the reflected portion of the body gets smaller.
I’ve tried to show this phenomenon with a mirror selfie, because anachronism is also inevitable when a house outlives its designer: contemporary culture and technology will always frame new images of the past. In the second reflection of my body, my iPhone cuts off my head.