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Process Record (Blog)

Erin Schneider: Reading From Neutra's Library

Rebecca Bruno

"I am sufficiently of a Zen Buddhist not to claim knowing exactly what is going on in me when I creatively "tune in on the Universe"! I can perhaps say what stimulates me or what stimulation I seek in order to find myself going into action." -Richard Neutra

“Richard Neutra”, Annual of Architecture, Structure & Town-Planning. Vol. 2, (1961): A28.

(Plain Black Spine)

In 1963, Richard and Dione Neutra's library was in the VDL house that burned down. The books survived. Neutra's most famous work, Survival Through Design from 1954 (one of 3 copies) - is streaked and bubbled with smoke damage, but the words are still inside. 

I am interested in activating the living room of the VDL house through selected readings from the Neutras' personal library. When the house is experienced through short tours, the books act as decoration, to be appreciated as part of the design. In having time to spend with the collection, I've been exploring the books that lived with Richard and Dione Netura, and will be sharing a selection with the dancers and visitors. 

A library is an extension of the mind. The books that one lives with are in a constant conversation with your life. Entering someone's library and home is like entering an extension of their thoughts. I've always believed that one's library acts as a representation of self, an exterior record of interior interests, ideas and questions. 

The books are scattered with personal artifacts - an underline, an inscription, a dog eared page marked for further discovery. Books with tired spines and reread pages; others that were barely cracked. Books about the new city, and the old country. I like to think about Richard coming across a reference that sparks a new idea, or Dione sitting in the light filled living room, reading from A World History of Dance or a new book by a friend, inscribed to her. 

Titles like, 
Man's Struggle for Shelter in an Urbanizing World.
The Challenge of Men's Future.
Modern House of the World.
Das Ende der Städte? (The End of the Cities?)

The many books in German and radical design. The outdated midcentury books on (what was then called contemporary, not) modern architecture. Books about mythology and history, art and music. Subjects ranging from zen buddhism and poetry, to engineering and computers. A network of knowledge and thought before the internet, though the house was technologically cutting edge for its day.

The joy of a library! To open a book you had forgot and find exactly what you've been thinking about. 

How do we enter a space? How could we enter a text? After Richard and Dione have gone, their timeless house remains a moment in continuous time. A body of knowledge, written, read and designed  remains in the form of books and buildings. While the thoughts they inspired cannot be known, the material records of a life remain for us to continue to learn from. Burnt, but still here. Gone, but not forgotten.


Erin Schneider is an artist from Los Angeles interested in geography, movement, and socio-spatial relationships. She's worked at bookstores since age 15, and has been collecting books since before that.