Flux Balance / Rotating Wings, Within: Without, and Ahoy are three slide projections engaged with Rudolph Schindler’s early work in architecture (1921–26). The first, Flux Balance / Rotating Wings, a projection of Schindler and Pauline Gibling Shindler’s residence in West Hollywood, California, dates from 2010; Within : Without, of the How House in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, from 2011; and Ahoy, of the Lovell Beach House in Newport Beach, California, from 2013.
In all three installations, two slide projectors consecutively cast images on the same surface and run as a loop. The first slide is visible for five seconds before the next slide is superimposed on the picture already in place. The cross-fade between two images lingers for eighteen seconds. Then the first picture gradually disappears, and the second picture is visible in isolation for five seconds before the next superimposition ensues. All the slides are consecutively on view in this flowing rhythm, and after a short break are repeated. The three slide projections can be presented together or as single works, depending on the exhibition situation. Each projection consists of a different number of slides.
These three houses are among the few buildings in which Schindler worked with concrete. This material allowed him to think about structural engineering and load-bearing structures in new ways and to pursue much less conventional ideas about the architecture of space. The effect is especially conspicuous in the Lovell Beach House, with its characteristic freestanding, load-bearing concrete structure.
The medium of the slide projection was chosen for similar reasons, as a way to engage Schindler’s architecture in dialogue. Just as the building lets me as the viewer understand exactly how each structural element and detail was built and assembled, I wanted to make a work that would respond to the fluidity of the architecture while conveying the physicality of the materials. The mechanical sound of the slide projectors plays an important part. It lends each work an audible rhythm that reflects the balanced proportions and dimensions of Schindler’s architecture.
Flux Balance / Rotating Wings (2010)
835 North Kings Road, West Hollywood, California
The layout of the Schindler residence on North Kings Road (1922) resembles a rotating wing, with interior and exterior spaces interlocking. The materials Schindler chose were all left in their natural state. The concrete is raw, as is the wood. The surfaces are neither rendered nor painted. The characteristic qualities of the construction materials define the atmosphere in the exterior as well as the interior spaces. They act as membranes of a sort, letting interiors and exteriors flow into each other. The inhabitant is sheltered by the architectonic structure but remains in immediate contact with his or her environment. These features lend the space a dimension above and beyond an enclosed residential setting in which the focus is entirely on human habitation.
It is interesting to note, furthermore, that Schindler worked with prefabricated modules. The dimensions of these modules constitute units that underlie the scales and proportions of the architecture. They lend a rhythmic quality to the space that is echoed by Schindler’s plans for the surrounding space and garden.
Flux Balance / Rotating Wings begins with exterior views of the Schindler House and the grounds. A cross-fade to a concrete wall with window slits then guides the viewer into the building’s interior. Based on the rotating ground plan, the projection, which runs for just over fifteen minutes, pursues a tour of Schindler’s architecture and the gardens. Slowly fading into each other, the images instill a sense of the flow experienced by the visitor walking through the building itself. The superimposition of two views either reflects the dynamic balance of Schindler’s architecture or, where interior views blend into exterior shots, examines the materiality of the architectonic barrier. Just as the walls interact with both interior and exterior spaces by virtue of their material facture, the cross-fade marks the boundary where interior fades into exterior.
Within : Without (2011)
2422 Silver Ridge Avenue, Los Angeles
Schindler built the How House in 1925 for James Eads How. It stands on a parcel of rugged land that is almost level along the street but slopes down toward a rocky ravine at the far end. Schindler adapted the How House to the site: The building’s rear part descends toward the ravine in a series of tiers. In the part of the building set on the slope, Schindler primarily used concrete, whose structure and color harmonize with the stony terrain; California redwood predominates in the front part of the building. In choosing the colors and materials, Schindler was guided by the characteristics of the building site as well as the surrounding area, where eucalyptus trees with their dense foliage dominated the scene.
Running for fifteen and a half minutes, the slide projection Within : Without opens with exterior shots of the How House and the grounds. A cross-fade eventually leads to the lateral living-room window and then into the building’s interior; based on the building’s bilateral-diagonal ground plan, the work presents a tour of Schindler’s architecture as well as the adjoining garden.
Lovell Beach House
1242 West Oceanfront, Newport Beach, California
Ahoy is different from the other two slide projections in that it consists exclusively of exterior shots of the building. During a stay in California in the spring of 2012, I drove to the Lovell Beach House a total of four times, always at a different time of day, to take photographs in various lighting situations of the facade views I had access to. Another excursion brought me to Santa Barbara, where the Schindler archives are housed. Researching the Lovell Beach House, I came across photographs that Schindler himself had taken during construction and soon after completion. Some of these historic shots are included in Ahoy. Instead of superimposing spaces, as in the projections of the How House and the residence on North Kings Road, Ahoy imparts the experience of a temporal displacement: The viewer can observe how the client and the building’s inhabitants modified Schindler’s original design over the years to suit their needs. Conspicuously, the Lovell Beach House was an isolated structure when completed in 1926; the surrounding area was undeveloped. Now it is embedded in a densely populated urban landscape.
Philip Lovell hired Schindler to design the Lovell Beach House as a summer and weekend home on a beachfront property overlooking the Pacific Ocean; a short lane leading to the beach runs along one side. The client asked Schindler to make the footprint as small as possible, to leave a large part of the property unbuilt on for the family’s children to play on. To comply with this wish, the architect raised the living space on five concrete frames in the shape of standing squared-off figure eights. Outdoor staircases provide access to the living area. The building’s roof served as a sun deck; one bedroom opened onto a street-facing balcony designed as a “sleeping porch,” and the generously sized windows were to be suspended from rails like curtains. The concrete structure was left unpainted, while the cement-rendered walls were painted a sandy white, and the glaze used on the pinewood frames was a sandy white as well. During Schindler’s lifetime, Lovell had the balcony intended for outdoor sleeping altered. A row of windows was inserted to enclose the rooms, and the apertures in the parapet were filled in with cement.
The needs of the building’s residents changed over time. Designed as a vacation house, it is now inhabited year-round as a family home and occasionally visited by sightseers. The concrete piers, which originally had raw concrete faces, were painted, and the window frames and glazing bars were redone in a turquoise blue. Only vestiges remain of the open and welcoming gesture with which the house embraced the space around it. An elevated flowerbed edged by a wall has replaced the playground. One side of the building—now its rear—directly abuts a neighboring property and is only a few feet away from the next house.
Despite all these alterations to the original design, its radicalism is still recognizable; even today, the Lovell Beach House stands out among the surrounding architecture. Although I did not have an opportunity to see and experience the building’s interior, I can vividly imagine the flow of the raised living space. The room’s long side has a large window looking out toward the sea, with glazing bars that form an intricate structure. I find it fascinating to think that Schindler wanted to simply hang the windows within the facade, as a glass curtain wall in the literal sense. In all three projects—his own home on North Kings Road, the How House, and the Lovell Beach House—he ensured that the transitions between interior and exterior spaces were fluid. The interior is not separated as a “private” space from the surroundings. Each building achieves this effect with its own solution based on its interaction with its site. And each building is adapted to the principal’s particular needs, while also realizing Schindler’s vision of modern habitation, which calls into question social conventions concerning how people live their lives. Most inhabitants of his buildings were ultimately unable to integrate what he offered them into their lives.
The flow of the slides in Ahoy presents various views of the house, for a portrait that interweaves its current situation with selected flashbacks and views of the building as originally realized by Schindler.