When Richard Neutra arrived with his son Dion in Madrid on 29 January 1956, several of Spain's most promising young architects offered him a warm welcome, including Julián Laguna Serrano, Miguel Ángel Ruiz-Larrea, Antonio Perpiñá, Federico Faci, José María Anasagasti, and Fernando Barandiarán. Neutra had traveled to Spain to collaborate on an entry for a competition to design residential neighborhoods for United States Air Force (USAF) personnel and their families stationed at a series of new U.S. air bases in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid), Morón de la Frontera (Seville), San Pablo (Seville), and Zaragoza.1 Although Neutra's team ultimately lost the competition, both parties benefited from this exchange. For Spanish architects, Neutra's visit offered a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with an internationally renowned figure and to adapt his solutions to the Spanish context. For Neutra, participation in the competition represented an opportunity to commodify his ideas for an eager international market; it also enabled him to assume a leading role in the modernization of a country long ostracized under the Franco regime.
Neutra first visited Spain less than two years earlier, in November 1954, when his friend and frequent collaborator structural engineer Eduardo Torroja invited him to lecture on his work at the Instituto de la Construcción y del Cemento (ITCC) and at the Madrid School of Architecture.2 While Torroja leveraged Neutra's international reputation to stimulate the modernization of Spanish architecture, Neutra exploited the opportunity to tour Barcelona, Madrid, and Granada, and to display his erudition regarding Spanish history and culture.3 Even conservative Spaniards who were suspicious of modern architecture discovered with pleasure that Neutra admired their historic traditions and cultural values, as attested by an article in the monthly Boletín published by the Franco regime's Dirección General de Arquitectura only a few weeks after Neutra's visit. Titled “Con Neutra por tierras de Castilla,” the article recounted Neutra's impressions of several of Spain's greatest architectural treasures, including the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, the medieval crenellated curtain wall in Ávila, and San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Philip II's sixteenth-century monastery-palace.4
Most grand narratives of twentieth-century architecture consider Neutra's ideas on neighborhood planning and the single-family home in the 1920s and 1930s as part of the avant-garde, while sidelining his work of the 1950s and 1960s as that of a master whose influence had already faded. To some degree this interpretation is justified, since by midcentury Team 10, structuralism, New Brutalism, and other movements had largely superseded the advances made by Neutra's generation. However, as I argue in this article, by examining Neutra from a new geographic viewpoint—that of Francoist Spain—we can see how the postwar commodification of his ideas transformed his work into an important source for the modernization of places beyond those celebrated by the grand narratives.
The Cold War and Commodification
Neutra's 1954 and 1956 visits occurred as Spain began to emerge from two decades of isolation imposed by the international community. Following the Civil War and the successful overthrow of the Second Spanish Republic (1936–39), Franco's Nationalist forces inaugurated a repressive, authoritarian government that presided over a period marked by both regressive nostalgia and severe economic instability. Despite the official neutrality of Francoist Spain during World War II, in the immediate postwar years the Allies sanctioned Franco for his covert support of the Axis, his illegitimate rise to power, and the blatant violations of human rights perpetrated by his totalitarian regime. When U.S. ambassador to Spain Norman Armour retired in December 1945, President Harry Truman vacated the post.5 On 12 December 1946, the United Nations adopted Resolution 39, barring Spain from membership and recommending that member nations withdraw their diplomatic missions from country.6 As a result, much-needed economic aid programs such as the Marshall Plan excluded Francoist Spain, despite its devastation and impoverishment in the aftermath of the Civil War.
The UN resolution and the absence of a formal diplomatic mission notwithstanding, with the advent of the Cold War and the declaration of the Truman Doctrine in 1947, some sectors of the U.S. Armed Forces and Congress began to draw attention to the strategic advantages offered by Spain's geographic location, as well as Franco's ideological opposition to communism. Support from American Catholics, along with an aggressive lobbying effort funded by Franco himself, reinforced this position.7 Partly as a result of these U.S.-based developments, in 1950 the UN revoked Resolution 39 and began the process of recognizing Spain as a member nation. Even Truman, despite his repeated expressions of opposition to Franco's regime on moral grounds, considered the human rights violations occurring in Spain to be of less immediate concern than containment of the Soviet threat. On 1 March 1951, Truman appointed Stanton Griffis as U.S. ambassador to Spain, thereby reestablishing formal diplomatic ties.8 In 1955, Spain became a fully recognized member of the United Nations.
After a protracted series of negotiations and the appointment of two subsequent ambassadors, on 26 September 1953—only a few days before the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist advanced the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight—U.S. ambassador James Clement Dunn and Spain's minister of foreign affairs, Alberto Martín Artajo, signed three bilateral agreements, collectively known as the Madrid Pact, guaranteeing Spain much-needed economic and military aid as well as significant infrastructural improvements.9 In return, Franco authorized the construction of bases for the U.S. Armed Forces on Spanish soil. By the end of 1953, construction began on new USAF bases in Torrejón, Zaragoza, and Seville, as well as a U.S. Navy base and port facility in Rota (Cádiz), complete with a connecting pipeline to ensure a dependable oil supply.10 Two years later, the Joint United States Military Group (JUSMG) convened a design competition for residential neighborhoods to house USAF personnel stationed at the air bases.11
Although the competition resulted directly from the Truman Doctrine, Neutra's involvement was not motivated by politics. His sentiments did not align with the anticommunism that dominated U.S. and Spanish politics in the early 1950s. As Ehrhard Bahr points out, during the 1920s and 1930s Neutra associated with other German-speaking expatriates in Southern California, many of whom came under close scrutiny during the McCarthyism of the 1950s for suspected communist and Soviet sympathies.12
While Neutra himself never experienced official blacklisting during the Second Red Scare, he and his business partner Robert Alexander both suffered as indirect victims. In the early 1950s Neutra and Alexander proposed their most ambitious project yet, Elysian Park Heights, a large-scale housing development intended to replace the informal settlement of Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles.13 Bringing together high-rise collective housing blocks with lower-density row houses, shared duplexes, and centralized green spaces, the project recalled the urban critique of the frenetic American capitalist city posed by Neutra's utopian Rush City Reformed of the 1920s (Figure 1).14 At the height of McCarthyism, various groups, including the Home Builders’ Association, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and a group called Citizens Against Socialist Housing (CASH), along with the Los Angeles Times, denounced Elysian Park Heights as subversive and un-American. According to Thomas Hines, opponents of the housing development feared the socialist ideology they saw in the design. Not surprisingly, the city canceled the project in April 1953.15
Some observers in Francoist Spain also suspected a subversive link between Neutra's work and socialism. Neutra first appeared in Spain in the 1930s thanks to the Spanish branch of CIAM, the Grupo de Arquitectos y Técnicos Españoles para la Promoción de Arquitectura Contemporánea (GATEPAC). The editors of GATEPAC's journal, AC: Documentos de la Actividad Contemporánea (1931–37), Josep Lluís Sert and Josep Torres Clavé, both active socialists, supported the Second Spanish Republic, which was eventually defeated by Franco.16 They published a series of articles in AC using Neutra's work to advance the socialist agenda of improving living conditions for the working classes in Spain through reforms such as hygienic housing, collectivist city plans, and progressive school design (Figure 2).17 These articles appeared alongside others featuring Soviet city planning and overtly anti-Francoist manifestos and editorials. The journal's editors regarded Neutra's work as such a clear articulation of socialist values that they published more photographs of his projects than of the work of any other architect, Spanish or foreign.18 Neutra actively supported this use of his work. As Rubén Alcolea discovered, on more than one occasion, Neutra airmailed numerous photographs of his work to Sert and Torres Clavé, who were delighted to publish them. The journal concentrated on Neutra's work to such a degree that Alcolea calls issues 15 and 23/24 “monographic numbers” dedicated to Neutra.19 Moreover, as Hines has pointed out, although Neutra identified as a “secular agnostic,” his ethnicity was Jewish.20 In Francoist Spain, Jewishness of any kind aroused fears of communism.21
On the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, during the early 1950s Neutra allowed the U.S. State Department to co-opt his work to advance the aims of the Truman Doctrine across Europe. In his book Cold War on the Home Front, Greg Castillo outlines the ways in which the State Department mobilized artifacts of 1950s modern design, such as Knoll furniture, General Electric appliances, and single-family homes, to support its soft-power strategy for undermining Soviet ideology in East Berlin and Eastern bloc countries.22 While Neutra did not participate in any of these interventions behind the Iron Curtain, the State Department's traveling exhibition The American House, which included photographs of his work, made a stop in Barcelona in 1953.23 Two years later Neutra participated in the III Bienal Hispanoamericana, also in Barcelona, where he contributed to an exhibition titled El arte moderno en Estados Unidos, which was jointly organized by the U.S. State Department and New York's Museum of Modern Art.24
The fact that Neutra's work could be used to bolster diametrically opposed ideologies in Spain attests not to the architect's political affiliation with either right or left but rather to his relentless determination to promote his own work. According to Hines, Neutra believed that “the capitalist marketplace demanded and responded to vigorous self-promotion. The more famous he and his work became, the more impact his ideas would have.”25 As Sandy Isenstadt notes, Neutra was keenly aware that he had to work with consumerism rather than against it to succeed in the postwar period.26 Furthermore, as Sylvia Lavin argues, while the State Department mobilized household appliances, up-to-date construction materials, and the “American Dream” as consumerist weapons to undermine Soviet ideology, Neutra instead sought to commodify characteristic design elements of his own work, such as “spider legs, reflecting pools, and mitered glass corners.”27
The Competition: “More Interesting Than a Horse Race”
Plagued with severe economic crisis, lack of industrial infrastructure, and international isolation, Francoist Spain benefited from the construction of U.S. military installations and residential neighborhoods; the projects gave Spanish architects and engineers an opportunity to observe firsthand the latest in construction technology and materials science, and to engage directly with American architectural and engineering practices.28 To capitalize on this opportunity, and to educate architects and engineers across the country, the Madrid journal Informes de la Construcción (distributed by Torroja's ITCC) published an issue in January 1955 dedicated to the construction of modern airport and air base facilities. The issue included a series of didactic articles on the design of terminals, hangars, runways, control towers, and other infrastructure for modern military bases, as well as on the planning and architectural design of their accompanying residential neighborhoods.29
The Capehart Housing Act, passed by the U.S. Congress on 11 August 1955, governed the financing and construction of such overseas projects. The act required that qualified development corporations (mostly private interests) lead all projects and secure private financing and land acquisition.30 The developers then identified civilian architects or engineers for design services, to be retained by the military.31 In turn, the military would select the developers, and consequently the architects, for particular projects based on the lowest acceptable bids.32 According to Pamela Twiss and James Martin, the privatization of military housing constructed under the Capehart Act mirrors the privatization of conventional civilian public housing in the United States during this period. Twiss and Martin also point out that military housing provided models for civilian public housing in the United States.33 Likewise, as I will discuss shortly, the housing projects designed for USAF personnel stationed in Spain (Neutra's project as well as those of his competitors) became models for housing allotments designed by Spanish architects for Spanish families.
For the construction of these new neighborhoods around U.S. military bases in Spain, the JUSMG stipulated that the developer must be a Spanish corporation or consortium capable of financing the acquisition of privately owned land and building construction.34 Responsibility for contracting with architectural, engineering, construction, and financing firms would fall to this Spanish corporation. Therefore, Neutra's involvement in the competition came at the invitation of a private Spanish corporation, not the JUSMG or any other governmental agency. Parallel to mid-1950s developments in stateside military housing, the USAF and its personnel initially planned to lease the properties from the Spanish developer for seven years, after which time the lease could be renewed or terminated.35 Upon termination, the properties would revert to the developer for resale to Spanish civilian families.36
In anticipation of the eventual withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Spain and the sale of all the housing units to Spanish homeowners, the JUSMG called for the military housing to be comparable to “typical high-class Spanish suburban architecture with floor plans modified to allow for American living habits.”37 It recommended that all units include features such as patios and terraces, and that individual units be oriented to maximize ventilation and privacy. The JUSMG also clearly stated its preference for stand-alone single-family homes over row houses or apartment complexes.38
Each team entering the competition could choose to present proposals for all four neighborhoods or for any one of them individually. Although the competition brief did not indicate specific construction sites, it required each developer to secure rights to privately owned properties located within 20 kilometers of each air base. Specific building sites varied entirely from one proposal to another, and the location and quality of each site became primary criteria in the jury's selection process.39 Design proposals included prototypes for two-, three-, and four-bedroom units ranging from 900 to 1,440 square feet (100 to 160 square meters). The teams had considerable latitude in determining the appropriate sizes and distribution of interior spaces, thanks to the following ambiguous statement in the request for proposals: “Sufficient space and facilities should be supplied in connection with each dwelling unit to afford provision for living, sleeping, sanitation, cooking, dining, laundering, recreation, storage, service and other household functions.”40 The JUSMG identified the following four primary criteria in its selection of the winning proposal: (1) financial responsibility and construction and management experience of sponsor; (2) location and desirability of site; (3) site planning, unit design, and livability; and (4) ability to complete construction on time. A jury of American professionals and military personnel selected the winning entry.41
The JUSMG issued its request for proposals in December 1955.42 Of the twelve teams that submitted proposals, two sought to retain Neutra and Alexander as design consultants. The first request for their collaboration came from Construcciones y Contratas, S.A., but Neutra and Alexander eventually chose to turn down this offer.43 Instead, they accepted the proposal from a real estate development consortium headed by architect Julián Laguna Serrano, who hosted Neutra at his home in 1954.44 To fulfill Capehart and JUSMG requirements, Laguna Serrano organized a joint venture of the real estate firms Inmobiliaria Alcazar and AMSA under the compound name Alcazamsa and secured the cooperation of Agromán, one of Spain's largest construction firms.45
Neutra was an obvious choice for architect, thanks to the unprecedented attention his work had received in the Spanish professional journals, as well as his personal interactions with Laguna Serrano and other prominent Spanish architects during his first visit. Also, since Neutra and Alexander had already designed several projects for the U.S. military, including the California Military Academy in Los Angeles (1935) and the recently completed housing for Mountain Home Air Force Base (1955), Neutra's Spanish collaborators likely believed that association with him would buy their team name recognition with the competition jury (Figure 3).
According to Neutra's son and collaborator Dion Neutra, both the sheer volume of proposed new construction and its overseas location attracted the architect to the project.46 Working in Spain offered an alluring prospect, as Neutra had studied both Spanish architecture and culture for many years before visiting in person.47 Furthermore, other modern masters, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius, had visited Spain during the 1920s and 1930s for lectures and important projects, yet none had returned since Franco's ascent to power in 1939.48 Among international architects of Neutra's stature, only Alvar Aalto visited Spain under Franco.49 In collaborating with Spanish architects to compete to build hundreds of housing units in multiple locations around the country, Neutra clearly aspired to achieve an unrivaled level of international prominence, at least among architects working in Spain.
Three days after his arrival in Madrid, Neutra started work on 1 February 1956 with more than forty Spanish architects and engineers assembled by Laguna Serrano as part of the Alcazamsa team.50 Within a few days, Alcazamsa secured financial backing from the Banco Español de Crédito.51 At least at first, Neutra detected a strong sense of camaraderie in his team, which he ascribed—unsurprisingly—to his own charisma. In correspondence with his wife, Dione, he remarked on his ability to “engage the cooperation of the oldest Spanish business president to the youngest man on the staff.”52
With Neutra's name recognition and previous USAF experience, Agromán's extensive construction network, and Banco Español de Crédito's financial portfolio, the team formed by Laguna Serrano projected a formidable image, but early in the competition Neutra privately confessed uncertainty regarding the strength of his team.53 Communicating with his office in Los Angeles, on 6 February Neutra noted that “the situation here is rather confused and the information independable [sic].”54 Part of this confusion arose from the fact that most of the architects on the Alcazamsa team spoke neither English nor Neutra's native German.55 Neutra had learned some Spanish during his work in Puerto Rico in the 1940s, but now he relied heavily on his son Dion's ability to translate.56
The language barrier was not the only obstacle to Alcazamsa's success. Three days prior to the submission deadline, Neutra remarked that a competing team's entry appeared to have secured better financial terms than those provided by Banco Español de Crédito.57 As Dion Neutra later recalled, ultimately the contract was awarded to the team assembled by San Francisco Bay Area architect Ernest Kump because of Kump's “very showy” presentation, but also because Kump's proposal fit squarely within the budget set by the JUSMG.58 After the competition, Neutra also speculated that the jury chose Kump's design for single-family homes with private yards—for which the competition brief expressed a clear preference—over his duplexes, row houses, and public parks because such homes would be easier to sell to Spanish families following the termination of the lease agreement with the USAF.59
According to the terms set by the JUSMG, the neighborhoods were to be built on private property owned by a Spanish consortium and leased to the USAF, but Alcazamsa failed to deliver regarding proof of ownership. The price of one of Alcazamsa's proposed Seville properties quintupled during the early stages of design.60 Also, Neutra designed the shared green spaces of the Torrejón neighborhood to connect seamlessly with El Capricho, a historic park in the picturesque style sited in Madrid's Alameda de Osuna district, immediately adjacent to the property proposed for this neighborhood by Alcazamsa (Figure 4). Neutra's Spanish collaborators suggested that this park, essentially abandoned since the Civil War, had been turned over to the state and thus was available for acquisition for use by USAF families. However, upon visiting the site, Neutra discovered that the park had been closed to the public since its construction in 1787, and, although it had been seized by the Republican Army during the Civil War, it was still in private hands. Following the Civil War the park remained private property until the municipal government of Madrid purchased the site and opened it to the public in 1976.61 Neutra anticipated that it would be expensive to acquire this historic property.62 His prediction was confirmed: by the end of the competition, the property's price had risen to twenty million pesetas.63
While one might blame Neutra for failing to exercise due diligence in investigating the availability of El Capricho, under Capehart requirements this task fell to Alcazamsa as the developer. Moreover, as a foreigner Neutra had little knowledge of Spanish real estate practices, and in matters of property acquisition he naturally deferred to the Spanish real estate firm that hired him. Finally, while some of his competitors chose sites with existing buildings that could be remodeled for lower cost than new construction, the sites offered by Alcazamsa lacked any existing infrastructure.64 Given the language barrier, the inevitable cost overruns, Alcazamsa's duplicity, and the difficulties of property acquisition, Neutra wrote to his wife that he faced “pretty difficult odds” in the competition, observing that collaboration with Spaniards was “more interesting than a horse race.”65
Despite these obstacles, after two weeks of frenetic work producing drawings, models, descriptive texts, engineering calculations, and cost estimates, Neutra and Alcazamsa submitted their proposal on 15 February 1956 in an eighty-page dossier; they presented the proposal to the jury in person two days later.66 A letter that Neutra wrote to his wife only moments after that presentation reveals that he had overcome his doubts, convincing himself of the project's success and that it eclipsed all its competitors.67 However, Neutra's confidence was shattered even before the ink dried. The letter ends with a lengthy postscript in which Neutra explains that “in the last moment” the jury announced its selection of the design submitted by Kump, who, according to Neutra, “professes to be a pupil and admirer of mine.”68 Although Neutra knew Kump had traveled to Madrid, he claimed Kump told him he had come to Spain to design a hotel.69 Kump led a team that was much smaller than Neutra's; it included Spanish architects Luis Laorga and José López Zanón as well as Construcciones y Contratas, the same construction firm whose offer Neutra and Alexander had rejected earlier.70
For unknown reasons (perhaps to resolve a dispute between teams), the jury unexpectedly opened a second round of competition. The original call for proposals required teams to indicate the proposed sites for K–12 schools, food markets, chapels, shopping centers, social clubs, and swimming pools within each neighborhood, but not to design them in any level of detail. For this reason, other than locating them on the site plans, Neutra's original proposal of 15 February 1956 did not include any drawings or descriptions of these buildings.
In the second phase of the competition, it appears that the design of these buildings—particularly the schools—assumed new significance, even overtaking housing as the most important topic of discussion in the jury's deliberations. As late as 24 February 1956, Neutra and Alcazamsa reconvened their team to design the prototypes for schools, PXs, food markets, and churches.71 The schools that resulted from this charette followed Neutra's plans for progressive school design developed for previous projects such as the Ring Plan School designed for Rush City Reformed in the late 1920s, the Corona Avenue School (Los Angeles) of 1935, and the Kester Avenue School of 1951 (Figures 5 and 6). In these designs, Neutra used a sliding glass wall to join each classroom with an adjacent exterior patio demarcated by hedges. The chapels the team designed represented variations on Neutra and Alexander's 1957 Miramar Chapel (U.S. Naval Air Station, Miramar, California), then still under construction (Figures 7 and 8).72 The progressive pedagogy embedded in Neutra's school design came into conflict with the views of Dr. Paul A. Mennegat, director of education on USAF bases. Although Neutra dismissed Mennegat as an “‘old-daddy’ conservative,” ultimately Mennegat's views prevailed.73
The economics of school construction also worked against Neutra's team and in favor of Kump's. By congressional order, the USAF could pay a maximum of $25,000 to construct any building pertaining to the neighborhoods, a restriction that also applied to the schools.74 This budget posed particular problems for the construction of the Torrejón School. In addition to the 600 schoolchildren expected to reside in the Torrejón neighborhood, the school had to accommodate 1,400 children from U.S. military families living outside the neighborhood. Although Neutra believed that the combination of a tight construction budget and a larger-than-expected student body ruled out new construction for the school, as noted earlier, the properties proposed by Alcazamsa included no existing buildings that might accommodate these needs. Exasperated, Neutra wrote to Alexander, “Question: what can they get for [$25,000] in buildings, grounds, and parking spaces?”75
Despite the second chance, the jury was not convinced by Neutra and Alcazamsa's proposal. Construction of the neighborhoods designed by Kump, Laorga, and López Zanón eventually occurred in Encinar de los Reyes (Madrid) and Torres de San Lamberto (Zaragoza). Seville architect Aurelio Gómez de Terreros, together with the real estate firm Urbanizadora Santa Clara, S.A., and Agromán, built the neighborhood in San Pablo (Seville).76 Defeated and embittered, Neutra departed Spain on 25 February 1956 and did not return until 1969, one year before his death. It seems the loss in this competition represented such a dismal failure for Neutra that he blocked it from his memory. Later, he conveniently forgot his 1956 trip to Spain: in an interview with the Madrid newspaper Tele-Exprés he described his 1969 visit as “the second time that [I have] come to Spain. The first, in '54.”77
The Design: “A Model Garden Suburb”
In his 2007 book America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire, Mark Gillem describes the incongruous conditions that occur when U.S. military installations export low-density American suburban residential planning to higher-density foreign locations.78 Because Neutra's neighborhoods featured a lower density than was typical in Spanish town planning, on first glance his designs appear to have been examples of such exportation. Neutra himself described his neighborhood design as that of “a model garden suburb.”79 However, the fact that all four of Neutra's proposed residential neighborhoods stood several kilometers away from both the actual air bases and the nearby urban centers represented an advantage with respect to the design of most later USAF bases, including those studied by Gillem. At the time, the USAF considered this distance to be a logistical problem, yet the separation enabled Neutra to conceive of the neighborhoods as independent entities, rather than as appendages to the much larger airfields.
Here Neutra's planning strategies emerged from ideas that he had begun formulating as early as his 1920s work on Rush City Reformed, which he envisioned as having a much higher density than the sprawling American suburb. Neutra's Spanish collaborators likely knew of the basic design principles of Rush City Reformed, as AC published the project in a feature article in 1934.80 The article presented the project not as the American response to the utopian cities of Le Corbusier and other European architects but instead as a rebuke of typical American town planning that Neutra claimed relied only on statistics (although he never substantiated this claim).81 Neutra criticized towns and cities in the United States for their tendency to expand outward into surrounding areas, causing longer commute times and increased stress for their residents. His Rush City residential neighborhoods pushed vehicular arteries to the perimeter, leaving room for housing and green space at the center. In his designs for this project, Neutra explored the symbiosis that could occur among different zones for work, residence, and recreation. He organized living quarters according to building types, as well as by the family and marital status of residents.82 Neutra's later town planning projects—such as Park Living Colony in Jacksonville, Florida (1938, unbuilt); Avion Village in Grand Prairie, Texas (1941); Channel Heights in San Pedro, California (1942); and Elysian Park Heights in Los Angeles (1949–53, unbuilt)—represented developments of these themes (Figure 9).83
Neutra reiterated these strategies in his designs for USAF neighborhoods in Spain by creating separate residential areas and civic centers connected by central public green spaces. He imagined these green spaces as centers for community life, connected to private gardens and patios adjacent to the residential units that in turn served as focuses for family life. He located all public-use facilities, including schools, churches, community centers, shopping centers, civic centers, swimming pools, and hotels, within the public green spaces and near the neighborhoods’ principal entry points. He used an identical strategy in previous projects, such as Channel Heights and Avion Village. As in the residential areas of Rush City Reformed, he distributed the main traffic arteries around the perimeters of the neighborhoods and organized the housing in a series of culs-de-sac to preserve the integrity of the central park spaces and, more important, to allow safe access from the residential units to the green spaces via “pedestrian promenades.”84 Neutra's designs for the USAF neighborhoods in Spain, like those for most of his neighborhood planning projects, used nearly identical schemes inspired by Rush City. The designs nonetheless fulfilled the Capehart requirement for pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that also provided full access to vehicles.85
Neutra's favorite design was the one for the Torrejón neighborhood, in part because of its size, as the largest of the four, but also because of the site's strategic location adjacent to El Capricho (Figure 10).86 It was also near Alcazamsa's Madrid office, and Neutra visited the site on several occasions.87 He designed the Torrejón neighborhood in a “butterfly” layout, bisecting each housing wing with a broad green corridor.88 Most of the public functions occupied the intersection of the two corridors.89 To fulfill Capehart requirements of integrating the neighborhoods with existing features, Neutra devised this green space as an extension of El Capricho, which was located just across the street.90 Toward the rear of the site, he inserted a nine-hole golf course between the two wings of housing. Despite the smaller size of the neighborhoods Neutra proposed for Morón de la Frontera, San Pablo, and Zaragoza, these also used similar design strategies as variations on Neutra's “model garden suburb.”
Neutra's design for the USAF housing in Spain recalled the design he and Alexander had developed for the USAF base at Mountain Home in Idaho. In fact, the architecture of the Mountain Home housing so dominated Neutra's thinking during the competition in Spain that he included several black-and-white photographs of the housing in the dossier he and his team submitted to the design jury.91 With the magic of his famous wax pencil, Neutra easily appropriated the design for Mountain Home to suit locations in Spain. By drawing over the photographs, he transformed the snow-covered fields of Idaho into the Mediterranean landscapes of Madrid, Zaragoza, and Seville, but the architecture itself remained unchanged (Figure 11). Here, the Capehart Act, as newly introduced legislation that transformed the process of awarding design and construction contracts as well as the programmatic requirements for the architectural and urban design of all neighborhoods built for U.S. military personnel at home and abroad, deserves mention. The act went into effect in August 1955, when construction at Mountain Home was nearing completion, and thus it did not apply to that project; however, it did apply to Neutra's design for the USAF neighborhoods in Spain. Neutra's revival of the same strategies he had used at Mountain Home despite the entirely different set of rules that now applied to the neighborhoods in Spain reveals either naïveté or overconfidence—that is, Neutra apparently either hoped the jury would not notice or assumed that he did not need to comply with the new rules.
While Neutra most likely reused the designs of Mountain Home for the sake of expediency, his choice also reflected the broader tendency of architects in the 1950s to export an American variant of the International Style into foreign settings, as demonstrated by many designs for U.S. embassies and hotels. Ironically, the direct translation of the Idaho solution to Spain contradicted Neutra's own approach to place. In his 1951 book Mystery and Realities of the Site, he asserted that it was the duty of the architect to honor the genius loci of the site by carefully analyzing the site's physical characteristics and then designing architecture to uniquely complement its idiosyncrasies as a place.92
For the Spanish sites, as at Mountain Home, Neutra designed two housing prototypes, each of varying sizes. The larger was the three- or four-bedroom duplex (unit types A, B, and C), consisting of two one-story units separated by a party wall (Figures 12 and 13). The row house prototype (unit types D and E) was a series of smaller two-story homes joined in rows of eight; prototype D had three bedrooms and a separate maid's quarters, while prototype E had only two bedrooms (Figure 14). As in Rush City, Neutra subdivided each neighborhood into zones according to housing prototype. Where family and marital status determined housing locations in Rush City, military rank organized the USAF neighborhoods in Spain.
In both the duplexes and the row houses, Neutra distinguished between shared and private spaces. The L-shaped organization of the larger duplexes separated the kitchen and laundry areas from the sleeping rooms, while private spaces were stacked on top of the living and service spaces in the smaller two-story row houses. Neutra used high ribbon windows to regulate daylight, simplify furniture arrangement, and offer a greater sense of privacy.93 In the duplexes and the row houses, Neutra used floor-to-ceiling glazing and sliding doors to merge living spaces with small entry gardens surrounded by screens of vegetation. The kitchen and maid's quarters opened onto walled service patios at the back for hanging laundry (Figure 15). While typical of Neutra's residential work, these designs also complied with Capehart requirements, which identified privacy and incorporation of exterior spaces as primary objectives.94 The use of advanced technology and prefabricated components had become standard in stateside military housing by the 1950s, and Neutra had incorporated such elements in his residential designs since the 1920s. Nonetheless, he did not specify prefabricated components for the USAF housing in Spain beyond typical forced-air heating systems and water heaters.95 Instead, he specified the use of local materials and construction processes, likely because he had reservations regarding Spain's inadequate manufacturing infrastructure.96
Neutra admired the leisurely pace of Spanish culture, noting that “people go out of Madrid for a month in summer.”97 He was also fascinated by the Spanish bourgeois custom of employing live-in maids (he used the Spanish word criada). In a letter to Alexander he explained, “A criada gets $8.00 a month, but has a room and bathroom of her own; paid in kind, as you see. Everybody has one. Petersons have two.”98 Standard USAF housing did not include maid's quarters, and these were by no means a Capehart requirement, yet Neutra included them in his designs to make the homes more marketable to Spanish middle-class consumers.99 Neutra also investigated the use of persianas, built-in window blinds composed of interlocking wood slats designed to block out the Mediterranean sun and summer heat. Given that Neutra's work featured abundant daylight and seamless exterior–interior transitions as signature elements, it is no surprise that the programmatic requirement of persianas perplexed him.100 On more than one occasion he pressed his Spanish collaborators with questions such as, “What are persiannas [sic], how applied, what size?”101
Neutra's Legacy: “The Youngest Spirit of All of Us”
If Neutra lost the competition, he won the admiration of many Spaniards in the process. The forty young architects working under his direction received their professional training during the 1940s, when Spain's schools of architecture condemned modern ideas.102 For these young professionals, Neutra's participation in the USAF competition offered the chance of a lifetime to work alongside an internationally renowned master and to update their knowledge of design processes and construction techniques.
In subsequent years, two of Neutra's Spanish collaborators, Miguel Ángel Ruiz-Larrea and Federico Faci, designed several buildings reflecting quintessential elements of Neutra's work. Ruiz-Larrea's 1958 Villaverde School (near Madrid), designed with Guillermo Diz Flórez, was nearly identical to Neutra's Corona Avenue and Torrejón Schools in its use of sliding glass walls to extend indoor classrooms into adjacent outdoor classrooms (Figure 16).103 Other school designs created by Ruiz-Larrea and Diz Flórez, such as the 1958 Vista Alegre School, also emulated Neutra's approach in their adaptation to topography, orientation of classrooms, use of sliding glass walls, modular construction, and scaling of spaces for children.104
Faci retained an original copy of Neutra's competition design dossier, and Neutra's solutions informed several of his later school designs, such as the indoor–outdoor classroom of the 1958 Canillas School (Figure 17).105 Faci even imitated Neutra's neatly trimmed hedges to define the three remaining sides of the outdoor space as well as Neutra's classroom layouts, with transom windows placed opposite sliding glass walls for cross-ventilation.106 Faci's designs for housing projects also reveal his dependence on Neutra's ideas. In 1956 Faci designed a group of eleven single-family rental vacation homes (he called them hoteles) for a site in Aravaca, recently annexed by Madrid (Figure 18).107 The design for these hoteles relied so heavily on Neutra's USAF housing design—featuring extensive glazing to encourage connection between interior and exterior gardens, maid's quarters located adjacent to the kitchens, and flat roofs—that some historians have mistakenly ascribed them to Neutra himself.108
Neutra's ideas also made a profound impression on Fernando Redón, a young architect who was working in the professional office of Faci and Ruiz-Larrea at the time of the competition.109 Luis Manuel Fernández Salido noted that Redón's collaboration with Neutra affected him deeply: “The degree to which Redón was fascinated with Neutra's California houses is evident even in his drawing style,” which, according to Fernández Salido, was “identical” to Neutra's.110 Redón openly acknowledged Neutra as an important influence in his formative years, and later in his life he stated that during his short collaboration with Neutra “he learned more than in all of his long years” of study at the university.111 He related his experience of meeting and working with Neutra:
There we had the occasion to meet Richard Neutra, who had been hired by the real estate firm Alcazar to submit an entry to the design competition for the American bases in Rota, Torrejón, and Zaragoza. He was over eighty years old … yet he had the youngest spirit of all of us. He gave lectures … and he amazed us with his personality and his ultramodern ideas. We did not win the competition, but it was, for us, an unforgettable experience, and from him we learned basic principles that no one had ever taught us here, such as the importance of privacy, proper building orientation, the relationship between interior and exterior, and, most important, that we must be faithful to our own time.112
Upon returning to his native Navarre in northern Spain, Redón designed a series of single-family houses, including his 1957 Aranzabal House in Vitoria and his 1959 Huarte House in Pamplona, which Redón acknowledged were indebted to Neutra's work (Figure 19). As a precedent for the Aranzabal House, Redón conducted a detailed study of Neutra's Tremaine House, evident in Redón's use of structural concrete tees that framed operable glazing to admit cross-ventilation.113 Concrete construction, even more atypical for residential architecture in 1950s Spain than in 1940s California, allowed Redón to create the characteristic interpenetrating interior and exterior spaces that are a defining aspect of Neutra's work. Redón also acknowledged that he learned from Neutra to align a building to the cardinal directions to ensure proper sun exposure.114
Redón's 1959 Huarte House employed long horizontal bands clad in redwood planks, floor-to-ceiling glazing in living areas, ribbon windows in sleeping areas, and vertical planes that extended from interior to exterior; it also arranged interior and exterior spaces in a pinwheel organization similar to that of Neutra's 1946 Kaufmann House and 1948 Tremaine House (Figures 20 and 21).115 Beyond formal similarities, the Huarte House also demonstrated Redón's deft application of Neutra's theory of “biorealism,” in which architecture serves to link human beings to nature. Neutra articulated this theory, using the Kaufmann and Tremaine Houses as examples, in lectures he delivered during his visits to Spain in 1954 and 1956.116 These ideas also formed the basis for Neutra's books Survival through Design (1954), Life and Human Habitat (1957), and Realismo biológico: Un nuevo renacimiento en la arquitectura (1958, published only in Spanish), which Neutra freely distributed among his Spanish contacts.117
Neutra's participation in the 1956 competition also enabled many Spanish architects to understand how modern materials could be fused with Spain's local construction practices to create modern architecture that would be, as Redón affirmed, faithful to both time and place. Upon arriving in Spain, both Richard and Dion Neutra were surprised by the “primitive” but effective construction techniques employed there in the 1950s.118 In its call for proposals, the JUSMG stated that housing built for USAF personnel stationed in Spain should make use of local construction materials and practices and should “resemble the prevailing architecture of the locality.”119 The JUSMG included these requirements for practical reasons, but in doing so, it inadvertently encouraged the fusion of Spanish tradition and modern architecture.
In a lecture at the Madrid School of Architecture in 1954, Neutra argued that this fusion was essential for the creation of architecture that was both modern and Spanish. For this reason, Neutra designed the USAF neighborhoods to be built without cutting-edge technology or highly skilled labor. He specified locally available construction materials such as stucco, floor tiles, terrazzo, roof tiles, and “native bruned [sic] clay brick, as used in all parts of Spain.”120 Material assembly followed local construction practices. Thanks to Neutra, José Vela Castillo concludes, “the translation from the United States to a technologically backward Spain was easier than had been imagined previously.”121
Neutra's impact extended beyond the Spanish architects who worked directly with him on the USAF housing project. During the six weeks he spent in Madrid in 1956, Torroja invited him to lecture at the ITCC on the growing importance of advanced structural engineering for architects around the world.122 According to Redón, Neutra also lectured at the Madrid School of Architecture in 1956.123 At the same time, Neutra's ideas reached a national audience thanks to the dramatic increase in articles in Spain's professional journals showcasing his work, precipitated in large part by his 1956 visit. In 1961 alone, Spain's four most widely circulated architecture journals (Arquitectura, Cuadernos de Arquitectura, Informes de la Construcción, and Hogar y Arquitectura) published nineteen separate articles on his work and theory (Figure 22). Neutra's prominence in the Spanish press reached its apogee in September 1965, when Arquitectura published an entire issue “dedicated to the architect Richard J. Neutra.”124 The special issue included four separate articles on Neutra's theories and twenty pages of photos and drawings, including his design for USAF housing under the simple title “Neutra en España.”125 With the exception of Aalto, no other foreign architect received such attention in Spain's professional journals in the 1960s.126
Modern Design and Consumerist Strategies
Luis García Berlanga's satirical film ¡Bienvenido Mister Marshall!, which opened in Madrid on 4 April 1953, revealed that despite severe economic crisis and international isolation, the advance of consumerist culture was well under way in Spain in the mid-1950s (Figure 23). Reflecting on the ongoing diplomatic negotiations between the United States and the Franco regime, García Berlanga's film offered critical commentary on Spain's attempt to present a manufactured image of itself to the United States to secure economic aid. In the film, the townspeople of Villar del Río, a fictitious Andalusian village, hear rumors that U.S. envoys of the Marshall Plan will soon arrive to distribute desperately needed economic aid and consumer goods. Seduced by the accoutrements of modern life, the townspeople believe that modern tractors, sewing machines, silk stockings, and air-conditioning will elevate both their standard of living and their social status. As the film reveals, Spain's consumerist desire was fraught with tensions: Spanish Catholics regarded what they perceived as the Protestant agenda of the United States with suspicion, while the traditionalist bourgeoisie resented the prospect of receiving aid from the same nation that, a half century earlier, stripped Spain of its colonies and ended its empire.
Just as García Berlanga's satirical film helps to contextualize the 1956 competition to design housing for USAF personnel stationed in Spain, it also foregrounds the underlying consumerism that pervaded Neutra's relationship with Spain. For a quarter century, Spaniards on opposite ends of the political spectrum commodified Neutra's work to promote their own agendas. In the 1930s Josep Lluís Sert and Josep Torres Clavé used Neutra's designs to advance socialist ideology, while in the early 1950s Eduardo Torroja cited Neutra as a model for the modernization of Spanish architecture under Franco. In 1956, Neutra's participation in the competition was not initiated by Neutra, the USAF, or the JUSMG, but by Spanish civilians like Julián Laguna Serrano as well as private corporations like Alcazamsa and Banco Español de Crédito, which sought to leverage Neutra's fame to win a lucrative construction contract. Furthermore, young Spanish architects like Fernando Redón jumped at the chance to work closely with the famed modern architect and to learn from his design practice.
Strategies of duplicity and deception often characterize consumerist exchanges. In García Berlanga's satire, the townspeople of Villar del Río appeal to an outsider's vision of Spain by concealing their impoverishment behind sham cardboard façades and by importing traditional costumes and musicians from elsewhere in Andalusia. Neutra believed that his Spanish collaborators engaged in similar strategies of deception to save face in their dealings with him as an international expert. Thus Neutra felt that Alcazamsa knowingly overstated its ability to acquire property and avoided fully disclosing the actual status of El Capricho. Alcazamsa also hid Banco Español de Crédito's financial weaknesses from Neutra. Finally, Spanish landowners raised the prices of their properties fivefold when they learned the land might be acquired for housing U.S. military personnel.
Despite Neutra's understandable irritation with the duplicity he observed in his Spanish collaborators, he himself readily engaged in consumerist strategies on either side of the political spectrum to achieve his own agenda. Since the 1930s, Neutra had intentionally seeded Spanish professional journals with self-promoting manuscripts and photographs of his work—which he allowed to be associated with socialism—to increase his visibility and prestige in Spain. As Hines has noted, “pursuit of celebrity and worldwide ‘importance’” always preoccupied Neutra, and this was especially the case in the 1950s.127 In 1953 and 1955 Neutra allowed his work to be exhibited in Spain in displays conceived as part of the U.S. State Department's broader strategy of containing the spread of Soviet ideology in Western Europe. In 1954 he used invitations to lecture in venues such as the ITCC and the Madrid School of Architecture to endear himself to Spaniards through his knowledge of their traditions and culture.
Then, in 1956, Neutra took advantage of the USAF competition to step into the void left by other internationally famed architects—such as Mies, Gropius, and Le Corbusier—who had visited Spain and designed buildings there in the 1920s and 1930s, yet had not returned in the 1940s and 1950s, presumably in protest of Franco's totalitarian regime. Had they been built, the schools, churches, community centers, and hundreds of housing units that Neutra designed for locations across Spain would have given Spaniards more direct access to his ideas than to those of any other foreign architect. Neutra also used the competition to assuage the concerns of Spain's traditionalist bourgeoisie that modern architecture—and by extension his own work—ran contrary to traditional values. He presented designs for USAF housing that invoked Spanish cultural elements, including persianas, quarters for criadas, local construction materials and processes, and monthlong August vacations, even though in essence they merely reiterated previous projects, such as his housing for Mountain Home Air Force Base, the Miramar Chapel, Elysian Park Heights, and Corona Avenue School, all designed long before and for very different locations. In this case, self-promotion mattered more to Neutra than creating designs that truly suited the idiosyncrasies of the places for which they were intended, something he had advised doing only a few years earlier in Mystery and Realities of the Site.
Neutra may have ignored his own advice, but he took the USAF project very seriously. Archival evidence (especially his correspondence with his wife and Robert Alexander) and firsthand accounts of the competition provided by both Dion Neutra and Fernando Redón confirm that Neutra worked diligently on the project and poured even more time and effort into finding ways to sell his designs to both the JUSMG and Spanish consumers. Moreover, notwithstanding the strategies of deception that plagued the USAF project, both Neutra and local Spanish architects profited from their collaboration. The competition allowed Neutra to expand his sphere of influence internationally, affording him an unrivaled level of publicity in Spain's professional journals, exhibition galleries, and lecture halls. For the young architects he worked with, such as Federico Faci, Miguel Ruiz-Larrea, and Fernando Redón, contact with Neutra enabled them to move beyond the historicist training they had received in Spain's schools of architecture and to explore new ways to employ modern design processes within the context of local traditions. Although some might dismiss Neutra's designs for the USAF neighborhoods as reprises of his earlier work, in Francoist Spain his ideas were new and fresh, and they made a significant contribution to the modernization of Spanish architecture.
Visual evidence of Neutra's design for the competition was published only twice prior to his death in 1970: in Willy Boesiger, ed., Richard Neutra, 1950–1960: Buildings and Projects (New York: Praeger, 1959), 224–27; and “Neutra en España,” Arquitectura 81 (Sept. 1965), 53–56. Neither account offers a historiographic analysis of the competition. For discussion of the ways in which this competition epitomized Spain's broader attempts to reconcile modern ideas with its own tradition, see Brett Tippey, “‘Genuine Invariants’: The Origins of Regional Modernity in Twentieth-Century Spain,” Architectural History 56 (2013), 299–342.
For transcripts of the lectures Neutra gave, see Richard Neutra, La arquitectura como factor humano (Madrid: Instituto Técnico de la Construcción y del Cemento, 24 Nov. 1954); Richard Neutra, “Recepción del arquitecto Richard Neutra en la Escuela Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid,” Boletín de Información de la Dirección General de Arquitectura 8, no. 4 (Dec. 1954), 11–14. For a complete analysis of Neutra's first visit to Spain in November 1954, see Brett Tippey, “Bienvenido Míster Neutra: Modernización y humanismo en el primer viaje de Richard J. Neutra a España, 1954,” in Viajes en la transición de la arquitectura española hacia la modernidad, ed. José Manuel Pozo et al. (Pamplona: T6 Ediciones, 2010), 495–502.
Neutra's visits to Madrid and Granada are documented in the following letters, all of which are held in box 1941, folder 6, Richard and Dion Neutra Papers (Collection 1179), UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles (hereafter UCLA): Dione Neutra to Carlos de Miguel, 15 Nov. 1954; Rafael de la Joya to Dione Neutra, undated; Dione Neutra to Rafael de la Joya, 13 Dec. 1954; Dione Neutra to Wolf Weilgart, 3 Feb. 1955; Dione Neutra to Carlos de Miguel, 12 Dec. 1954; Richard Neutra to Miguel Fisac, 30 Dec. 1954. Neutra's visit to Barcelona is documented in Richard Neutra to Robert Alexander, 6 Feb. 1956, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
César Ortiz-Echagüe, “Con Neutra por tierras de Castilla,” Boletín de Información de la Dirección General de Arquitectura 8, no. 4 (Dec. 1954), 22–23.
“Armour Quits Post Today; U.S. Envoy to Visit London and Paris before Coming Here,” New York Times, 1 Dec. 1945.
UN General Assembly, “Relations of Members of the United Nations with Spain,” 12 Dec. 1946, A/RES/39, https://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f08d8.html (accessed 21 Jan. 2019).
John R. Dabrowski, “The United States, NATO and the Spanish Bases: 1949–1989” (PhD diss., Kent State University, 1996), 35–44.
Theodore Lowi, “Bases in Spain,” in American Civil–Military Decisions: A Book of Case Studies, ed. Harold Stein (Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 1963), 690. For a complete account of the events that led up to the Madrid Pact, see Dabrowski, “The United States, NATO and the Spanish Bases,” 9–75; Philip Briggs, Making American Foreign Policy: President–Congress Relations from the Second World War to the Post–Cold War Era, 2nd ed. (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1994), 47–68.
For the full texts of the three bilateral agreements that collectively constitute the Madrid Pact, see “Agreements Concluded with Spain,” Department of State Bulletin 29, no. 745, pub. no. 5203 (5 Oct. 1953), 435–42. This publication cites the date of the original press release as 26 September 1953. On the advancement of the Doomsday Clock, see Eugene Rabinowitch, “The Narrowing Way,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 9, no. 8 (Oct. 1953), 294–98. Two minutes to midnight is the closest to total nuclear holocaust the clock has ever been set.
Dabrowski, “The United States, NATO and the Spanish Bases,” 141. While there were only three air bases, Neutra and his team designed four neighborhoods: one near Torrejón, one near Zaragoza, and two near the Seville air base (one in Seville proper, the other near Morón de la Frontera).
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing at Various Locations in Spain,” undated, box 146, folder 6, UCLA.
Ehrhard Bahr, Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 148–71.
Thomas Hines, Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 224–30.
Hines, 229–30. See also Thomas Hines, “Housing, Baseball, and Creeping Socialism: The Battle of Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles, 1949–1959,” Journal of Urban History 8, no. 2 (Feb. 1982), 123–43; Thomas Hines, “The Battle of Chavez Ravine,” Los Angeles Times, sec. M, 20 Apr. 1997. Neutra's design for Elysian Park Heights also featured in Culture Clash's 2003 satirical play Chavez Ravine: An L.A. Revival.
AC was published in Barcelona by the eastern section of GATEPAC located in Catalonia, the Grup d'Arquitectes i Tècnics Catalans per al Progrés de l'Arquitectura Contemporània (GATCPAC). Of the journal's twenty-five issues, the first twenty-four are credited to GATEPAC, whereas the last is credited to GATCPAC. All references to Neutra occur in the first twenty-four issues, for which reason I refer to AC as a publication of GATEPAC, not GATCPAC.
Neutra's work appeared in the following articles in AC: “Casa de la Salud: San Francisco de California; R. J. Neutra,” AC, no. 6 (Apr. 1932), 39–40; “Escuela de planta circular: Arq. Ing.: R. J. Neutra, Los Ángeles,” AC, no. 10 (Apr. 1933), 30; “Richard J. Neutra, arquitecto,” AC, no. 15 (July 1934), 14–15; “Casa del arquitecto R. J. Neutra, en Los Ángeles,” AC, no. 15 (July 1934), 16–17; “‘Rush City Reformed’ proyecto de Richard J. Neutra, arquitecto,” AC, no. 15 (July 1934), 18–29; “Casa de acero: Residencia de J. von Sternberg—S. Francisco,” AC, nos. 23/24 (July 1936), 10–11; “Residencia particular en Altadena (California),” AC, nos. 23/24 (July 1936), 12–13; “Casa modelo de madera—desmontable, Los Ángeles,” AC, nos. 23/24 (July 1936), 13; “Residencia A. Ruben—Santa Monica (California),” AC, nos. 23/24 (July 1936), 14.
Following is a list of the architects (both Spanish and foreign) whose work appeared photographically in AC from 1931 through 1937, along with the numbers of distinct projects featured: Richard Neutra (10 projects), Josep Lluís Sert (9), José Manuel Aizpurúa/Joaquín Labayen (5), Fernando García Mercadal (4), Germán Rodríguez Arias (4), Le Corbusier (4), Luigi Figini (2), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (2), Erich Mendelsohn (1), and Marcel Breuer (1).
Rubén Alcolea, “De AC a De 8 en Opbouw: La casa Lovell Health,” in Actas del V Congreso DOCOMOMO Ibérico: El G.A.T.C.P.A.C. y su tiempo: Política, cultura y arquitectura en los años treinta, ed. Susana Landrove (Barcelona: Fundación DOCOMOMO Ibérico, 2006), 211, my translation. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.
Hines, Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture, 10.
Graciela Ben Dror, “The Catholic Church and the Jews in Franco's Spain during the Holocaust, 1939–1945,” in Spain, the Second World War, and the Holocaust: History and Representation, ed. Sara Brenneis and Gina Herrmann (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020), 353–72.
Greg Castillo, Cold War on the Home Front: The Soft Power of Midcentury Design (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).
Josep María Sostres, “Norteamérica Expone su Arquitectura,” Revista: Semanario de Información de Artes y Letras, no. 48 (Mar. 1953), 16, reprinted in Opiniones sobre arquitectura (Murcia: Comisión de Cultura del Colegio Oficial de Aparejadores y Arquitectos Técnicos, 1983), 47–50.
Antonio Pizza, “Raigambre y universalismo de un proyecto doméstico,” in Coderch 1940–1964: En busca del hogar, ed. Antonio Pizza, Josep Rovira, and Paolo Sustersic (Madrid: Ministerio de Fomento, 2000), 116.
Hines, Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture, 66.
Sandy Isenstadt, “Richard Neutra and the Psychology of Architectural Consumption,” in Anxious Modernisms: Experimentation in Postwar Architectural Culture, ed. Sarah Williams Goldhagen and Réjean Legault (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000), 97–118.
Sylvia Lavin, Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004), 70.
José Manuel Pozo, Los brillantes 50: 35 proyectos (Pamplona: T6 Ediciones, 2004), 32.
Lee B. Washbourne, “Cómo se proyecta una base aérea (Planning and Engineering of U.S. Air Force Bases),” Informes de la Construcción, no. 67 (Jan. 1955), article 504-9. This journal does not use normal pagination; rather, it catalogues articles according to a hyphenated numbering system.
For Want of a Home: A Historic Context for Wherry and Capehart Military Family Housing (Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.: U.S. Army Environmental Center, 1998), 58.
John Stennis and members of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee, Investigation of the Preparedness Program: Report by Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services United States Senate under the Authority of Senate Resolution 43 (87th Congress, First Session) on Military Family Housing Program under Capehart Housing Act of 1955 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1961), 4.
Stennis et al., 3.
Pamela C. Twiss and James A. Martin, “Conventional and Military Public Housing for Families,” Social Science Review 73, no. 2 (June 1999), 240, 241.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 1.
Louis Churchville, “USAF Bases in Spain,” Air University Quarterly Review 8, no. 2 (Spring 1956), 33.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 1, 3, 4.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 4.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 3.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 1–2.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 3.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 1–2.
Churchville, “USAF Bases in Spain,” 33–34.
Richard Neutra to Construcciones y Contratas, 29 Nov. 1955, box 146, folder 6, UCLA.
Richard Neutra, dictated memorandum, 6 Feb. 1956, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA. That Neutra perceived Laguna Serrano as the lead local architect is documented in Richard Neutra, “Neighborhoods, Designed for Madrid, Sevilla, Zaragoza,” undated, box 117, folder 6, UCLA.
Boesiger, Richard Neutra, 1950–1960, 224. How Neutra first found out about the competition is not entirely clear; Neutra and Alexander might have learned about it during the latter phases of their work at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, but no archival evidence has surfaced to confirm Mountain Home as the connection. The earliest dated documents concerning the competition that are found in the Neutra archive are invitations to collaborate sent from Spanish firms to Neutra. Therefore, the archival evidence indicates that Neutra's involvement in the project was initiated by Spanish architects. That local architects initiated collaboration with American officials is confirmed by Churchville, “USAF Bases in Spain,” 33–34.
Dion Neutra, interview by author, 23 June 2009.
For a more complete analysis of Neutra's studies of the cultures of Spain and Latin America, see Brett Tippey, “Richard Neutra's Search for the Southland: California, Latin America and Spain,” Architectural History 59 (2016), 311–52.
Mies visited Barcelona in the late 1920s to design the famed Barcelona Pavilion. Le Corbusier visited in 1933 at the invitation of Josep Lluís Sert, to design the Plan Macià for the urban expansion of Barcelona. Drawings for the Plan Macià are held by the Fondation Le Corbusier, http://www.fondationlecorbusier.fr/corbuweb/default.aspx (accessed 19 Dec. 2018), and this project was the subject of critical analysis in Le Corbusier, P. Jenneret, and GATEPAC, “Barcelona: Esquemas para el Proyecto de Conjunto,” AC, no. 13 (Jan. 1934), 21–28. Le Corbusier's time in Barcelona also coincided with the 1933 meeting there of the Comité International pour la Résolution des Problèmes de l'Architecture Contemporaine (CIRPAC), of which Le Corbusier was a delegate. Gropius visited Madrid in 1931 to deliver a lecture, the transcript of which was published in the journal Arquitectura: Walter Gropius, “Arquitectura funcional: Conferencia de Walter Gropius en la residencia de estudiantes de Madrid,” Arquitectura, no. 142 (1931), 51–62.
Even though Aalto never collaborated with Spanish architects or built projects in Spain, his weeklong visit in 1951 to Barcelona and Madrid sparked a long-lasting interest in his work among Spaniards. This visit was documented in Fernando Chueca, “El arquitecto Alvar Aalto, en Madrid,” Boletín de Información de la Dirección General de Arquitectura 5, no. 2 (Apr. 1951), 13–20. On Aalto's lasting impact in Spain, see Miguel Ángel Baldellou, “La luz del norte: Alvar Aalto, cien años,” Arquitectura 315, no. 3 (Sept. 1998), 8–11; Antonio Fernández Alba, “La función de la arquitectura como poesía,” Arquitectura 315, no. 3 (Sept. 1998), 28–29; José Laborda Yneva, “La España de Alvar Aalto,” Arquitectura 315, no. 3 (Sept. 1998), 30–33; Ismael García Ríos, “Alvar Aalto: Una lección de humanidad,” Arquitectura 315, no. 3 (Sept. 1998), 34–37. For a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Aalto's visit in 1951, see Eduardo Delgado Orusco, Alvar Aalto en España (Madrid: Casimiro Libros, 2013).
The first design meeting was held on 1 February 1956. “Notes on Conversation, Spanish Architects and RJN,” 1 Feb. 1956, box 146, folder 6, UCLA.
On the addition of Agromán to the team, see Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, undated, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA. The extent of Banco Español de Crédito's participation in the project is unknown, but the title page of the dossier that Neutra and his team submitted as their entry to the competition mentions the bank's collaboration in the joint venture. Richard Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing” (unpublished manuscript, 15 Feb. 1956). The only known surviving copy of this dossier, a spiral-bound folio containing drawings, photographs, and textual descriptions, is kept in the personal collection of José María Faci, son of Federico Faci, one of Neutra's collaborators on the project. José Vela Castillo provided me with digital photographs of the dossier's contents.
Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, undated, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Throughout his stay in Spain in 1956, Neutra maintained daily correspondence with his wife and with his partner Robert Alexander, both of whom had remained in California.
Richard Neutra, “RJN Dictating from Spain,” dictation, 6 Feb. 1956, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Richard Neutra, “RJN Dictating from Spain,” dictation, 6 Feb. 1956, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Dion Neutra, interview by author.
Richard Neutra, memorandum, 12 Feb. 1956, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Dion Neutra, interview by author.
Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, undated, 2, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, undated, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Isabel Gónzalez, “Jardín El Capricho, Distrito Barajas,” Madrid Cultura Abierta, posted 8 July 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=KWqaL7Wx5R8 (accessed 13 Mar. 2019).
Neutra remarked that “this park was in negotiation rather than already turned over to the Government and that probably a steep price would be asked and the park would not be at all obtained. Yesterday I was out again to see that park, could not enter as it is locked up from all sides and with high walls surrounded.” Neutra, “RJN Dictating from Spain,” 2. Land acquisition challenges also delayed construction for the winning team headed by Ernest Kump. Churchville, “USAF Bases in Spain,” 38.
Richard Neutra to Robert Alexander, 29 Feb. 1956, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Neutra to Alexander, 29 Feb. 1956, 2.
Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, undated, box 1941, folder 5, UCLA.
Dion Neutra to Robert Alexander, 15 Feb. 1956, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA; see also Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 2.
Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, undated, 1, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, undated, 2, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA. Neutra's claim that Kump was his “pupil” is hardly sustainable. Kump studied architecture at Berkeley and Harvard, and most of his professional work was built in areas far to the north of Los Angeles. In 1947, Kump and Neutra both participated in a symposium at Princeton University titled “Planning Man's Physical Environment,” but no evidence of any other connection between the two exists at the Neutra archive at UCLA or the Kump archive at Berkeley.
Richard Neutra to Dione Neutra, 6 Feb. 1956 (the year is not indicated on the document), box 1941, folder 2, UCLA.
Kump's collaboration with Laorga, López Zanón, and Construcciones y Contratas is documented in Luis Laorga, José López Zanón, and E. J. Kump, “Urbanización de ‘El Encinar de los Reyes, S.A.,’” Arquitectura 1, no. 9 (Sept. 1959), 31–40.
The architectural drawings Neutra and his team produced for the schools, the PX, the food market, and the churches are held in box 146, folder 5, UCLA.
According to Dion Neutra, an essential part of his father's design process was to test ideas he had used on previous projects by adapting them to the requirements of new clients and new locations. Dion Neutra, interview by author.
Richard Neutra to Robert Alexander, 24 Feb. 1956, 2, box 146, folder 6, UCLA.
Neutra to Alexander, 29 Feb. 1956, 1.
Neutra to Alexander, 24 Feb. 1956, 2.
Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra, Guía de arquitectura de Sevilla (Seville: Dirección General de Arquitectura y Vivienda, Consejería de Obras Públicas y Transportes, 1992), 130.
Quoted in María-Cruz Hernández, “Desde el Brasil a la India: Richard Neutra: 77 años, norteamericano, maestro, escritor y … uno de los cinco mejores arquitectos,” Tele-Exprés, 28 May 1969, 7.
Mark L. Gillem, America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Gillem's analysis focuses on more recently built residential neighborhoods at overseas U.S. military bases, such as the Aviano Air Base in Italy (173–200), the Kadena Air Base in Japan (232–62), and the Osan and Kunsan Air Bases in South Korea (201–31).
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 2.
“‘Rush City Reformed’ proyecto,” 18. Even Spaniards who did not collaborate on the 1956 competition, such as Josep María Sostres, were familiar with Rush City Reformed, as well as with Neutra's design for Elysian Park Heights. Josep María Sostres, “Arquitectura y urbanismo,” in Enciclopedia universal Espasa: Suplemento anual 1955–1956 (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1960), reprinted in Opiniones sobre arquitectura, 153–251 (for Sostres's description of Elysian Park Heights, see 201).
Hines, Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture, 61.
“‘Rush City Reformed’ proyecto,” 23–24.
Despite Neutra's involvement in Park Living Colony, developer Colonel Laurence Westbrook, assistant administrator for the Works Progress Administration, could not raise enough capital, and the project was never built. Hines, Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture, 174–75.
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 4.
For Want of a Home, 62.
Neutra, “Neighborhoods, Designed for Madrid.”
Neutra, “RJN Dictating from Spain,” 2.
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 5.
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 48.
The Capehart requirement of integration with existing features is cited in For Want of a Home, 61.
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” photographs of Mountain Home on 5–7, 12, 15–16, 19–21, 26, 28, 31, 38–41, 60–61, 65–66. José Vela Castillo has described in detail the ideas Neutra and Alexander used to guide their design for the USAF housing in Mountain Home, and the ways in which these ideas informed Neutra's design process for the project in Spain. José Vela Castillo, “Arquitectura low-fi: Casas americanas y hoteles españoles; Sobre una percepción no del todo acertada de la relevancia de la técnica (en la arquitectura española de los años cincuenta),” in La tecnología en la arquitectura moderna (1925–1975): Mito y realidad, ed. Ana Tostoes et al. (Pamplona: T6 Ediciones, 2018), 503–10.
Richard Neutra, Mystery and Realities of the Site (Scarsdale, N.Y.: Morgan and Morgan, 1951), 9–17.
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 4.
For Want of a Home, 61.
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 58–65.
Neutra et al., 34.
Dion Neutra, “Notes of Conversation, Spanish Architects & RJN,” 1 Feb. 1956, 1, box 146, folder 6, UCLA.
Richard Neutra, note to Los Angeles office (begins “Evidently omitted in the rush”), undated, 2, box 1941, folder 2, UCLA. Here Neutra refers to Major Edward Peterson, whom he had met while working on the Mountain Home housing project, and who had recently relocated to Madrid.
To accommodate the criada, Neutra developed multiple schemes. The first included one semidetached dormitory for every four family units; this would house four criadas, who would share one toilet and one shower. When this idea was not well received by the Spanish sponsor, Neutra developed another scheme that incorporated the criada's quarters into the family home. Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 4–5. See also Richard Neutra, “Questions,” 6 Feb. 1956, box 146, folder 6, UCLA.
“Invitation for Proposals for Family Housing,” 6.
Neutra, “Notes of Conversation,” 2. See also Neutra, “Questions.”
According to César Ortiz-Echagüe, following the Spanish Civil War and the victory of Franco's totalitarian regime, Spain's schools of architecture taught students to copy Spain's historic architectural styles and to reject modern ideas as incompatible with Spanish identity. César Ortiz-Echagüe, La arquitectura española actual (Madrid: Ediciones Rialp, 1965), 22–27.
Miguel Ángel Ruiz-Larrea and Guillermo Diz Flórez, “Grupo escolar en el poblado de absorción de Villaverde-Madrid,” Revista Nacional de Arquitectura 18, no. 204 (Dec. 1958), 19–21.
Guillermo Diz Flórez and Miguel Ángel Ruiz-Larrea, “Grupo escolar en el poblado de absorción de Vista Alegre,” Revista Nacional de Arquitectura 18, no. 204 (Dec. 1958), 11–12.
As mentioned previously, Federico Faci's copy of the dossier that Neutra and his team submitted to the design jury is now in the possession of Faci's son, José María Faci.
Federico Faci, “Grupo escolar de Canillas,” Revista Nacional de Arquitectura 18, no. 204 (Dec. 1958), 22–23.
Vela Castillo, “Arquitectura low-fi,” 509.
For one account in which Faci's hoteles in Aravaca are described as the work of Neutra, see Juan García Millán, “La arquitectura americana en España,” in Un siglo de vivienda social: 1903–2003, ed. Carlos Sambricio (Madrid: Nerea, 2003), 156.
Luis Manuel Fernández Salido, Fernando Redón Huici, arquitecto (Pamplona: Fondo de Publicaciones, Gobierno de Navarra, 2006), 21.
Fernández Salido, 50.
Fernández Salido, 41.
Quoted in Fernández Salido, 21. In his recollection, Redón mistook the neighborhoods Neutra designed in Morón de la Frontera as having been designed for the much larger, and therefore more memorable, navy base in nearby Rota. Redón also incorrectly remembered Neutra's age when he visited Spain. In February 1956, Neutra was only sixty-three years old.
Fernández Salido, 38.
Fernández Salido, 39.
The Kaufmann House featured prominently in Neutra's 1954 lecture at the ITCC in Madrid. Neutra, La arquitectura como factor humano, 12–17.
Fernández Salido, Fernando Redón Huici, 44.
Richard Neutra, Survival through Design (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954); Richard Neutra, Life and Human Habitat (Stuttgart: Alexander Koch, 1957); Richard Neutra, Realismo biológico: Un nuevo renacimiento en la arquitectura (Buenos Aires: Nueva Vision, 1958). Documents in the UCLA archive indicate that Neutra mailed numerous copies of his published books to Spanish architects he had met during his visits in 1954 and 1956. For example, Neutra (or his wife, Dione) sent copies of Life and Human Habitat to Francisco Juan Barba Corsini and José Fonseca. See Richard Neutra to F. J. Barba Corsini, 29 Sept. 1969, box 1502, folder 9, UCLA; Dione Neutra to José Fonseca, 18 Jan. 1955, box 1941, folder 6, UCLA. Also, Rafael de la Joya received a copy of Neutra's Architecture of Social Concern in Regions of Mild Climate (São Paulo: G. Todtmann, 1943). See Dione Neutra to Rafael de la Joya, 13 Dec. 1954, box 1941, folder 6, UCLA.
Dion Neutra, interview by author.
Churchville, “USAF Bases in Spain,” 34–35.
Neutra et al., “Air Force Family Housing,” 34.
Vela Castillo, “Arquitectura low-fi,” 509.
“Actividades del instituto: Curso sobre ‘formas resistentes en la construcción moderna,’” Informes de la Construcción, no. 79 (Mar. 1957). As noted previously, Informes de la Construcción does not use normal pagination; rather, it catalogues articles according to a hyphenated numbering system. For unknown reasons, however, this article, which appears at the beginning of the issue, is not catalogued.
Fernández Salido, Fernando Redón Huici, 38.
Fernando Casinello and José Luis Pico, eds., “Número dedicado al arquitecto Richard J. Neutra,” Arquitectura 7, no. 81 (Sept. 1965), front matter.
The contents of the special issue, Arquitectura 7, no. 81 (Sept. 1965), are as follows: Fernando Casinello, “El racionalismo europeo en Neutra,” 3–18; Francisco Prieto Moreno, “Coincidencias de Neutra con las arquitecturas orientales,” 19–30; Javier Carvajal, “El humanismo de Neutra,” 31–34; “Las obras de Neutra,” 35–52; “Neutra en España,” 53–56; Alfonso López Quintás, “Neutra y la biología moderna,” 57–60.
In 1960 Arquitectura published a similar monographic issue on Aalto. The contents of that issue, Arquitectura 2, no. 13 (Jan. 1960), are as follows: “Número dedicado a Alvar Aalto,” 1; Sigfried Giedion, “Aalto,” 3–5; Leonardo Mosso, “Introducción a la obra de Alvar Aalto,” 6–12; Alvar Aalto, “El huevo del pez y el salmón,” 13–22; Antonio Fernández Alba, “La obra del arquitecto Alvar Aalto,” 23–29; Luis Moya, “Alvar Aalto y nosotros,” 30–38; “Alvar Aalto en Madrid,” 39–58.
Hines, Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture, 223.