LATEST : 03.09.2012Preservationists want P.B. ‘mid-century treasure’ saved
By KELLY NIX : Carmel Pine Cone
full newspaper link: http://www.pineconearchive2.com/120309PCA.pdf
previous news 03.06.2012
A HOUSE in Pebble Beach designed by one of the world’s most influential modern architects is at the center of an effort to prevent it from being demolished.
Known as the Connell House, the 4,124-square-foot home at 1170 Signal Hill Road in Pebble Beach is the creation of celebrated architect Richard Neutra.
The owner of the 1958 house — software CEO Massy Mehdipour — has asked the county planning department for permission to raze the building and construct a 11,933- square-foot, three-story home in its place.
But Mehdipour’s plans are being fought by a group of people who contend the home shouldn’t be demolished.
Among them are Neutra’s sons, Raymond and Dion Neutra, who argue the house is an important example of modernist architecture and exemplifies their father’s approach to design.
“It would be a great tragedy if the only authentic example of a house designed by Richard Neutra standing in Monterey County were to be demolished,” according to Dion Neutra, who is also an architect. In a Jan. 23 letter to Monterey County planner Delinda Robinson, Raymond Neutra called the home “a pure example of the Southern California School of architecture in this Northern California community.”
Group supports preservation
The drive to preserve the house has also drawn interest from local architects, designers and historians, including
Monterey Bay Modernism, a group that launched a petition campaign to deny the proposed demolition of the home.
More than 300 people have signed it.
Associate architect and MBM spokeswoman Karen Lesney said the group believes there is enough space on the site to build the new home while retaining the Neutra house. The home sits on more than two acres.
“We aren’t saying, ‘Don’t build anything,’” Lesney told The Pine Cone. “But at least be respectful of what you have there.”
Sand City-based modernist architect Jerry Lomax, 84, who himself has been called “a master of mid-century architecture,” told The Pine Cone the Neutra house needs renovating but that it should “certainly should be preserved.”
“I’ve been getting people to sign [the petition] and have been getting more support to keep it,” said Lomax, who
designed the West End Mixed Use building in Sand City, “because it is now the only Neutra house on Central Coast.”
The house is named after Arthur and Kathleen Connell, who commissioned Neutra to design it. Neutra’s legacy was immortalized long before his death in 1970 when he was featured on the cover of the Aug. 15, 1949, edition of Time Magazine.
After the Connells owned the home, it was sold to another couple in 1985 before Mehdipour purchased it in 2004.
Mehdipour, the founder of Menlo Park company Skire, did not return a phone message left by The Pine Cone Wednesday, and neither did her attorney.
Is it historic?
Complicating matters are disparate opinions from two historic property experts — both hired by Mehdipour.
The first consultant, Santa Cruz-based Anthony Kirk, who performed an analysis in July 2011 for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, said the house appears to be historic according to criteria outlined in the state’s Register of Historical Resources.
Kirk concluded in his July 2011 report given to the county planning department, that it is “significant as an important and relatively early example of modern architecture in Pebble Beach by a leading American architect.”
After Kirk’s findings, the owner hired another consultant, who found there were flaws in Kirk’s analysis and determined the home is not historically important.
Supporting Kirk, however, is a conclusion by the Monterey County Historic Resources Review Board, which
in August 2011 concurred with Kirk and said an environmental impact report should be required before demolition of the home is considered.
“The consensus of the board is that the Connell House is historically significant for modernism on the Monterey
Peninsula and should not be demolished,” HRRB member and architect John Scourkes told The Pine Cone.
Neutra expert agrees
Architectural historian and author Barbara Lamprecht, who wrote “Richard Neutra – Complete Works” and “Neutra
– Selected Projects,” and who is completing a Ph.D on Neutra’s work at the University of Liverpool, said she believes the house would be considered a historic resource under the California Environmental Quality Act.
“As one of the first-generation modern architects who influenced Bay Area Modernism,” Lamprecht wrote in a Feb.
1 letter to the county planning department, “Pebble Beach is fortunate in boasting an accomplished work by master architect Richard Neutra.”
The two-level Art Connell House, according to Lamprecht, “exemplifies Neutra’s signature trademarks in its careful asymmetric composition of volumes and opposing opaque (stucco) and transparent (glass) planes. Roof planes of disparate sizes, adding visual interest, extend over those areas where protection from the sun is important.”
Monterey County planning services manager Laura Lawrence said since December 2010, the owner has submitted several applications to the county for demolition of the house, but planners have deemed them incomplete. If and when planners receive a complete application, the county could require a costly environmental review before any work is done on the property.
“If we do not think that the evidence is clear one way or the other” whether the house is historically significant, Lawrence said, “then, yes, we would require an EIR.” Pacific Grove resident Sally Aberg, who has an interest in local historic architecture, said the house should be preserved to or sold to “someone who would cherish” it.
“To demolish such treasures is neither progress nor admirable change — just short-sightedness,” she said. “The dramatic view would remain, but a treasure would be lost forever.” Neutra, who was born in Vienna in 1892 before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1920s, was highly influential on postwar modern architecture, designing dozens of houses and other buildings in California and other states.
Similar efforts to preserve Neutra’s works and other mid-20th century buildings have been waged in other parts of the state and country, including Beverly Hills and Los Altos.
nice...to hear that the local newspaper CARMEL PINE CONE is doing a piece on the Connell Residence by mid-century master Richard Neutra.