Schindler In California
Esther McCoy


Esther McCoy

©Monica Pidgeon

Rudolf Michael Schindler was born in Vienna in 1887. well, he studied under Otto magner at the Academy and was an engineering student at Technichehochschule. He was part of the cafe life around Adolf Loos. There were two things that influenced him to come to America. One was the wasmuth Portfolio of Wright's Prairie Houses published in 1911, which he saw as a student; and then Loos' story of America. These two together prompted him to accept a job which was offered him in a commercial office in Chicago. His hope was to work there for several years, then go into wright's office for a year, and then return to Vienna. Well, it didn't work that way because America went into war in 1918. Schindler was an 'enemy alien'. He had fulfilled his contract then with the commercial firm and had done some very nice buildings, clubhouses in Chicago. Then he went to Wright and begged him really if he would take him into his office. And he did. There was very little salary connected with it. Schindler knew this very well because he was put in charge of the accounts. So he knew very well the financial situation, always precarious, of wright. At that time on the boards of the Wright office was the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and Barnsdall houses, the complex of buildings for the Barnsdall, for Olive Hill, in Los Angeles. And in 1919, wright asked Schindler to oversee construction on the Barnsdall House. So he and his wife went to Los Angeles. Schindler stayed there the rest of his life. He never returned to Vienna, he rarely left Los Angeles.


Schindler House, King's Road, Los Angeles, 1921. Plan

©Esther McCoy

Schindler's first house was in 1922 when he opened his own office in California. It was rather more Viennese, the order of it, than Wrightian, although he had been with wright then for six years. The house was for two couples, Schindler and his wife and friends, the Chases. Essentially, it was four equal—sized studio rooms, one for each of the owners. And there was a guest studio. Schindler laid out the first pair of studios in an L-shaped plan. Then he simply 'flopped' it. So each pair of studios embraced a patio. The two L's were divided by a kitchen. The restrictions for the area were for a single kitchen house, so that was why there was one kitchen. Also Schindler felt that housewark was a duty that women should share. Each would take a month in the kitchen. It never, of course, worked out that way. But the whole house is — there's something very much in the spirit of feminism and the whole revolutionary spirit of the time, in the arts,so each person had a studio and his privacy. There were sliding doors from his studio to the garden. The patio was planned as an outdoor living room. There's a fireplace in it.

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