Friday, September 7, 2012

a neutra with nine lives in newport beach

If you live anywhere near Costa Mesa or Newport Beach, California, how many times have you driven past this building? Hundreds of times on your way to or from the Pizza Bakery?

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Mariners Medical Arts Building, 1901 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach, CA

A Neutra sits among us!

Described in a 2008 Register article about the potential destruction of the Medical Arts building,

Constructed in 1963, the elegant structure at 1901 Westcliff Drive - actually three buildings connected by covered walkways - is the work of Richard Neutra, a giant of 20th century architecture. It's been cited by the Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Architects as one of the county's most significant buildings. Along with several other Neutra projects, it's among 75 noteworthy addresses singled out in a book recently published by the chapter.

Recently, on a bright Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to wander about the property and snap a few photos.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Use of overhangs and window screens for shade, typical stone wall

Richard Neutra has quite a history in Southern California. He moved to California from Europe in 1923. Eventually he teamed up with Rudolph Schindler who had un-teamed with Frank Lloyd Wright. Eventually, Neutra went off on his own and established his California version of the Mid-Century Modern movement. In an Architectural Digest tribute to Neutra:
Neutra (1892–1970) was a prophet of clean, crisp modernism, and his houses, most of which were built in California, have inspired countless architects and emboldened preservationists...
The AD article is worth clicking through because of the amazing slide show. You get a real feel for Neutra.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Another view of the window baffles

Many of Neutra's architectural masterpieces have been, unfortunately, demolished. Our little Mariners Medical Arts building came under some pressure at the start of the recession in 2008. Said the owner of the Neutra property in 2008,
Renovating Neutra's medical buildings and bringing them up to current code would be more expensive than simply building anew, according to Marcos Mendoza, an associate with the property's owner, Venture Real Estate.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Stair case and windows shielded from the sun.

But, an architect preservationist brought the building to the attention of several groups to get the demolition blocked. Said the architect, John Linnert, about the property,
"What makes it great is it's a wonderful symphony - everything works together perfectly. The use of materials is just amazing, and so is the thoughtfulness. He uses louvers over the windows to block sun in the morning and inhibit heat gain later in the day. Around the back there are stairs going up to offices above that all have little decks. And there are trees and plants integrated with all the exterior elements."

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Tranquil covered walkway

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
I like the red painted pool and ceiling. Not original color choices.
This is the original paint colors, beige everywhere:
Mariners Medical Arts Newport Beach
Possibly, original paint colors all beige with blue beams, compliments of The Register.

Neutra's son Dion, who carries on his father's legacy clearly remembers Neutra's feelings about the complex:
"We built a number of facilities like this one in Orange County, but this was his favorite. He felt it was the most successful." Neutra said his father strived to blend nature and structural design for psychological reasons. "He was thinking about the stressful situations people would find themselves in while they're at the doctor or the dentist, and how the idea of looking out from your dental chair into a beautiful garden or forest might soothe you."
In 2009, the building was considered saved according to the Register:
Thanks to the efforts of Costa Mesa architect John Linnert and many others, the Mariners Medical Arts building, a mid-century modern gem by acclaimed architect Richard Neutrahas been saved from demolition or identity-destroying renovation.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Flagpole with circular waiting bench

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Neutra sign

You can get Neutra house numbers just like this at Design Within Reach. On the DWR site:
In 2008, we worked with Dion Neutra to produce the Neutra House Numbers true to the 1930s originals in exacting detail. His father, architect Richard Neutra, specified these numbers for use on the mid-century buildings he designed.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Long narrow windows at the top, light but privacy.

And alarmingly, the Mariners Medical Arts building was recently in the news, due to demolition activities on the property in February 2012.
Newport Beach officials recently ordered a real estate investor to stop gutting the interior of an office building designed by celebrated Modernist architect Richard Neutra. It is the latest dispute concerning the Mariners Medical Arts building, a sleek 1963 complex at 1901 Westcliff Drive saved from demolition in 2009

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Love the flag pole

Our caped crusader strikes again!
Preservationist John Linnert, a Costa Mesa architect, noticed crews working on the upstairs interior in January and reported them to the city planning staff. He has kept a close watch on the building in recent years. Newport officials issued a stop-work order because the building owner had no permits. "He gutted the whole upstairs of the building," said Linnert, who pushed for the building's historical resource designation three years ago. "It's an abomination."

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Frankly, I love this angled overhang. Juts out like a wing.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
I have looked up so old pictures of the building.
Original colors were not red. All beige.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
More of the louvers on the windows. Very thoughtfully designed.

Neutra's Mariners Medical Arts Building
Another angle on the overhang. Just can't get enough of it.

It appears Mariners Medical Arts building is looking for tenants.

I checked out the Venture Group website and sure enough, suites are listed and available. You can lease 2,511 square feet of historical and architectural noteriety for the low, low price of $7,400 per month. I doubt it is very profitable to rent in an architectural wonder in the O.C. Can't be that much fun to own one.

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  1. I'm so glad to know there is someone keeping a close eye on the building and that he's determined to see that no harm comes to it. We recently had an A. Quincy Jones home in Fort Worth that was in danger of being demolished, but it was bought just in time.

    1. Yes, John Linnert has a passion for this building. The building, truth be told, is rather shabby at this point. You can tell the current owner is not keeping things up well. I feel for the owner because a mid-century modern office building isn't totally up to par for renters, but it is an architectural treasure. And if the landlord focused on tenants who would appreciate the building, they wouldn't have enough money for the rent (say architects or artists). What this building needs is a patron or an angel. Maybe that is John Linnert.

  2. I'm so glad you wrote in support of this building to the Newport Beach City Council. It takes activist citizens to keep our elected officials on their toes.

    1. Agreed. We need to bug them concerning what we care about. And mid-century modern architecture, well we certainly care most deeply.


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