The subject of mid-century architecture will get a boost in visibility with the forthcoming auction in 2008 of one of Palm Springs’ architectural jewels – the Kaufmann House, designed by architect Richard Neutra, for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann, and built in 1946. The pre-auction estimates on the Kaufmann House are placed at $15 million to $25 million. An article in the New York Times on October 31st, 2007 caught my eye, proclaiming this upcoming event.
And from another article – “In her book on Neutra, historian Esther McCoy described the (Kaufmann) house this way: ‘Horizontal planes resting on horizontal planes hover over transparent walls.’ Designed to be harmonious with the landscape, the house brought the outdoors in through walls of windows; with it . . . Neutra created a modern regionalism for Southern California’.” This poetic description of the home is taken from an article written by Jamie Stringfellow, in Westways – Southern California’s Lifestyle Magazine, published by AAA in October 2007, in an article entitled Building a Reputation, Local experts weigh in: What are SoCal’s most significant structures? The article further states that the American Institute of Architects voted and decided upon a list of only 11 structures, with the Kaufmann House among them, to represent Southern California.
The Neutra design, at the vanguard of a new movement in architecture (Modernism), was a forerunner of the style which was to become popularized in the fifties and sixties here by the George Alexander Construction Company. While the Neutra homes were built one at a time for the very wealthy, the “Alexanders”, as they have come to be known, carried forward this architectural style being constructed for the masses as affordable second homes, as vacation homes in the desert. Palm Springs can rightly boast to having the largest concentration of architecturally significant mid-century Modern homes in California, and the Kaufmann House was at the forefront of that movement.
The upcoming auction of the Kaufmann House will undoubtedly further raise visibility and interest in these homes here in the valley, since this is will be the first auction of an example of postwar Modernism as a piece of art.