Schindler, R. M. (Rudolph M.), 1887-1953

Alternative names
Birth 1887-09-10
Death 1953-08-22

Biographical notes:

Austrian architect who moved to the United States to work with F.L. Wright, settling finally in Los Angeles.

From the description of R. M. Schindler, Architect, 1948. (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 84387916

American architect, whose work attracted young European architects, such as the Austrian-born R.M. Schindler, to the United States.

From the description of Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence with R.M. Schindler, 1914-1929 (bulk 1918-1922). (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 83603180

Biographical Note

Schindler was born in 1887 in Vienna, Austria, where he studied and graduated from the Royal Technical Institute and the Academy of Art. In 1914 he came to the United States where he worked first for the Chicago firm of Ottenheimer, Stern and Reichert, and later, from 1917-1921, with Frank Lloyd Wright. He had originally planned to gain experience in the United States and then return to Austria, but with the occurrence of the First World War and the depressed economic conditions in Central Europe afterward he decided to remain in America. He set up his own architectural practice in Los Angeles in 1921 and continued to practice until his death in 1953. Although never a doctrinaire Modernist, Schindler was the most inventive of the proponents of Modernism in American architecture.

From the guide to the R. M. (Rudolph M.) Schindler Collection, Bulk, 1916-1953, 1904-1954, bulk 1916-1953, (Architecture & Design Collection)

Biographical/Historical Note

The association between the architects Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and R. M. Schindler (1887-1953) began in 1914 when Schindler first wrote to Wright asking for a position, and revolved around two major commissions: the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, known as Teikoku Hoteru, (1913-1923) and the Barnsdall project, which includes Hollyhock house, in Los Angeles (1915-1924).

Schindler arrived in the United States in 1914 from Vienna, joined Wright's studio in 1918 and worked for him through 1922. During these years, Wright was immersed in the design and construction of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and spent months at a time there beginning December 1916 through July 1922. Schindler remained at Taliesin (Spring Green, Wisconsin) and Chicago for Wright until 1920 when Schindler moved to Los Angeles to supervise the construction of the Barnsdall project.

The Imperial Hotel (Teikoku Hoteru) in Tokyo was first constructed in 1888-1889 to accomodate the arrival of Westerners, instigated by the Emperor's interest in opening trade to the West. By 1910 a larger and more modern hotel was needed. Frank Lloyd Wright was recommended for the job in 1911, in part because of his well-known interest in Japanese art (which had prompted him to vacation in Japan for three months in 1905). By 1916 the decision was made to hire Wright and he departed for Tokyo December 28, 1916.

Wright worked closely with the Managing Director of the Imperial Hotel, Aisaku Hayashi and, to a lesser extent, with the Chairman of the Board of the hotel, Baron Okura. Wright brought some of his draftsmen (Antonin Raymond, William E. Smith among others) and contractors (such as the Chicago builder Paul Mueller) to Tokyo to work with him.

The difficult soil conditions - eight feet of soil on top of about 60 feet of liquid mud - and the frequency of earthquakes necessitated particular attention to the engineering of the foundation of the building. In late 1919 the Annex of the old Imperial Hotel burned down. This loss made the need for the new hotel building even more urgent. Wright was asked to rebuild the Annex and speed up the construction of the hotel. Wright designed and built a new Annex which opened in 1920. He completed the new hotel in 1923. On the morning of the hotel's official opening, September 1, 1923, a severe earthquake hit Tokyo and proved the brilliance of the hotel's structural engineering. The Imperial Hotel suffered little damage and became the headquarters of refugees and rescue efforts because it was one of the few buildings still standing.

Aline Barnsdall (1882-1928) commissioned Wright to design a residence (Hollyhock house, 1917-1922) and other buildings to support a center for the arts on Olive Hill in Los Angeles (1915-1924). Miss Barnsdall, whose money came from her family's oil business, was interested in theater and music. She first commissioned a theater from Wright in 1915, before she had even settled on a site. In June 1919 she purchased 36 acres in Los Angeles. In the fall of 1919 construction began on the residence.

Wright's son, Lloyd Wright, supervised the early construction (grading, foundations, pools). By 1920 Schindler was producing working drawings for the residence, named Hollyhock house after Miss Barnsdall's favorite flower. The initial plan included Hollyhock house, two smaller residences referred to as Residence A and B, a theater, a house for a resident artistic director, an apartment house known as the Actors' Abode (not built), an entrance pavilion for the public (not built), a row of shops along Hollywood Boulevard with small houses on the terraces above (not built), and a movie theater (not built).

In December 1920 Schindler moved to Los Angeles to take over the supervision of the project. By fall of 1921 Hollyhock house and residences A and B were nearly completed. Other work on Barnsdall, some of which Schindler, Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra had a hand in, continued until 1924.

Schindler remained in Los Angeles for the rest of his life. Wright opened an office in Los Angeles for a brief period, 1923-1924, but returned to Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1924.

From the guide to the Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence with R. M. Schindler, 1914-1929, 1918-1922, (Getty Research Institute)


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  • Architecture, Modern--20th century--California
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  • Architecture--United States--20th century--Sources
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  • California (as recorded)
  • Los Angeles (Calif.) (as recorded)