R. M. Schindler (b. 1887–d. 1953) was born in Vienna, Austria, and received architecture degrees from the Vienna Polytechnic University (Technische Hochschule) in 1911 and the Academy of Fine Arts (Akademie der bildenden Kunste) in 1913. While influenced by the Viennese architects Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, Schindler was exposed to the work of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright through his Wasmuth portfolio and was inspired to go to the United States in March 1914, shortly before the outbreak of World War I. In the United States, he found work in February 1918 with Wright, who sent him to Southern California in December 1920 to work on a project for his client, Aline Barnsdall. Schindler began his independent practice there, designing and building his own house and studio in 1921–1922. He had intended to return to Vienna, however, due to the difficult postwar economic conditions in Europe, he settled for the rest of his life in Southern California, with its mild climate, promising economic future, and openness to experimentation. Throughout his career Schindler wrote articles on architectural theory, designed over 500 projects—more than 150 of which were built, almost entirely in Southern California—and acted as his own contractor on the vast majority of his commissions. He has been identified as the first modern architect in Southern California, introducing innovative ideas and construction techniques, along with his contemporary and fellow Viennese architect Richard Neutra, who came to Southern California at Schindler’s invitation in January 1925. Schindler distinguished his own individual approach to architecture from that of the so-called International Style, proclaiming that architecture should be about “space” rather than focusing on any particular style or material. Throughout his career, Schindler experimented with a wide variety of materials and building techniques, resulting in buildings that, while they looked very different, retained their focus on a consistent set of spatial principles along with specificity to their site, climate, and client. In part due to his unorthodox approach to modern architecture, while his early projects were published with some frequency, the later works were published increasingly less and Schindler did not receive the large commissions for which he had hoped. After his death, with the postmodern reevaluation of the direction of architecture starting in the mid-1960s, Schindler’s work began to receive renewed critical attention, with books and exhibits devoted to his career, and recognition continues to grow in the present day.
The first published presentation of Schindler’s overall career is found in McCoy 1987 (originally published in 1960). Esther McCoy worked for Schindler in the 1940s during World War II, and, after publishing several articles on the architect’s work, she included him as the final entry in her publication on then largely better-known California architects. Her text has served as an introduction to Schindler’s work for many architects and critics in both the United States and Europe, many of whom then came to Southern California and saw the work in person. These visitors included Hans Hollein, who persuaded Schindler’s son Mark to find an academic home for his father’s papers; the historian David Gebhard, newly arrived at the University of California, Santa Barbara accepted them and, after authoring several articles and curating an exhibit of Schindler’s work, published Gebhard 1997 (originally published in 1971), the first monograph on the architect. The first book to closely examine the theoretical underpinnings of Schindler’s work is authored by Austrian architect August Sarnitz (Sarnitz 1988). The book is based on Sarnitz’s dissertation and includes essays, Schindler’s own writings, and other materials that illustrate the architect’s theories and works. Sheine 1998 provides a text more closely designed for architects, with a theoretical and historical overview, along with formal spatial analysis of a number of the architect’s works. Elizabeth Smith’s chapter in Smith 2001, in the publication accompanying the 2001 exhibition of Schindler’s work first held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, is a good general overview of the architect’s background and career. The most comprehensive treatment of Schindler’s work is Sheine 2001. This text, while particularly focused on issues of interest to architects, is accessible to the general reader and covers all aspects of Schindler’s career. A concise overview is provided in Sheine 2009. A more personal overview was written in 1939 by Schindler’s close friend Ellen Janson, who authored an admiring biography of the architect, unpublished in his lifetime, but included in Janson 2005.
Gebhard, David. Schindler. San Francisco: William Stout, 1997.
Originally published in 1971. Gebhard makes use of the materials in the R. M. Schindler papers (see also R. M. Schindler Papers, cited under References) and the book includes an introduction by historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock, two key articles by Schindler (see also Schindler 2001 and Schindler 1934, both cited under Writings by Schindler), a chronological list of major buildings and projects, and bibliographies of writings by Schindler and writings on Schindler. Much discussion of Schindler’s work in terms of architectural styles, written early in the postmodern era.
Janson, Ellen. “Biographical Notes on R.M. Schindler Architect.” In Schindler by MAK. Edited by Peter Noever, 106–113. Munich: Prestel, 2005.
Ellen Janson, the client for Schindler’s Janson House (1948–1949), wrote this appreciative essay in 1939; it closely follows ideas expressed in Schindler’s own writings. Schindler included it in a self-published “book” that he distributed in the late 1940s that also included a number of his writings along with lists of his works and publications of his works.
McCoy, Esther. Five California Architects. Los Angeles: Hennessey + Ingalls, 1987.
Originally published in 1960. The first overview of Schindler’s career is in the last chapter (pp. 148–193), following ones on Bernard Maybeck, Irving Gill, and Charles Greene and Henry Greene (chapter written by Randell L. Makinson), prominent architects of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Written with intimate knowledge of Schindler’s design process and working office. Well-illustrated volume with black-and-white drawings and photographs.
Sarnitz, August. R. M. Schindler, Architect. New York: Rizzoli International, 1988.
Originally published in German in 1986. Scholarly examination of Schindler’s theoretical writings with some detail on sixty individual buildings and projects. It includes publications of Schindler’s theoretical writings (along with a chronology), selected letters, a catalogue of buildings and projects (which includes publications on each entry), a chronological biography and bibliography of his writings, and a selected bibliography of publications on Schindler’s work as well as an essay on architectural photography by Julius Shulman, the well-known photographer of Southern California modern architecture.
Sheine, Judith. R. M. Schindler: Works and Projects. Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Gustavo Gili, 1998.
Published in English and Spanish. Edition in English and Chinese published in 2005. One of the monographs on 20th-century architects in a paperback series from Gustavo Gili useful for architects and architecture students. Consistent with the series, it includes an overview of Schindler’s career, images of more than eighty buildings and projects with short descriptions, illustrated by drawings and photographs in black and white, a chronological biography, a list of works and projects, a list of writings by Schindler, and a selected bibliography.
Sheine, Judith. R. M. Schindler. London: Phaidon, 2001.
The most comprehensive study of Schindler’s theoretical ideas, practice, and buildings and projects, accessible to the general reader although of particular relevance to architects due to its focus on design principles, formal spatial organization, and professional practice. It is illustrated with drawings and archival photographs as well as new ones, a number published in color, taken by photographer Grant Mudford. It includes a list of works and projects and a selected bibliography.
Sheine, Judith. The Oxford Companion to Architecture. Edited by Patrick Goode, 809–810. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Entry on Schindler gives a compact overview.
Smith, Elizabeth. “R. M. Schindler: An Architecture of Invention and Intuition.” In The Architecture of R. M. Schindler. Edited by Stephanie Emerson, 12–85. Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001.
Amply illustrated overview of Schindler’s career written for the publication accompanying the exhibition “The Architecture of R. M. Schindler,” organized by Elizabeth Smith and Michael Darling and held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the National Building Museum, Washington, DC, and the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna, in 2001 (see also Emerson 2001, cited under Exhibition Publications).
Steele, James. R. M. Schindler. Cologne: Benedikt Taschen Verlag 2005.
Originally published in 1999. Extensively illustrated book in English, German, and French, widely available and affordable. Accessible text contains a number of inaccuracies; new photography, while providing fresh images, does not distinguish between original Schindler designs and later alterations and additions.
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