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Cal Poly Pomona

P&R Responses for recommendation 121

Recommendation 121
Department Architecture
Consensus Opinion 17 out of 17 faculty/staff : Con
Consensus Explanation We are opposed to transferring ownership of the Richard and Dion Neutra VDL Research House II to another organization or individual. As noted in the recommendation, the University entered into an agreement to become stewards of the house and to use it for the education of our students and the public in 1979. The house is part of the legacy of the University and, in particular, of the College of Environmental Design; while we acknowledge that the house requires funds for maintenance and preservation, we believe that it would be short-sighted to transfer ownership of the house at this time. Our students have also taken a nearly unanimous vote in favor of the University keeping the house and we have heard from a number of alumni who are very distressed at the prospect of losing the house.

The College has been associated with architect Richard Neutra, who served as a guest lecturer and critic, for a number of years before his death in 1970. Neutra was an internationally renowned architect who appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1949. The VDL house was his own house and studio and was emblematic of Neutra’s cutting-edge practice and is well-known around the world, attracting numerous famous architects, as well as those less famous, and architecture students. The house gives the College an invaluable international presence beyond any other facility associated with the University. In addition, Neutra was a pioneer of environmentally sensitive architecture and the house was a laboratory for his experiments with what we now call Sustainable practice; it seems particularly unfortunate to think about transferring ownership of the house at a time when the University is focusing on the Climate Change Initiative and trying to infuse environmental issues into all its academic and administrative programs. In addition, our College is recognized nationally for its program in Historic Preservation, which has an emphasis on works of the twentieth century. The VDL house is a central feature of this program. Faculty and students in the College use the house for tours, classes and reviews, to host special guests and events and to raise the profile of our programs in Los Angeles, where it is vital for us to be visible in order to successfully compete with other Universities with rival programs.

As noted in the recommendation, the VDL house is not supported by general funds. We are very fortunate to have Raymond Neutra, Richard Neutra’s youngest son, currently leading our first serious fund-raising effort for the house. However, in order to raise sufficient funds for maintenance and repair of the house, we believe that a five year period is necessary to see if the University can raise sufficient funds for maintenance, preservation and operations. There is an enormous amount of public interest in mid-century modernism and in “green” design at the moment. With the VDL house as one of the most internationally famous examples of both of these movements it seems a particularly propitious time to launch this fund-raising effort, which could also bring more attention to the University in these areas. We would like the University to give us the time and personnel support to adequately explore fundraising for the house before it considers transferring ownership.
Minority Opinion NA out of NA faculty/staff : NA
Minority Explanation

Recommendation 121
Department ENV Dean's Office
Consensus Opinion 2 out of 2 faculty/staff : Pro
Consensus Explanation ENV Dean’s Office Response to proposal #121:
That the College of Environmental Design explore all options to transfer ownership of the Neutra House to an organization that can give it the attention that this landmark richly deserves.

The College of Environmental Design has operated and maintained the Neutra VDL House since 1990. During this time it has had two consistent revenue streams: interest on a $100,000 endowment (+ $5,000 per year), and ticket sales for tours (+ $3,000 per year). Intermittently, these two sources have been augmented with rental fees for photo shoots and receptions. From 1997 to 2007, the college received another $10,000 per year as repayment on a loan (overpayment on construction of the IDC). This $10,000 annual payment was directed to the VDL Account according to the wishes of former Dean Linda Sanders. Until mid-2007, the annual revenue to the house was about $18,000.

In recent years the annual upkeep of the property has increased. During the last fiscal year, the operation and maintenance expenses totaled $18,500.00. With the loss of the $10,000 annual payment, the account will soon be depleted just covering basic utilities and maintenance costs.

In addition, the house is deteriorating with age and several major repairs are needed in the near future. We have identified a sagging beam in the ceiling of the second floor which has caused chronic roof leakage. The leakage has damaged the ceilings of the second floor. There is another leak in the reflecting pool on the second floor patio which has damaged the ceiling and walls of the first floor. Recently we discovered that the floor in the ground floor garage is cracked and that the adjacent foundation has settled about 1.5 inches. Since the house includes materials that contain asbestos, we estimate that the cost to repair these major items is between $350,000 and $500,000.

Over the past four years ENV has attempted to raise funds for repairs to VDL, without much success. One impediment to fundraising is that the house is already named. Further, the VDL property serves a small portion of the ENV population of students and faculty. Since the house is 35 miles from campus, it is not a convenient location for seminars, weekly classes, or even receptions. While the College of Environmental Design recognizes this home as an icon of modern architecture, it is a much lower priority for fundraising than other projects, including a new building for the college, endowed professorships, scholarships, and a faculty development fund.

Richard and Dionne Neutra had three sons, two of whom survive. The elder of these, Dion Neutra is an architect, and the Architect of Record, with his father, on the reconstruction of the main house following the fire of 1963. The younger son, Dr. Raymond Neutra is about to retire from his post as Director of the State of California’s Department of Health Services. Raymond Neutra has volunteered to undertake an effort to raise funds to maintain the house over the next two years while the college prepares the house for transfer. In order to make sure the integrity of the house will be protected, we will spend the next one to two years securing a protective easement that will prevent a future owner from changing the design intent of the house, or demolishing it.

If it comes to pass that significant funds are raised, ENV would be willing to consider keeping VDL, but a minimum of $1.5 million is needed for urgent repairs plus an adequate operating endowment. Other options to be considered, with significant new funds, are co-ownership, or transfer of ownership with access rights by Cal Poly Pomona.

We feel that it is reasonable and prudent to explore these options and we are grateful that Dr. Neutra is willing to assist us in this orderly transfer of the property to an appropriate steward. Ultimately, the disposition of the VDL property must assure its protection, while responding to the pr
Minority Opinion NA out of NA faculty/staff : NA
Minority Explanation

Recommendation 121
Department Landscape Architecture
Consensus Opinion 16 out of 16 faculty/staff : Con
Consensus Explanation
• The Department of Landscape Architecture is opposed to liquidation or other forms of relinquishment of the VDL II Neutra House. The house is an internationally recognized environmental design resource which has raised the profile of the University and directly benefited the education of students in our Department. In recent years, students have regularly benefited from tours of the house as well as hands-on improvement projects to the landscape that has furthered the “learn by doing” philosophy of the University. While we concur that the house faces challenges in terms of needed restorations, a current lack of funding, and a lack of effective promotion, we do not believe that these challenges are irresolvable to the point that the University should walk away from this investment. Rather, we believe this resource presents a key opportunity to further the environmental affinity identified by the P&R committee. Neutra was internationally recognized as an important environmental designer, whose work was a pre-cursor to many approaches to sustainability that have become mainstream in today’s design and planning practice. The affiliation of this resource with the University may prove to be invaluable in terms of advancing the institution’s regional, national, and international reputation as an environmental leader. It would be unfortunate if the University walked away from such a resource at this important juncture, as it contemplates the direction of its future identity.

Minority Opinion NA out of NA faculty/staff : NA
Minority Explanation

Recommendation 121
Department University Development
Consensus Opinion 12 out of 12 faculty/staff : Pro
Consensus Explanation The College is in a dialogue to do exactly what is recommended. We need to ensure this is handled very tactfully, with clear communication, so as to not negatively impact the Neutra family or legacy. We have a clear stewardship responsibility in accepting donations like the Neutra House. In the future we need to have stronger gift acceptance guidelines in place, and ensure an adequate endowment will be available to provide long term support for acquisitions of this nature.
Minority Opinion NA out of NA faculty/staff : With modifications
Minority Explanation

Recommendation 121
Department Urban and Regional Planning
Consensus Opinion 9 out of 9 faculty/staff : Con
Consensus Explanation Richard Neutra’s inspiration was present at the beginning of the College of Environmental Design and will always be Cal Poly Pomona's tie to sustainable design. Neutra’s innovative buildings represent the most advanced architectural thinking of the time. The College of Environmental Design must be known as the keeper of this legacy.

The cost of maintaining and renovating the Neutra VDL House should be supported by the University, since benefits are broader than ENV. Just as the Pomona Downtown Center enhances the reputation and outreach of the entire university, the Neutra house provide a connection to Cal Poly Pomona for the design community in Los Angeles.

It is common for great universities to have such inspirational holdings. The Neutra family left their home to Cal Poly Pomona because ENV represented the leading edge of his theory and practice of design. Our legacy and his theories are more applicable and important now than ever before. The University should be proud to be a steward of this historic/cultural treasure.

Historic preservation is a major area in each of ENV department’s curriculum. The stewardship and use of the landmark house is the real-world application of what we teach. If we are to teach the values of preservation we should not shirk the reality of doing it. Many synergies can be realized through Neutra house-based partnerships with other colleges such as Engineering, CLASS, and Business.
Minority Opinion NA out of NA faculty/staff : NA
Minority Explanation

Recommendations not submitted through the forms are available in this folder. They mainly consist of Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat documents. If none were submitted for this recommendation, the folder will be empty.