Richard Neutra

LA County Hall of Records

You hear a lot about Neutra’s houses; much less about his civic work. I first came across his Hall of Records in this great article all about its clever — and ill-fated — system of sun-breaking louvers on the southern elevations. Clever because they once turned throughout the day to block the sun as it moved; ill-fated because, well, they’re broken. Which turned Neutra’s elegant alternative to the glass-box skyscraper into a complete failure that wastes energy on excessive air conditioning.

Neutra’s Basketball Court

We must’ve been looking for a place to walk our neurotic dog. I can’t think of any other reason why we would’ve ended up at the Eagle Rock Rec Center in 2016, to take a walk on the big field that stretches out below the building pictured above. I must’ve wondered who designed the building, since I’ve known Neutra designed it for as long as I’ve known about the building, but back then — when “Neutra” was just a name I remembered from an architectural history survey course — it wouldn’t have meant much.

What struck me then was how dilapidated the whole thing was. Crumbling concrete, peeling paint. Not tragically dilapted, just… kind of cruddy, in an oddly exciting way. Here was an architect mentioned in every 20th century architectural history textbook you can find, and yet, here was an incredibly normal building that people played basketball in. No fences, no guards, no tickets. Just a Neutra, next to some tennis courts, above a baseball field.