LACMA could learn a thing or two these days from the MAK Center. Despite LACMA Director Michael Govan's vow to acquire more midcentury architecture, LACMA is still...lacking. But the MAK Center is now adding a third Schindler to its growing collection. The 1936 Fitzpatrick-Leland House (the Leland was recently added to honor its benefactor) in Laurel Canyon has been donated to the MAK Center, adding to the Mackey Apartments in Mid-city and the Schindler House in West Hollywood (technically owned by The Friends of the Schindler House). Former owner Russ Leland, who purchased the house in 1990, did a fairly meticulous restoration of the house, and it will now house the MAK Urban Future Initiative, a two-month residency to cultural researchers "to investigate urban phenomena, including sustainability, immigration and social justice." [All photos from the MAK architecture tour, 2006]
MAK Center Announces Stewardship of Third Schindler Residence
Laurel Canyon Fitzpatrick-Leland House Donated to Non-Profit
(West Hollywood, June 4, 2008) The MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles at the Schindler House is pleased to announce the gift of the Fitzpatrick-Leland House (R.M. Schindler, 1936). Unlike the MAK Center’s other Schindler properties, the Schindler House (1921-22) and the Mackey Apartments (1936), its acquisition of the Fitzpatrick-Leland House was made possible by the generosity of a single donor, Russ Leland, who lived there for 15 years. Once known as the Fitzpatrick House, its new name honors Leland’s generosity and his tireless work to restore the home, which was in a state of disrepair when he purchased it in 1990.
“This breathtaking example of Schindler’s work could have easily been lost were it not for Russ Leland’s vision and dedication,” says MAK Center Director Kimberli Meyer. “We share his commitment to ‘living architecture,’ and we are honored that he has entrusted us with his legacy.”
At a time when more museums and universities are adding built architecture to their collections, the MAK Center is unique in that it both exhibits and occupies the spaces in its care. The result of a unique Cooperation Agreement between MAK Vienna and the non-profit Friends of the Schindler House (FOSH), the MAK Center took over programming and financial responsibility for the landmark Schindler House in 1994, with FOSH retaining ownership. Following in the footsteps of R.M. Schindler and his wife Pauline, who made the house a center for avant-garde artists and intellectuals in the 1920s and 1930s, the MAK Center has become a locus for today’s artistic community, attracting diverse audiences with programs as varied as exhibitions, architecture tours, film series, seminars, salons and experimental music concerts.
The Fitzpatrick-Leland House
The Fitzpatrick-Leland House is an exemplary modern residence located at the crest of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Mulholland Drive. The L-shaped, tri-level home is located at cliff’s edge, its large lot allowing it to spread out and engage the landscape with a dramatic catwalk. The 2,400 square foot house with front yard swimming pool was built as a real estate come-on for developer Clifton Fitzpatrick, which explains its prominent exposure to the road. While its Laurel Canyon façade references the International Style, Schindler’s subtle composition of interlocking volumes dominates the experience of the interiors.
Much of Schindler’s original design had been lost by the time that real estate investor Russ Leland acquired the Fitzpatrick House in 1990. Previous owners had covered over the large windows with sheetrock, walled in the second-floor balcony and plastered over a fireplace. Working with architect and contractor Jeff Fink, Leland reinstated floor-to-ceiling living room windows, worked with fabricators to recreate Schindler’s original designs for steel-framed windows and sliding glass doors, removed walls from the second-floor balcony and plaster from a brick fireplace, and shored up the home’s foundations. As a result of his ten-year renovation project, Leland successfully recaptured the spirit of Schindler’s vision. By donating the Fitzpatrick House to the MAK Center, Leland has insured its legacy, both as architectural history and as a functioning center for international cultural conversation.
The MAK Urban Future Initiative
When Leland first approached Peter Noever, C.E.O. and Artistic Director MAK Vienna, and Kimberli Meyer, Director of the MAK Center, about the possibility of donating his home to the MAK Center, they carefully considered how to activate the house as part Los Angeles’ architectural and cultural history, while also respecting its quiet residential neighborhood. Acknowledging the significance of this generous donation, they accepted the challenge to design a program appropriate for the site and architecture but with an impact extending far beyond Los Angeles and the U.S.
The fact that the Fitzpatrick-Leland House is the only spec house designed by R.M. Schindler was the spark for the percept developed for this unique architectural site. Recognizing that the home’s light-filled spaces and expansive grounds would be an ideal setting for research, contemplation, and small-scale conversation, Peter Noever developed — together with Kimberli Meyer and selected artists, scientists, architects and designers — a percept for a unique, visionary fellowship program at the Fitzpatrick-Leland House: the MAK Urban Future Initiative (UFI).
When Claudia Schmied, Austrian Federal Minister for Education, Art and Culture visited Los Angeles early in 2008, she emphatically supported this new and internationally promising project.
The Fitzpatrick-Leland House is now home to the newly launched Urban Future Initiative, which provides two-month residencies to cultural researchers from around the world. Funded by a major grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the MAK UFI allows researchers from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East to come to Los Angeles to investigate urban phenomena, including sustainability, immigration and social justice. The UFI program is dedicated to creating an ongoing dialogue about these pressing issues — informed by both Los Angeles and international resources — and to generating concepts for an improved future for cities worldwide.
About the MAK Center
From now on, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles runs three of the most important Schindler houses with very particular programs. The MAK Center was founded in 1994 by Peter Noever, C.E.O. and Artistic Director MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art. The Kings Road House, Schindler’s own house designed as live-work space for two couples with a shared kitchen and an apartment for guests, was thoroughly renovated in respect to the architect’s spirit. As a forum for the persistent cultural exchange between Vienna and Los Angeles, the MAK Center focuses on the new and prospective tendencies of art, architecture and their intersections.
The second base of MAK Center operations is the Schindler-designed Mackey Apartment House (1939). Purchased by the Republic of Austria in 1995, the Mackey is the permanent residential center for the MAK Artists and Architects in Residence Program. One of the internationally most sought-after scholarships, the residency program allows young international artists and architects to live and work in Los Angeles for six month periods. Each session culminates in a Final Projects exhibition.
Under the artistic direction of Peter Noever, restoration work on the Mackey Apartments was begun in 1995 by the Central Office of Architecture, and completed in 2006 by architects Space International, thanks to funding by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labor. In all phases of renovation, the objective was to recreate the room layouts, complex lighting and use of materials in keeping with the architect’s original intentions. Ultimately, the renovation has created a refreshing building that testifies to Schindler’s love of open spaces, airiness, and versatility.
With the MAK Schindler Initiative, Peter Noever brought to life an Austrian cultural institution of internationally remarkable format that seeks out and supports projects and ideas that test disciplinary boundaries. Acting as a “think tank” for current issues, the MAK Center encourages exploration of experimental, practical and theoretical trajectories in art and architecture through exhibitions, lectures, performances, screenings, and publications.
The MAK Center is headquartered at the Schindler House, 835 N. Kings Road in West Hollywood. Public hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Regular admission is $7/$17 with the guide book, Schindler By MAK; students and seniors, $6/$16 with book; free for Friends of the Schindler House and on Fridays, 4 to 6 p.m. Parking is available at the public structure at the northeast corner of Kings Road and Santa Monica Boulevard. For further information, the public may contact www.MAKcenter.org or call (323) 651-1510.