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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 6 (January-February 1953)

Book Review

page 139

Book Review

Mystery and Realities of the Site. by Richard J. Neutra, pub. by Morgan and Morgan.

This is a book of interest to Architect and Home Builder alike, for Neutra's understanding the the placing of architecture in the landscape is that of a great master.

His plea for the better understanding of nature and its relation to living should be particularly appreciated in this country, for we live in a land of fine scenery and every day we Neutra says. ‘Try to understand the characteristics and peculiari-hear of some fresh little thought about encroachment upon it. ties of your site, heighten and intensify what it may offer, never work against its inner grain and fibre. You will pay dearly for any such offence, though you may never clearly note what wasting leak your happiness has sprung.’

These words taken from the end of the book sum up Mr. Neutra's aim. Realising the dismal failure of man to harmonize the advances of techniques, he wants a new approach to the land and nature when we build. Long ago man knew and respected the land, and he understood how to place the town to its best advantage. Nowadays we talk of a section having a view or being exposed etc., but really, we are not concerned enough with how we shall live and how we shall retain the character of the land.

M. Neutra shows most convincingly that though we may not consciously be aware of the effect our surroundings have on us, they do react on our life bringing with it either relaxation or imitation.

This is where the Architect comes in—he can assess the site not just in placing the house for the sun, wind, view, but for the subtler things that Mr Neutra prefers to call the spirit of the section. As an example he shows us that it can be a case of knowing just where to cut the view so that the unsightly power line is not seen and instead the eye is taken to some distant point on the horizon or to the judiciously planted vine outside for the mind and the body are relaxed when the eye finds rest in the ever-changing view or beauty of the enclosed garden.

There seems little doubt that we have let pass much of the joy of living in harmony with our surroundings in contemporary planning of homes, but perhaps this book will be an inspiration. Marred only by the captions it contains many excellent photographs of Richard Neutra's work, and they will have to serve as a substitute for those of us who cannot enter the buildings and experience them fully.

Perhaps the only thing most of us will query is the lack of small houses and the treatment of houses in relation to others. Many of the houses illustrated are larger than we can afford though this in itself should not deter those with imagination for the same fundamentals apply whether the houses are large or small. However, on the question of houses in relation to each other Mr. Neutra contents himself with a brief mention of Channel Heightsand we are left hoping that he will write another inspiring book on this important question.