Built in 1954 for a real estate developer and his family, the Kronish House is one of only three Neutra-designed homes ever built in the City of Beverly Hills, and the only one that survives intact. By 2011, the house and landscape had suffered from years of modifications and neglect. Our client purchased the property with the intention of restoring the home and gardens. Throughout the restoration, our team of architects and landscape architects referenced Julius Shulman’s historic photos of the house interiors, façade, and landscape to remove non-original components and restore spaces as Neutra had envisioned. An array of unique plantings transformed an abandoned and overgrown site into a lush oasis for urban wildlife and now showcases the diversity of plant life available to gardens in Southern California.
The Kronish House is situated at the end of a long driveway, on a flag lot off of Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Built in 1954 for real estate developer Herbert Kronish and his family, the Kronish House is one of only three Neutra-designed homes ever built in the City of Beverly Hills, and the only one that survives intact. Reflecting Neutra’s typical style of integrated indoor and outdoor spaces, the low-slung villa is composed of three wings, which radiate from a glass-enclosed garden area. Over time and through changing of hands, the property suffered from neglect. Not only the house, but the courtyards, patios, pool, and landscape, which were important aspects of the original Neutra vision, had suffered from modifications, the plantings becoming neglected and overgrown. In 2011, the property was listed for sale and bought as a tear-down, slated for demolition.
The Kronish House has been at the center of controversy among advocacy groups and individuals alike, including the Los Angeles Conservancy and Richard Neutra’s son, Dion Neutra, for some time. The initiation of the demolition process sparked a tremendous public outcry. Our client purchased the property from the owner who intended to raze it, with the intention of preserving the house and gardens, restoring them to their former splendor. This narrowly averted demolition helped galvanize Beverly Hills’ preservation community and inspired the city to pass, for the first time, a historic preservation ordinance. Aiming to fulfill the client’s vision of restoration, our firm worked as the architect, landscape architect, and general contractor on the project. Following the rehabilitation, the Kronish House was listed on the Beverly Hills Local Register of Historic Properties in April 2015.
The original design of the house featured a unique connection between the interior and exterior spaces, including large sliding glass doors, extensive patios, deep overhangs, and spider leg post-and-beam supports which jutted out into the landscape. During the restoration, non-original housing additions were removed, and missing windows and hardware were recreated and replaced. Deteriorated interior and exterior materials were replaced in-kind, or with similar, updated materials as applicable.
To ensure adherence to the original design intent, our team referenced Julius Shulman’s historic photos of the house interiors, façade, and landscape. The original, dynamic, terraced configuration of the main patio and pool deck had been filled in and rearranged. The restoration brought back the built-in planters, stairs, and sloping lawn that Neutra had envisioned for the space. Key specimen trees were placed to interact with the architecture’s overhangs, site walls, and beams, in locations shown in the historic photographs. The historic pool house was remodeled, and a new guest house at the end of the pool celebrates views toward the main house, from Shulman’s famous vantage point.
The glass courtyard at the main entrance of the house was another important focus of the landscape restoration efforts. Overgrown and neglected plantings were removed and replaced with a palette aligning with the original intent. The original boulders were retained and placed per the historic photographs.
The rest of the landscape design focused on the client’s desire to showcase the unique diversity of plant life available to Southern California gardens, as well as offer privacy from nearby Sunset Boulevard. Over 150 mature specimen trees of more than 25 species were planted at the property’s perimeter, along the driveway and within its garden spaces, creating an instant, lush atmosphere. Native plantings dominate the driveway and autocourt, while diverse plant palettes from Mediterranean climates, temperate shade gardens, desert areas, and subtropical regions reflect and adapt to the particular microclimates of different courtyards and garden spaces throughout the site.
Due to the diversity of plant material reflected in the design, the work of the landscape team included enormous efforts to document the plantings. This documentation serves both as a catalog for the client’s botanical collection, but also outlines the different maintenance practices for the various plants and plant palettes, for use as reference for proper care. This helps to ensure that proper and sustainable practices are being used to maintain the long-term health of the landscape.
ENVIRONMENTAL SENSITIVITY AND SUSTAINABILITY:
Vacant and neglected over many years, the site was overgrown with volunteer trees and shrubs which provided little habitat or other wildlife value. Over the four-year construction period, the addition of hundreds of mature trees and countless flowering shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers, brought in a flood of nesting birds and insect pollinators. The transformation was evident to workers who had been at the site from start to finish. They went from seeing virtually no wildlife at the beginning to experiencing a cacophony of bird song at dusk and swarms of bees, butterflies, and moths bouncing from plant to plant as they came into bloom. The diverse plantings ensure staggered bloom times to keep pollinators busy year-round, and create niche habitats for many bird and small mammal species. The property is now a lush oasis for urban wildlife in an otherwise biologically monotonous neighborhood.
DESIGN VALUE TO THE CLIENT AND TO OTHER DESIGNERS:
The same methods used for historical restoration of architecture can be applied to landscape restorations. Very often, the landscape component of historical restorations is overlooked. This project is an example of how attention to the landscape resulted in a more successful and authentic final product. The client, who bought the house with preservation as a goal, can experience the house and landscape as Neutra originally intended, while also satisfying botanical curiosity though the implementation of the lush gardens that promote the full use of the site.
Landscape Design Consultant:
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineering:
Low Voltage Design:
Product Sources [required for built projects]: HARDSCAPE
Gravel Paving, Decorative Gravel:
Landscape Boulders and Cobblestones:
Steel Landscape Edging:
Product Sources [required for built projects]: LIGHTING
Product Sources [required for built projects]: FURNITURE
Product Sources [required for built projects]: IRRIGATION
Product Sources [required for built projects]: STRUCTURES
Main House Sliding Doors: