Rudolf M Schindler by James Steele. Taschen, 1999. 180pp. £16.99
Rudolf Schindler must rank among the century's great unsung talents, writes Richard Weston. Working in then far-away Los Angeles, tainted by association with Frank Lloyd Wright, and bad-mouthed by his former friend, Richard Neutra, he was omitted by Philip Johnson from the canon of International Stylists exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1932 and never won the recognition and public commissions his talent clearly deserved. All credit, then, to Taschen for bringing us this popular account of his work.
In retrospect, Johnson's judgement was surely correct. Like Wright, Schindler was not interested in a universally applicable language, but in a contextually responsive architecture which embraced the use of local materials such as redwood, and articulated form and space in response to the uniqueness of the topography. And like his first mentor, Adolf Loos, he retained a preference for more compartmentalised plans over the Richard Weston 'free space' of orthodox Modernism. It is precisely these qualities, as James Steele observes in his brief but informative introduction, which make him of such interest now.
As with all Taschen books you get a lot for your money, but not quite as much as might first appear. The high-gloss paper and design do not match the elegance of the subject; the trilingual introduction could be fitted into half the pages; and the notes on each project are relatively perfunctory. More annoyingly, there are no plans and sections. Happily most of the 30-plus projects do have at least basic drawings, and at this price few will think twice before adding the book to their collection.
Richard Weston teaches at De Montfort University, Leicester