Neutra Documentary At List Art Center

(12.4) In the mid-1930’s John Nicholas Brown II and his wife Anne set out to change society by embracing modernism and commissioning Richard Neutra’s first building on the East Coast. The house, known as Windshield for its enormous “seamless” windows, was Neutra’s first East Coast commission. Filmmaker Elissa Brown tells the story of her grandparents’ difficult relationship with Neutra and impossible relationship with the elements in “Windshield: A Vanishing Vision.”

“Windshield: A Vanished Vision” lands us in the 1930’s to reveal an intimate portrait of a patrician couple, a leading modern architect, and the story of the ill-fated house that they create. John Nicholas Brown’s fascination with modernism, innovation and the rapidly-evolving American building scene spurs him to commission what he hopes will be a “distinguished monument in the history of architecture.” Brown and his wife Anne, herself a daring and eccentric figure, select the young and ambitious Richard Neutra to build them a house that they name “Windshield.” Through an enormously detailed correspondence, patron and architect discuss every detail of the house’s design and together pursue cutting-edge technology, much of which has only previously been used in commercial architecture.

Heavily damaged by the 1938 hurricane, and then rebuilt, Windshield perished in a fire in the 1960s.

Surface magazine wrote of the documentary last year,
Spinning the building as a third character, the film examines the relationship between architect and patron, but also the individuals around whom the tragedy revolves. Footage pulled from her grandfather’s extensive home movie archive adds an autobiographical layer to the film, as it begins with John and Anne’s 1936 visit to Neutra in California. “The house is an excuse for the story,” Brown says. “Beyond its design, I found myself trying to figure out who my grandparents were, what made them pursue this, and what influence it had on their lives. The old home movies were a big part of how I tapped into that.”
Running time: 47 minutes. Film director Elissa Brown will answer questions following the screening.

6pm, Monday, December 4, Room 120, List Art Center, Brown University, 64 College Street, (directions)

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