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For $25 million you can own Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House.
If architects were like stocks, you’d have to say that for the past few decades Richard Neutra has outperformed the market. Frank Lloyd Wright has been steady, like GE. Richard Meier declined like Nortel, but Neutrawho was famous during his lifetimehas been like Apple, with his reputation growing each year such that he’s now approaching FLW for top dog status. One of the major reasons for his ascendency is his Kaufmann House in Palm Springs.
Next to FLW’s Fallingwater, I’m going to venture that the Kaufmann House is the most famous house in North America. But unlike Fallingwater, which is not exactly easy to get to (a 90 minute drive from the tourist Mecca of Pittsburgh), the Kaufmann House is in Palm Spring and readily visible from the street (470 W Vista Chino, if you’re in the area BTW). It’s an easy pit stop for even casual fans of architecture. Plus Slim Aaron’s iconic photos of the house (like the above) have captured what everyone loves about mid-century architecture. Also fun factdo you know the owners who commissioned Fallingwater? That same Kaufmann family who 11 years later would hire Neutra to build their desert retreat. Not fake news.
So why the history lesson? Because the Kaufmann House is for sale again (you may recall back in 2007 Christies tried to auction the house as essentially a piece of artbut the sale never closed). The price: a cool $25,000,000. That’s pricey for a 3,162 sq/ft house, albeit one on a double lot of almost 2 acres and sporting 5 bedrooms. Also, the owner has got to be comfortable with an endless stream of looky-loos, who, although they can’t see inside the yard or the house, are nonetheless in pretty close proximity.
But I’m going to go out on a limb and say the price seems fair. A lot that big in this section of Palm Springs (between Las Palmas and Little Tuscany) is worth a swackthis sorta crappy reno is only a few blocks away and is $5.5 million for a lot half the size and house that’s, well, not great. But about the extra $19.5 mil. Well, I think Christies was on to something. Why shouldn’t we think of the work of great architects as akin to that of great artists? Picasso’s auction record is $180,000,000, and even solid works from the artist can approach the price of this house. In the world of architecture, Neutra easily has the same standing that Picasso has in fine art. Plus, you can live in the Neutratry to do that with the Picasso. Or Apple stock for that matter.
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