Appreciating Dion Neutra in Huntington Beach
Way back when the world was normal or, in other words, this past February I found myself in Palm Springs for the annual Modernism Week and once again was immersed in the world of mid-century design. I enjoyed home tours, exhibits and more showcasing one of my favorite design eras. A true highlight was a screening of the film Neutra – Survival Through Design celebrating the renowned father/son architecture duo of Richard and Dion Neutra. Luckily, Southern California is a hotbed for their work so one Saturday I headed to Huntington Beach to check out the Dion Neutra designed Huntington Central Library.
When I was in high school and college I spent many hours at this library researching various term papers. Even as student with little knowledge of architecture and design I knew the space was unique. After all,how may library have enormous fountains and tropical foliage smack dab in the middle of them? But back then I didn’t think much of it and spent most of my time there buried in a book.
In the years since I’ve returned to the park several times (it’s the perfect place to take your dog) and the library always loomed in the background – a monolith rising above the park’s foliage. Flash forward to February 2020 and I’m in Palm Springs watching Neutra – Survival Through Design which is truly a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these design titans. The film features several interviews with Dion Neutra (who sadly passed away this past November) and imagine my surprise when he mentioned his favorite building design – Huntington Beach Central Library. I knew then I had to make a return visit.
The library was designed by Dion Neutra in 1975 and resides in the middle of the 350 acre Huntington Beach park. In the film, Neutra mentions he was inspired by the natural elements around him and wanted to incorporate them into his design. The result is a sizeable building featuring floor to ceiling windows, interior and exterior water fountains and a large number of foliage bringing the outside in.
Unfortunately, when I visited the library was closed due to the pandemic but I was sill able to walk around and appreciate it from the outside. It really is a striking building that truly looks at home in the park.
I’m disappointed I couldn’t go inside but that just gives me an excuse to make a return visit. I may not have appreciated the design of the Huntington Beach Central Library when I was young but I have a whole new appreciation for it now.