RM Schindler’s Rose Harris House, 1942, Analysis, part 3 of 5

Some interesting things


The site is very dramatic, a steeply sloping granite cone with the top scraped off  (Figure 1). The flat usable area is given over to the patio. To maximize the patio, the house is moved entirely on to the slope and accesses the patio by a short bridge(Fig 2). The house, in Schindler’s words, “balances above the hill”.1

The arrangement on the site seems perfectly logical. The patio is where it is because of the existing topography. The house is on the slope, adjacent to the patio and close to the street for a shorter walk. The garage is located below the living level, down at the street level.A ramp connects the garage level to the patio, gracefully curving up the rounded hill and tying the building to the site. The curve of the hill is repeated in the edge of the patio and the fireplace opening.

Stage set

Many of Schindler’s houses have a stage set quality, the drama is placed at the most visible areas. Part of his art was doing this in a way that looked unforced and seemed to grow out of the design.

Of his many stage set houses, the Rose Harris house may be the stage set-iest. The tiny house with its wonderful interior spaces has little to do with the large, long, dynamic front elevation that I love. The front elevation is a modernist billboard, 54’ long and 8’ deep, set in front of a much smaller, modest looking house(Fig 3).

This billboard quality is very apparent on the northwest elevation, where the ground drops abruptly and the horizontal, dynamic front extends past and connects to the vertical, static, boxy side(Fig 4). The design really jumps when you go around this corner, but the grey-green paint, roof lines and details connect the front and side. Are they resolved with each other, or are they jammed together?


Schindler said he shielded the house from the view of neighbors across the street by placing the secondary rooms and front wall/pergola against the street(Fig 5). You could also say that he placed the primary spaces facing the view, opposite the street. This house is another example of the relatively blank front walls that Schindler started using in his hillside Plaster Skin houses of the 1930’s.

The plan is offset along the right side of the entry hall. The bath and bedroom to the right of the entry are moved 4’ toward the street to align with the outside of the entry stair, and help to create the long flat front elevation. This offset carries through to the rear of the plan, where the bedroom is set back from the living room.

You enter the living room at the corner, with a diagonal view across the room and out a set of corner windows. This very typical Schindler plan device makes the living room look larger and creates diagonal views and movement within the rectangular space. With the bedroom entry just to the right, the entire living space opens up at this corner. (Part 2, figure 9)

For a tiny Schindler house, the kitchen is relatively large with lots of cabinets and two wide windows above the sink. Schindler’s kitchens are rarely open to the living space and this one is no exception. A small pass-through with a sliding door, above the stove, opens to the built-in dining table. Unusual for Schindler though, there is no breakfast nook. An earlier plan had a nook where the porch is but it was removed, probably for cost. On a plan for the final design, Schindler sketched a table and 2 chairs in the 4’ wide galley between the kitchen counters!

Schindler often used curtains in place of doors, such as the Kaun House entry closet and the McAlmon House entry area. Here the bedroom closet has curtains, probably for cost. The bedroom is separated from the living by a curtain so that when the curtain is moved aside, the bedroom entry space is completely open (no door jambs or door) and the two rooms flow together.

1 Rudolph Schindler, “Lectures, Terminology”, in R.M. Schindler, August Sarnitz (New York: Rizzoli, 1988) pg. 68