Talking with Mr. Tischler, part 1 of 3

Adolph and Beatrice Tischler commissioned Rudolph Schindler to design and build their home in 1950. Mr. Tischler still lives there, a generous host and steward of the house. The house is in wonderful shape and nearly original condition. Recently Mr. Tischler invited me to his house and shared some of his history. 1

1  Adolph Tischler in his studio with his paintings
2-5  Metal work by Mr.Tischler
2  Silver bowl
3  Aluminum bowl
4  Brass and copper candle holder
5  “Duo” tableware, stainless steel and black nylon

6  Front of Tischler house from the street

Note: Alsynite was the product name for the first corrugated fiberglass panels

Steve Wallet: How did you pick Schindler?

Adolph Tischler: I interviewed several architects, including Schindler, and I finally did choose Schindler. At the time arts + architecture magazine was rather popular. He was well represented and Richard Neutra was in there too. But I had more of a rapport with Schindler. At the time, you know, I was an artist and he spoke more like an artist. I liked Nuetra but he was very precise and everything had to be just right. As you know, Schindler’s plans were very loose. He designed them so that he could come up and watch the thing being constructed and he could make changes. But Neutra, would work with contractors, his plans were very detailed, he emphasized that. So when Schindler offered to do the supervising, I wouldn’t need a general contractor, that was great. I found out later that’s the way he liked to work. His plans were pretty loose. And a lot of his stuff wasn’t detailed, he made it up.

Did he come to you or did you go to his Kings Road house to talk to him?

No, I talked to him at his Kings Road house. I had a shop on La Cienaga, just a few blocks away, 933 La Cienaga. I saw him after I made the deal with him, he used to drop in. I was a silversmith, I had a lot of silver on display.

So, he and I had a lot in common. Of course he was very different than most architects. Because he didn’t take any money until we approved the preliminary plans. That’s the way he worked. ‘Cause if you wanted too much, he couldn’t do it. He’d have to give your money back, that’d be a problem. So we wanted to give him some money-nope! Anyway he drew a picture of his plans and all and the house. Not the working plans, and we were very happy.

When he showed you the drawings, did he show you enough to understand that it was going to look like this?

Yes, he did. He made a picture of it, a drawing.

From the outside

Yes, from the outside of the house, and not the inside, but the outside. And later on, most of the photographs were taken from that particular angle. All the houses on this side of the street are hillside. So we are above the street, and it’s a lot harder to be excavated so you can build on it. But his plans were different than what we expected.  Because his idea of putting the house running back and being perpendicular to the street rather than running with it (parallel to the street). So most of the houses have a pad that is dug out flat and they build the house on it. He took advantage of what was here and the house runs back (from the street) and all on one side (the north side). He made sure you looked out, so where you’re sitting now you can look out our window and see the neighbor(‘s yard) next door. Very conscious about that, and nothing (no views) on the other (north)  side. Everything’s high (on the north side), you can’t see a thing.

The side that’s open is south, and the side that’s closed is north.

Yes.

How much of you and your wife do you think is in this house? Because its rather strong on the front, and some of his other houses you could drive right by and you wouldn’t even see them. This is a pretty strong house from the street, with really interesting spaces. Do you think that he was in any way responding to you?

No, Schindler …I might mention one thing, describe one thing. He did exactly what you said, as long as it was what he wanted! He never argued about his plans, it wasn’t something, did a little bit, once in a while. But you see this plastic, the Alsynite panels, we’d never seen it, it was new at the time. He said “Don’t worry about it, I’ll let you see it, before we use it.” When we finally did see it here, it was in place. 2

Too late

Well, he made sure of things that he expected you could change. He was more interested in doing what he wanted with the house. And as I say, to him it was an art more than just an engineering feat. Although, it took quite a bit of engineering. He really had to dig quite a bit out to put the house this way. He dug out, and as you came up (the lowest floor at the street level), that was all at one time a carport. I had to put the doors on, closed in the back, so I could use it for a studio, ‘cause there’s no place in the house. And I used it most years.

You used the garage as your studio? I thought you used the bedroom on the next story down as your studio.

He wanted to use that as an office, but there’s no room for that there. And it was the case that if we ever had a maid, the maid could be there. So he put the rough plumbing in for a bathroom and later on I finished the room. He was gone, he died in 1953, and afterwards I finished it. Or (the house was) so called finished in 1950.  But we ran out of money before it was finished. And some things we didn’t put on until they could be added later. Such as garbage disposal, washing machine, dish washer wasn’t there, but it was all added later, when we could. And the fireplace was part of the original plan, but because we couldn’t add that, I did it later.

When he was designing the house, did he talk much about his ideas, what he was trying to do beyond function? Did he talk about the space he wanted to create or the look on the outside?

Well, not really, except that he did talk about the view. And the windows and the house’s design. Being up the hill like this, we wouldn’t need any curtains. Because the low one (window) is always (viewing) to our own place (yard). And talked about taking advantage of the (views into the yard of the) neighbor south of us. Notice we’re very tight (on the north side) and all small windows. But the inside of the house he didn’t talk much about it and I wasn’t in a position to demand. You see the house, I took the plans  around to everybody, every institution. I couldn’t get a loan! And even without him showing the Alsynite, he said that part of the roof was composition.3  And finally Beverly Hills Loan Association, at the time, Neutra had spoken to the group about what they were doing in South America and what they were doing here. I was at the store I had on La Cienega, the owner (of the Loan Association) happened to know that (Neutra had spoken to the group) and came in and told me “Now’s a good time.” And so I went back and I showed ‘em and they offered me nine thousand where I wanted fourteen thousand. But I had such difficulty getting any funding, so I took it. And that’s why we didn’t have quite enough money to finish. That could be done later.

Was the reason that people wouldn’t loan was that it was too unusual for them?

I think so. This is quite a traditional street. The woman next door, I found out later, I didn’t know, she went around up and down the street with a petition to try to stop us from building the house. 

Continued in part 2

Notes
1  Interview conducted on1/12/2012.
2 Mr. Tischler denies it, but I think there is a lot of him, indirectly, in the house. I think Schindler sensed that he had an open-minded artist as a client, and used that freedom to design one of his more dramatic and radical houses.
3 The construction drawings show Alsynite panels on the roof. It is shown in the elevations and noted on the details as Alsynite. However, as Mr. Tischler said, on the elevations and the roof plan what is clearly Alsynite is labeled “composition roofing”.

 

One thought on “Talking with Mr. Tischler, part 1 of 3”

  1. I used to give tours of the King's Road House at the same time as Mr. Tischler and I remember that he also spoke with a 3rd architect before choosing Schindler: Craig Ellwood! He is a wonderful guy!

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