Tag Archives: interview

Handed Down – An Interview with Ian Schindler, part 2 of 2

pauline schindler, 1976mark and pauline schindler, 1976mark schindler at mackey 2008 CONTINUED FROM PART 1
Ian is Rudolph Schindler’s grandson.

Thanks to Larry Scher for letting me use two stills from his soon to be released DVD set “Pauline Schindler, an Oral History, 1976”. Stills are copyright Larry Scher, 1976, 2012, all rights reserved.

Thanks to Steven Keylon for letting me use his photograph of Mark Schindler. Photograph is copyright Steve Keylon, 2013, all rights reserved.

Steve Wallet: How do you think his (Mark Schindler’s) parents’ fame, especially his father’s, affected him and what did it mean to him? Was he proud of his father, did he unhappily stand in his father’s shadow or a bit of both?

Ian Schindler: My father’s parents were not famous while he was growing up.  Recall that when RMS first requested an architectural license in 1922 he was turned down.  He had trouble obtaining a license in 1929  at the age of 42.  This is after obtaining degrees in architecture and building in Vienna, working as a draftsman for firms in Vienna and Chicago, running Frank Lloyd Wrights’ office in Chicago for 2 years (while Wright was in Tokyo working on the Imperial Hotel), designing and building several houses including the Schindler house and the Lovell beach house.  The fame started slowly with Esther McCoy’s book, Five California Architects published in 1960 (RMS died in 1953).  We had a sort of elitist outlook.  We were among the inside group that appreciated RMS while the main stream still hadn’t discovered him.  My father never spoke to me about what he felt for his father, but later in life, he never missed any event he could attend concerning his father.

I do not think there was any competition between my father and his father.  My father designed circuits rather than houses.  Moreover, my father was not a competitive man.  He was more interested in belonging to a group rather than being the shining light.  During his professional career he refused any promotion that would have put other engineers under his orders.

We were all very proud of RMS for as long as I remember.  I think the proudest was Pauline Schindler.  I was amazed to learn that my grandparents had divorced, she spoke of RMS with such reverence and complicity. 

How aware were you of his father’s fame? What did it mean to you as a child? Did it mean different things to you as an adult?

As I said above his father’s fame came late.  I was 5 years old when Esther McCoy’s book was published, but I still remember the excitement in the house when we got our copy.  Someone had actually published a book discussing the work of RMS.   I grew up thinking that my grandfather was a special architect rather than a famous architect.  I grew up 3 houses down from the Tischler house and I remember proudly pointing out the house to friends saying that my grandfather had designed the house.  The house was clearly different from the standard house on the street.  It wasn’t until my grandmother died in 1977 and we decided to sell the Schindler House to the Friends of the Schindler House (for the price of the land) that I started to be aware of the growing fame of RMS.  I dared to say that his work was studied in architectural schools in California in the 1980’s.

How has your relationship with your father affected your relationship with your children?

My wife claims that I was too distant from my children, much like my father was distant from us as children, but to a far lesser extent.  I think I had a lot of fun with my children when they were small.  At one time I made a conscious effort to speak to them about my life and why my wife and I had made certain decisions because I thought that I would have benefited if my parents had included me in such discussions.    Now it has become natural.

Can you give a layman’s explanation of the area of mathematics that you are in? Can you explain how you got interested in mathematics in general and your area of concentration in particular?

Before answering, I have to say that if a fortune teller had told me at the age of 25 that I would become a math professor, I would have immediately asked for a refund.  My story is a bit circuitous.  When I was young, my main interest was tennis.  I grew up across the street from UCLA and I dreamed of playing on the UCLA tennis team, which I did, as a bench warmer (on very good teams).  After getting an undergraduate degree in mathematics, the idea of working was too depressing so I went to play tennis.  I ended up in France because it was one of the few places I could make money and which is where I met my wife.  After spending a few years as an international tennis bum and occasional student, I decided it was time for a change.  But the idea of working was still too depressing, so I went back to school at UC Irvine (at the age of 30).  I ended up with, in addition to my wife, a PhD and two kids.  I began desperately to look for any possible work.  After two post-docs in France, they were foolish enough to hire me in Toulouse, and now they’re stuck with me.

I have always liked mathematics.  My area is partial differential equations.  Many phenomena in physics and other sciences are modeled using partial differential equations, which gives us an excuse to study them.  My father was a problem solver.  I am what I call an abstract nonsense person.  I am more interested in figuring out why things work than actually making them work.

Handed Down – An Interview with Ian Schindler, part 1 of 2

schindlers and chases at kings road, 1923 Pauline Schindler, Nov 1943 steve wallet architect schindler family tree 11-15-2013Ian is the grandson of Rudolph Schindler

Adolphe Tischler told me something about 20 years ago, he said to me: “Your grandfather was a liar.” “Why?” “He said the house would cost this much”, gesturing below his waist, “and in fact it cost this much”, gesturing around his head, “and he knew perfectly well how much the house would cost from the beginning.  He was absolutely right, because had we known, we probably wouldn’t have gone for the house.  But now I’m very happy to have done it, it changed my life.”

He went on to explain that once the construction had started, RMS informed him that a steel pillar was required to make the house earthquake safe, and that hadn’t been in the original designs.

It is unquestionable that parents have a strong influence on their children. What that influence is and how it affects their children is much harder to figure out. In this interview, done by email in 2013, Ian and I try to untangle this question a little bit.

Many thanks to Ian for this interview. And thanks to Ian and his sister Margot for their permission to use the photos of Rudolph and Pauline Schindler. The photos are used here under the creative commons license, Schindler Family Collection, Courtesy Friends of the Schindler House.  

For the perfect accompaniment to this interview, you can’t do better than the music of Guillaume Schindler, Ian’s son.  

Steve Wallet: What kind of person was your father?

Ian Schindler: My father had an unusual skill set.  There were things that were easy for him, that other people found difficult, and other things that most people found easy that he found difficult.  He laughed a lot.  He was a very creative man.  He liked solving problems, engineering problems, math problems, problems in other sciences, and mechanical problems.  He liked tinkering.  I remember him fixing televisions, his car, all sorts of things around the house.  He had very wide interests.  He used to love to spend hours in a library or reading periodicals.  He was not much of a communicator.  For example Judith Sheine related that my father would call her and say “hello”, followed by a long pause.  Then he would say something about an impending Schindler event followed by another long pause.  Finally Judith would ask whether he would like a ride to the event to which he would answer “yes”, and then hang up (Judith used to live a couple of miles from where my father lived with my sister and her family).

Because my father frequently came up with innovative solutions to problems, I learned the important fact that solutions are usually not unique. He thought outside of the box.

What were his interests, occupation, passions,….?

He was interested in virtually everything: art, science (he had a masters in physics), technology, history.  Very much interested in different cultures.  A strong environmentalist.

Your father had an unusual childhood. His parents, Pauline and Rudolph Schindler (RMS), lived unconventional lives. What effects do you think that had on your father? Were there things about him that you think were an effect of that childhood? Were there things about him that were a reaction to or against that childhood?

My father’s childhood had a very strong effect on him.  Pauline would not allow him much time with his father.   She was very anxious when he was young and after a very short time with his father, she would need to have him back with her.  RMS took him to the movies once and Pauline became so anxious that she went to the movie theater and had them stop the film so that she could recover Mark.   My father spent most of his childhood between his mother and his maternal grandmother.   He once told my mother that when he was with his mother he would dream of being with his grandmother, and when he was with his grandmother, he would dream of being with his mother.  In times of adversity he would explain that he had had a very difficult mother, and hence could learn to put up with just about anything.

Pauline was very controlling.  When I was young I had a certain foreboding about going to visit her because she expected me to follow strict rules and had such strong opinions.  She would talk to children like adults.  She would not tolerate crying or misbehaving.  The foreboding ceased when I got older, because I learned how to defend myself intellectually.  She loved intellectual stimulation and discussion.  I remember very interesting discussions on various topics with her after the age of 16.

I don’t know if not spending much time with his son was a problem for RMS or not.  In any case he did not fight hard enough for rights to see his son to win many victories.  I suppose working hard on plans and construction takes time.

It is also clear is that my father’s upbringing freed him from feeling obligated to follow a traditional path.  He was not afraid of being different.

What kind of father was he? Again, what effect did his childhood and his parents have on him as your father?

He was a very discreet father.  He did not spend much time with his father, and he did not spend much time with his children when we were young.  To avoid traffic, he shifted his schedule so that on weekdays he got up after we had left for school and didn’t return home until we had already dined.  We might have spent some time watching television together.  He did teach us a few yoga postures, told us funny stories, and sometimes helped us with our homework.  But our mother was our main source of information about family matters.  On weekends he would spend lots of time working on projects that would make us all rich one day.  The projects all fell apart for different reasons.

How do you think his parents’ fame, especially his father’s, affected him and what did it mean to him? Was he proud of his father, did he unhappily stand in his father’s shadow or a bit of both?