In a land of architectural stars, it was evident that Richard Neutra was a superstar long before many of L.A.'s well-known types were out of diapers.
Considered by many to be the city's greatest modernist, Neutra, who died in 1970 at age 78, was toasted on the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday Wednesday night.
The first event was a private one with family members at the Westwood home of Academy Award-winning visual effects creator Richard Edlund, whose residence Neutra designed in the '30s.
Then Neutra was feted publicly on UCLA's Dickson Art Center Plaza by a collection of architects, including Richard Meier, Ray Kappe, Steven Ehrlich, Bernard Zimmerman, Fred Lyman, Erich Schneider-Wessling, Julie Eizenberg and Hank Koning, as well as educators, former associates and architectural buffs.
The date was chosen to open "The Drawings of Richard Neutra: A Centennial Exhibition" at UCLA's Wight Art Gallery, one of many events to be held during Neutra's centennial year.
"We could keep going with Neutra shows for a long time," said Thomas Hines, the UCLA professor of history and architecture who curated the exhibit of 132 drawings--personal and architectural--drawn from the 11,000 Neutra images housed in UCLA's Department of Special Collections.
"Neutra was a superstar in his mode in the same way Frank Gehry and Richard Meier are today," Hines said.
Many of the guests represented different aspects of Neutra's life, a sort of "This Is Your Life, Richard Neutra" assemblage.
In addition to his sons Dion and Raymond and sister-in-law Regula Rybel, there was one of his contractors, Red Marsh, the great architectural photographer Julius Shulman who chronicled Neutra's work and even the consuls from Austria (Neutra's birthplace) and Germany (Neutra taught at the Bauhaus school).
The exhibit brought at least one revelation.
While Neutra's architectural powers were well known by the crowd, few realized his artistic skills.
As Julie Eizenberg said surveying the pictures, "For someone with that cool architecture, I was surprised at the emotive quality of his sketches."