A few days ago, a mountain lion was spotted prowling the backyards of Bel Air. So far tonight, the only animal visitor is Cha Cha, a raucous standard poodle. But should the big cat turn up, he'll easily be seen by the dozen guests who have come for dinner chez Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel. Morton and Jankel are the custodians of the Singleton House, a landmark 1959 Richard Neutra design notable for its sheer glass walls that afford a panoramic view of the surrounding hills--and whatever might be lurking in them.
Neutra, the pioneering modernist architect, might have enjoyed this party, which begins with cocktails in the garden, then slides seamlessly indoors for dinner. "Place Man in relationship with Nature," he wrote. "That's where he developed and where he feels most at home!" Between 1929 and 1970, Neutra designed more than 100 houses in the Los Angeles area. A one-time apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, Neutra advocated a mode of architecture in which buildings are harmoniously integrated with their landscape. A Neutra house seems to grow out of the earth: metal frames are finished in stucco and sliding glass panels form invisible walls. It is a style that found its fullest expression in, and was perfectly suited to, Southern California.
Three decades after Neutra's death, his spartan midcentury cool looks so fresh that style setters crave his houses. Tom Ford, the Gucci designer, who is famous for catching the zeitgeist on the first bounce, bought Neutra's Brown House in Bel Air last year.