HISTORY OF MANOLA COURT
Designed between 1926 and 1939 by R.M. Schindler (1887–1953), one of the forefathers of Modern architecture, Manola Court (aka the Sachs Apartments) is a sixteen-unit apartment property on a street-to-street downward sloping lot in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The architect, R.M. Schindler, was born and educated in Vienna. He moved to the United States in 1914, working briefly for Frank Lloyd Wright before starting his own Los Angeles-based practice. Schindler designed dozens of private and public spaces in Southern California—including single family homes, apartments, commercial spaces, and even one church—many of which featured attention to the seamless transition from indoors to outdoors and the extensive use of glass and wood, characteristics of the Modernist style with which he is usually associated. His use of a plaster skin as an affordable approach to residential projects broke the trend toward steel-and-concrete construction favored by his cohort: the Manola Court complex is an excellent example of an early plaster skin design. Designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, the complex is nonetheless one of the lesser known of Schindler’s designs, having fallen into disrepair prior to its sale in 2013.
Schindler’s client for the Manola Court project was his friend Herman Sachs (1883–1940), a Romanian-born muralist and decorator known for his work on the Bullocks Wilshire Building, Union Station, and City Hall. Following his death in 1940, architect and Schindler collaborator Alexander “Brandy” Brandner and his wife Betty Katz bought Sachs’s apartment building and lived in the owner’s unit for three years until their new “Brandy” designed house at the end of the street was complete. In the 1950s, tenants on the property, the Woodburys and the Dahlstons, purchased the complex together. In 2013, the property changed hands to the current owner, Paul Finegold.
Manola Court was designed in three phases. As Sachs obtained more money, adjacent lots were purchased. Three of the five freestanding buildings were designed from the ground up by Schindler, while two of the five were pre-existing buildings that Schindler modified. During the early 1930s, Schindler converted the basements of three of the buildings into apartments. The hilly topography of Silver Lake presented engineering and design challenges but also offered the opportunity for spectacular views from all of the units.
Sachs was known for using his studio loft workspace (the Music Room) as a gathering space. There, he hosted dinners and concerts for his coterie of bohemian friends. The current owner, Paul Finegold, has restored Sach’s studio loft with Sachs’ original intent for the space in mind and is engaged in discussions with local presenters about ways to make the Music Room live up to its name once again.