Architect Richard Neutra’s Modernist Cyclorama Demolished


A major public work by architect Richard Neutra was destroyed today. The 1962 modernist Cyclorama building at Gettysburg is being crunched up into little pieces after years of pleas and lawsuits and bargaining to save it. The Pennsylvania battlefield commissioned the sleek showpiece to exhibit a circular cyclorama painting of the scene completed in 1883. They closed it in 2005 and plan to replace it with a structure that resembles a barn of the Civil War period. The National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and the architects son, Silver Lake-based Dion Neutra (who called the destruction “a tyranny of the minority visited upon the rest of the world!”) all worked to preserve the building, but the National Park Service prevailed and took down this modernist icon. I suppose the proper way to pay tribute is to take a stroll through Neutra’s incredible Hall of Records downtown and then visit the Velaslavasay Panorama for the full-on 19th century high def experience, Los Angeles-style. Goodbye, Cyclorama.


Photography by Matthew Amster

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  • Devin Colman

    Shame on the National Park Service for destroying our heritage. This is disgraceful.

  • mariah wynde

    This was an eyesore that had long outlived its usefulness. I spent long hours in there at seminars and symposiums. It was either too cold or too hot. There were animals in the walls. God only knows what they could have done to the priceless painting that was one of a kind. The superintendent called it the world’s most expensive air filter. The building was alive with mold. I stayed with a friend when I was in town who worked there only part of the time and she coughed and hacked up stuff that was ghastly. It leaked like a sieve. The auditorium or something was supposed to rotate. It did once than froze. The vaunted designer didn’t fix that, did he? I lived between Detroit and Toledo at the time, near large tank farms and this building bore a great resemblance to those structures. If this is a monument, then I am the next pope. And I’m a married Jewish female.

    • tim

      I like this comment! I would like also like to add that this building glass doors that were supposed to slide open and close, but this implied genius “Richard Neutra” didn’t consider the freeze-thaw cycle that there is in this part of the country (most probably because he was from California where the climate is different!), and so the building was designed improperly. Within 2 years the building had SUNK into the ground, leaving the glass doors unable to be moved. Great work Richard. Also as previously mentioned the building leaked, which leads me to my next – and most important – point. The painting was severely damaged because of the building leaks. Also, the air-conditioning didn’t work as it should and what used to happen was that it would SUCK DIRT in from the outside air and then BLOW IT all over the painting. So after years of this the painting had a thick layer of grime all over it that took a long time to clean as part of the 5 year restoration process that was completed in 2008.

      The building may have had some cool features INSIDE, but from the outside it really did look just plain UGLY. Exactly like something you would see on a tank farm, as previously mentioned. No beauty there whatsoever, and no definition either. Just a plain smooth circular drum. If you wanna talk about beauty then look at the Taj Mahal. And this certainly was not a MONUMENT. It was only envisioned as a monument in Neutra’s head. It was commisioned as a building to house the painting, not as a monument as the defenders of the building tried to make everyone believe. I will explain. Neutra’s original plan was to have the building built as a Shrine to Abraham Lincoln, not as a Visitor Center or to house the painting. But the idea was scrapped, but he just couldn’t let go of the idea ‘in his head’ and so the monument lie was spread by his son and his worshippers to forward their now futile agenda. If it were truly a monument like the others on the battlefield, then it MAY have had a chance of being saved.

      Finally, i would like to point out a mistake in this article. The NPS do not “plan to replace it with a structure that resembles a barn of the Civil War period”. They already did build this barn structure already, in 2008, on different land. So no building is going to replace this one, the NPS want to restore the land to the way it was in 1863, which means there will be only some trees, fences, etc on this land. Oh and the monuments to the 900 union men that were killed or wounded on this land (that were originally erected somewhere between the late 1800s and early 1900s by veterans) will also be returned to their rightful positions (they had to be MOVED in order to make room for this monstrosity to be built – can anyone believe they would do that?!). Whatever one’s feelings are/were on the building, anyone who is a true american, has heart, feelings, and an appreciation for our armed forces past AND present, should be able to understand and appreciate why having the REAL monuments back in their rightful places as erected by veterans of the war could only be a positive step to remembering the fallen. Whoever it was within the NPS that allowed them to be moved back then was obviously an idiot, and this would not happen today. Can anyone see the Lincoln Memorial in DC being moved to another location because somebody wants to build something else on the land that it sits…….

      • STARCHY

        “anyone who is a true american” ???? — hilarious
        what a dope

        lemme guess- you voted for Romney?
        (a war time draft dodger)


      architects don’t design, or maintain, hvac systems.
      the auditorium (“or something”) was never “supposed to rotate” – but please DO prattle on with your nonsense as your uneducated voice is a terribly important addition to the death rattle of an architectural masterpiece

  • Mike G

    Perhaps if Neutra had conceived the building as a Double-Wide Cyclorama, the two previous commenters would feel more at-ease about the design?

  • R Crane

    Well, I’m glad Tim and Mariah are happy with the imitation barn that was built to replace the Cyclorama, as they seem incapable of comprehending the design of a master architect.


      they like trucks AND tractor pulls!!

      and JESUS!!

  • Jeffrey

    ” large tank farms and this building bore a great resemblance to those structures.” DUH! It’s a Cyclorama for sakes! What did you expect it to look like?