The Case Study House Of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is full of fantastic residential architecture in styles running all over from Spanish Colonial Revival to Streamline Moderne. But the modernist Case Study Houses, sponsored by Arts & Architecture and designed between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s, are both native to SoCal and particularly emblematic of the region (thanks in huge part to photographer Julius Shulman). The houses were intended to be relatively affordable, replicable houses for post-World War II family living, with an emphasis on "new materials and new techniques in house construction," as the magazine's program intro put it. Architects involved included the still-widely-remembered (Charles Eames, Richard Neutra) and the known-only-to-archinerds (JR Davidson, Thornton Abell).

A&A ended up commissioning 36 houses and apartment buildings; a couple dozen were built, and about 20 still stand in the greater Los Angeles area (there's also one in Northern California, a set near San Diego, and one in Phoenix), although some have been remodeled. Eleven were added to the National Register in 2013. Here's a guide to all the houses left to see (but keep in mind that, true to LA form, most are still private residences; the Eames and Stahl Houses—the two most famous Case Study Houses—are occasionally open to visitors).

As for the wonky house numbering, post-1962 A&A publisher David Travers writes that the explanation is "inexplicable, locked in the past."

I was given the Case Study House Tour as a birthday gift. What a great gift! I had walked through the mock-up of the Stahl house created for the show on mid-city modern aesthetics at the Temporary Contemporary several years ago. I thought I had pretty much experienced the real thing. Not so! The key to this house is the location. The glass walls makes the airliner view of the L.A. basin part of the design. The experience of being there is almost as dramatic as the different experiences of looking at architectural renderings--floor plans and elevations--and then of walking into the built structure. I enjoyed the mock-up. I was stunned by the real house. Having Mrs. Stahl and the youngest son there made it even more real. Visiting the Eames home and studio was impressive in a different way. I was disappointed we didn't get to go inside, BUT, again, the big surprise was the relationship of the house to the site. I don't think that any photo or book or video conveys how incredibly appropriate these two kinda Mondrian-abstract-appearing structures are to this Pacific-overlooking site. I had never really thought of this as anyone's HOME. The tour changed my opinion. My first surprise was the startling juxtaposition of the homey decor (think FLW's comments about the hearth, enclosure) to the austere glass and siding. Then, even from outside, it was clear the glass walls served as huge, barely framed landscape "paintings." But, of course, the "paintings aren't naturmort; the site makes it clear that this is raw nature just outside. The minimal landscaping accentuates this reaction. So, just as at the Stahl house, the big revelation was experiencing the site, the house as part of the place. The guide told several interesting anecdotes about Ray and Charles Eames that, again, made the experience of being there even more vivid.. What was it like to LIVE in these incredible homes, to be the people for whom these home were built? Want to experience these homes intimately, directly? Take the tour and find out!

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