Arts And Architecture Case Study Houses La

The Case Study Houses were experiments in American residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine, which commissioned major architects of the day, including Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, A. Quincy Jones, Edward Killingsworth, and Ralph Rapson to design and build inexpensive and efficient model homes for the United States residential housing boom caused by the end of World War II and the return of millions of soldiers.

The program ran intermittently from 1945 until 1966. The first six houses were built by 1948 and attracted more than 350,000 visitors. While not all 36 designs were built, most of those that were constructed were built in Los Angeles, and one was built in San Rafael, Northern California and Phoenix, Arizona each. Of the unbuilt houses #19 was to have been built in Atherton, in the San Francisco Bay Area, while #27 was to have been built on the east coast, in Smoke Rise, New Jersey.

A number of the houses appeared in the magazine in iconic black-and-white photographs by architectural photographer Julius Shulman.

List of Case Study Houses[edit]

NumberNameArchitect(s)PublicationConstructedStatusAddressCityArts & Architecture
PDF link
Virtual Globetrotting
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1J. R. DavidsonFebruary 19451945UnbuiltCSH#1
1J. R. DavidsonFebruary 19481948Extant10152 Toluca Lake AvenueNorth HollywoodCSH#1VGT
2Sumner Spaulding and John RexAugust 19471947Extant857 Chapea RoadPasadenaCSH#2VGT
3William Wurster and Theodore BernardiMarch 19491949Demolished13187 Chalon RoadLos AngelesCSH#3VGT
4Greenbelt HouseRalph RapsonSeptember 19451989Exhibit: Museum of Contemporary Art of Los AngelesCSH#4
5Loggia HouseWhitney R. SmithApril 1946UnbuiltCSH#5
6OmegaRichard NeutraOctober 1945UnbuiltCSH#6
7Thornton AbellJuly 19481948Extant6236 North Deerfield Avenue[1]San GabrielCSH#7VGT
8Eames HouseCharles and Ray EamesDecember 19491949Extant203 Chautauqua BoulevardPacific PalisadesCSH#8VGT
9Entenza HouseCharles Eames and Eero SaarinenJuly 19501949Extant205 Chautauqua BoulevardPacific PalisadesCSH#9VGT, VGT
10Kemper Nomland and Kemper Nomland, Jr.October 19471947Significantly Altered[2]711 South San Rafael Avenue[3]PasadenaCSH#10VGT
11J. R. DavidsonJuly 19461946Demolished540 South Barrington AvenueWest Los AngelesCSH#11
12Whitney R. SmithFebruary 1946UnbuiltCSH#12
13AlphaRichard NeutraMarch 1946Unbuilt[4]CSH#13
15J. R. DavidsonJanuary 19471947Extant4755 Lasheart DriveLa Cañada FlintridgeCSH#15VGT
16Rodney WalkerFebruary 19471947Demolished9945 Beverly Grove DriveBeverly HillsCSH#16
17ARodney WalkerJuly 19471947Extant7861 Woodrow Wilson DriveLos AngelesCSH#17VGT
17BCraig EllwoodMarch 19561956Remodeled Beyond Recognition9554 Hidden Valley RoadBeverly HillsCSH#17
18AWest HouseRodney WalkerFebruary 19481948Extant199 Chautauqua BoulevardPacific PalisadesCSH#18VGT
18BFields HouseCraig EllwoodJune 19581958Remodeled Beyond Recognition1129 Miradero RoadBeverly HillsCSH#18VGT
19ADon KnorrSeptember 1947UnbuiltCSH#19
20AStuart Bailey HouseRichard NeutraDecember 19481948Extant219 Chautauqua BoulevardPacific PalisadesCSH#20VGT
20BBass HouseC. Buff, C. Straub, D. HensmanNovember 19581958Extant2275 Santa Rosa AvenueAltadenaCSH#20
21ARichard NeutraMay 1947UnbuiltCSH#21
21BWalter Bailey HousePierre KoenigFebruary 19591958Extant9038 Wonderland Park AvenueWest HollywoodCSH#21VGT
1950Raphael SorianoDecember 19501950Remodeled1080 Ravoli DrivePacific PalisadesCSH1950VGT
1953Craig EllwoodJune 19531953Extant1811 Bel Air RoadBel-AirCSH1953VGT
22Stahl HousePierre KoenigJune 19601960Extant1635 Woods DriveLos AngelesCSH#22VGT
23TriadKillingsworth, Brady, Smith & Assoc.March 19611960Extant (23A and 23C), 23B Remodeled Beyond Recognition[5]2329 (C[6]), 2342 (A[7]) and 2343 (B[8]) Rue de Anne [9]La JollaCSH#23VGT
24A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. EmmonsDecember 1961UnbuiltCSH#24
25Frank HouseKillingsworth, Brady, Smith & Assoc.December 19621962Extant82 Rivo Alto CanalLong BeachCSH#25VGT
26Harrison HouseBeverley "David" ThorneJanuary 19631963Extant177 San Marino DriveSan RafaelCSH#26VGT
27Campbell and WongJune 1963UnbuiltCSH#27
28Case Study House #28C. Buff and D. HensmanSeptember 19651966Extant91 Inverness RoadThousand OaksCSH#28VGT
Apt 1Alfred N. Beadle and Alan A. DaileySeptember 19641964Extant4402 28th StreetPhoenix, ArizonaCSApts#1VGT
Apt 2Killingsworth, Brady, Smith & Assoc.May 1964UnbuiltCSApts#2

Notes[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Entenza, John (January 1945) "Announcement: The Case Study House Program". Arts and Architecture
  • McCoy, Esther. "Case Study Houses". 2nd edition. 1977, ISBN, Hennessey & Ingalls
  • Smith, Elizabeth A. T. (1989). Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN. 
  • Smith, Elizabeth and Peter Goessel (2002). Case Study Houses: The Complete CSH Program,. Taschen. ISBN. 
  • Smith, Elizabeth A. T. (2007). Case Study Houses. Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-4617-9. 
  • Travers, David (January 2007) "About Arts & Architecture" Arts & Architecture website - accessed March 3, 2009

External links[edit]

Consider this installment of Reading L.A. the All-Star Game of the series.

The 16th title in our year-long trek is "Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses," published to accompany a 1989 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art curated by Elizabeth A.T. Smith. It includes essays by some of the biggest hitters in our series, including Esther McCoy, Reyner Banham and Thomas Hines. There are also entries by historians Kevin Starr and Dolores Hayden and by Smith herself.

It is the only collection of essays I decided to include in Reading L.A., which is otherwise made up of books by single authors (plus one pair). Given the list of contributors to the book -- and the wide-ranging and continuing influence of the Case Study houses on American culture -- it was an exception that had to be made.

"Blueprints," which Smith edited, is remarkably good: smart, concise, deftly organized and generously illustrated. It ranges far beyond the limits you'd expect to find in an exhibition catalog, especially one supporting a show on what was essentially regional architecture.

The Case Study program, in case it still needs any introduction, was a pioneering effort sponsored by L.A.-based Arts & Architecture magazine and its ambitious editor, John Entenza, to develop new and unapologetically modernist prototypes for the postwar American house. The program was unveiled in the January 1945 issue of the magazine; it made its last appearance there in 1964, after David Travers had taken over for Entenza, who by then was running the Graham Foundation in Chicago.

The architects hired to design the Case Study houses, for sites that were mostly in and around Los Angeles but ranged as far as the Bay Area and Arizona, made up a who's who of California modernism: Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, Julius Ralph Davidson, Raphael Soriano, Pierre Koenig, A. Quincy Jones and Craig Ellwood, among many others. (There is a brief discussion in the book about the best-known local modernists who were left out, including Gregory Ain and Harwell Hamilton Harris.) In all, 35 designs were published, and roughly two dozen of them were built. Nearly all were single-family houses -- and fairly small ones at that -- but the program did in later years feature two multifamily projects, including an unbuilt proposal by Edward Killingsworth for a 10-unit complex in Newport Beach.

The public’s exposure to the houses was not limited to the pages of the magazine. Entenza envisioned them as built prototypes that might inspire architects, developers and homebuyers alike. When the first six to be completed were opened to visitors in 1946 and 1947, more than 368,000 people lined up to see them.

There were a handful of precedents for the program, as the book points out, including demonstration colonies of modern buildings put up in Europe between the wars; the best known of these, the so-called Weissenhof Estate of 1927 in Stuttgart, Germany, featured residential projects by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Peter Behrens, Bruno Taut and others. But as a sustained argument for the appeal of the modernist American house -- trim, transparent and spare, without a crown molding or Corinthian column in sight -- the Case Study program was unique.

As McCoy puts it in her essay, in typically snappy prose, the story of the program's influence is the story of how "a magazine as flat as a tortilla and as sleek as a Bugatti with little advertising and no financial backing became the greatest force in the dissemination of information, architectural and cultural, about California."

That influence can be measured in three separate phases. First was the way the Case Study designs, as they were being published in the magazine, helped Americans think about new modes of residential architecture as veterans returned from World War II and the country’s biggest cities began a period of optimistic expansion.

Next came the attempt, as the Case Study campaign was nearing its end, to make sense of what it meant and where it had triumphed or gone wrong. This phase was capped by  McCoy's 1962 book on the program. Banham argues in his essay, which traces the way the program was received and understood in Europe, that there is a direct line between the Case Study designs of Ellwood and the so-called high-tech school of Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Norman Foster. He even defines Piano's design for the 1986 Menil Collection in Houston as a cross between high-tech modernism and the Case Study variety, calling the unfussy structural steelwork on the building "unmistakably Ellwoodian."

The final measure of the program's influence is the way that interest in the houses, driven in large part by the huge popularity and ubiquity of Julius Shulman's photographs, was rekindled in the 1990s and 2000s and helped drive a broader modernist revival in architecture and interior design. Once it was old enough to become framed as history, the program inspired an entirely new generation of homeowners, architects and photographers. (The MOCA show itself was arguably not just the start but also the engine of this third phase.) It was the Case Study aesthetic, ultimately, that produced Dwell magazine and Design Within Reach. Oh, and this 2005 spread in W Magazine.

So, what was the Case Study aesthetic, exactly?  These days, most people think of it as synonymous with the lean, steel-framed houses Entenza commissioned from Koenig, Soriano, Ellwood and the Eameses. But as McCoy points out, a second and quite important Case Study strand was made up of more relaxed post-and-beam houses by modernist architects associated with USC, including Whitney Smith and the firm Buff, Straub and Hensman.

Together, those two groups of houses make up an architectural legacy that continues to be reflected in the work of contemporary L.A. architects and to be felt internationally. Two years ago, the talented young Tokyo firm Atelier Bow-Wow spent several months studying the Case Study houses in detail, turning that research into an installation at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles. (My review of the installation is here.) One of the major exhibitions in this fall's Pacific Standard Time series, LACMA's "Living in a Modern Way," will painstakingly reassemble the interior of the Eames House, also known as Case Study No. 8, inside the museum galleries.

"Blueprints for Modern  Living" doesn’t shy away from discussing another, less impressive legacy of the Case Study program: the way, implicitly but powerfully, it endorsed the low-density, car-dependent urbanism of postwar Southern California even as it failed to mature into a mass-produced style. The Case Study period –- 1945 to 1964 -– was precisely the period that Los Angeles made permanent its status as a suburban, low-rise metropolis; as we've already seen in Reading L.A., it was the era during which it tore out its interurban train system, built its major freeways and drained its downtown of life, knocking down many of the neighborhood’s architectural gems to make way for a sea of surface parking lots.


Entenza, his staff and his architects were not directly responsible for this shift, of course. But they were guilty of two related offenses. First, they made the expensive, land-gobbling single-family house an object of enduring mass desire. Beyond that, they failed to forge any meaningful alliances with the postwar housing developers who, in McCoy’s words, were in this very period "acquiring great tracts of land" and turning housing into "an industry -– an intensely competitive one in which the architect was bypassed by the developer."

McCoy, focusing on the Koenig-Ellwood-Soriano branch of the program, notes that "the steel frame was too strict to lend itself to mass production; the margin for error was too narrow and no scheduling procedure that mixed the wood carpenter and the steel carpenter was ever devised."

Starr goes further in this critique, arguing that the Case Study houses were disconnected from urban concerns -- that they failed to think of the future of the postwar house as tied to the future of the postwar metropolis. As a result, he argues, the houses began to reflect some of the disconnected character of Los Angeles itself, a city that he calls "enclavist in its sociology."

(What is most impressive about these arguments, even if they aren't always perfectly made, is that they appear in support of an exhibition celebrating the Case Study program. Too often these days,  architecture shows are  mostly hagiographic affairs, afraid to bring up even the most obvious flaws in the work they’re framing.)

What this collective critique adds up to is ultimately fairly simple: The Case Study houses, for all of Entenza’s interest in creating what the book calls “replicability,” were ultimately a series of one-offs, more successful as examples of a drool-worthy boutique aesthetic than models for mass construction.

As singular examples of a minimal, ambitious, precise, light-on-its-feet kind of regional modernism, in other words, the Case Study houses were sublime. As prototypes, they were lousy. Entenza changed how we think and dream about houses -- how we market and consume them as objects of commercial, aesthetic and mass-media attention. What he couldn’t change, in any broad sense, is how we build them.

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Photo (top): Case Study No. 16, a house by Rodney Walker above Beverly Hills. Credit: Julius Shulman.

Photo  (middle): The interior of the Eames House, Case Study No. 8. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.

Photo (bottom): Atelier Bow-Wow's Sunset House, at REDCAT. Credit: Steve Gunther.

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