Los Angeles undoubtedly has a unique history of architectural design, from the Spanish missions of the 1700s, to the Craftsman bungalows of Pasadena. However, nothing quite exemplifies Los Angeles design of the mid-century era like the Case Study Houses, an experimental program in the mid 1940s through 1960s sponsored by the California magazine Art & Architecture. The program enabled select architects to design and build low-cost modern houses during the postwar building boom, using donated materials from industry and manufacturers. These architects produced some of the most iconic homes of the 20th century, introducing modern design principles not only to Southern California but to the entire nation. Thirty-six of these prototype homes were built in the Los Angeles area, with the most well-known being Case Study House #22, the Stahl House.
Often referred to as “Los Angeles’s Original Dream Home”, the Stahl House was relatively unknown until the black and white photographs of Julius Shulman propelled the home to national fame. (See Image) Designed by Pierre Koenig, this two-bedroom, 2,300-square-foot home is an L-shaped glass "viewing box" cantilevering above Los Angeles atop the Hollywood Hills. It is composed of a bedroom wing and common space wing, both opening toward the central pool. The key design feature is the cantilevered living space, hovering weightlessly above the city, seemingly defying the limits of the natural world. The rectangular stone chimney acts as a "visual anchor" for the delicate glass box, separating the dining and living room, while the kitchen area is defined by a lowered wooden ceiling, creating a room within a room.
The materiality of the Stahl house truly makes it quintessential to Los Angeles. Uninterrupted glass wraps the exterior to allow for a 270-degree view of the city, spanning from the ocean to east of downtown. The tranquil minimalist design of the white steel and glass provides juxtaposition to the buzzing, vibrant city below. Koenig’s deliberate use of simplicity allows Los Angeles itself to become the walls of the house, as its linear design connects visually with the street grid below. As a result, the house always manages to capture the excitement of the present day.
The house becomes even more spectacular as the sun sets, transforming the city into an electrifying metropolis. Reflections, in the both the glass walls and the pool, provide an incredible layer of visual complexity. The living room lamps reflect upon the glass panels to create an illusion of floating globes suspended above the city.
The Stahl House is still the standard for modern architectural design in Los Angeles. Pierre Koenig’s design demonstrates how a simple palette of materials can craft an incredible home, capturing the spirit of 20th-century design.
To schedule a visit, and to learn more about the Stahl house and the case study house program, visit www.stahlhouse.com.
Images used with permission - Stahl House, Inc.