Case Study House No. 22, 1960

Between 1945 and 1966, Californian magazine Arts & Architecture asked major architects of the day to design model homes. The magazine was responding to the postwar building boom with prototype modern homes that could be both easily replicated and readily affordable to the average American. Among many criteria given to the architects was to use “as far as is practicable, many war-born techniques and materials best suited to the expression of man’s life in the modern world.”

Thirty-six model homes were commissioned from major architects of the day, including Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, A. Quincy Jones, and Ralph Rapson. Not all of them were built but some thirty of them were, mostly around the Greater Los Angeles area.

The magazine also engaged an architectural photographer named Julius Shulman to dutifully record this experiment in residential architecture. Fittingly for Shulman, one of the first architectural photographers to include the inhabitants of homes in the pictures, his most famous image was the 1960 view of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House No. 22 (also the Stahl House), which showed two well-dressed women conversing casually inside.

In the photo, the cantilevered living room appears to float diaphanously above Los Angeles. “The vertiginous point of view contrasts sharply with the relaxed atmosphere of the house’s interior, testifying to the ability of the Modernist architect to transcend the limits of the natural world,” praised the New York Times. Yet this view was created as meticulously as the house itself. Wide-angle photography belied the actual smallness of the house; furniture and furnishings were staged, and as were the women. Although they were not models (but rather girlfriends of architectural students), they were asked to sit still in the dark as Shulman exposed the film seven minutes to capture lights from LA streets. Then, lights inside were quickly switched on to capture two posing women.

Case Study House No.22 as it appeared in Arts and Architecture. Shulman’s photo with inhabitants did not appear here.

See other Case Study Houses here:

Result was the photo Sir Norman Foster termed his favorite “architectural moment”. Indeed, the photo captured excitement and promises the house held, and propelled Case Study No. 22 into the forefront of national consciousness. Some called it the most iconic building in LA. It appeared as backdrop in many movies, TV series and advertisements. Tim Allen was abducted by aliens here in Galaxy Quest; Greg Kinnear would make it his bachelor pad in Nurse Betty, and Columbo opened its pilot episode here. Italian models in slicked-back hair would frolic poolside in Valentino ads. It was even replicated in the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. According to Koenig, Case Study No. 22. was featured in more than 1,200 books — more often than Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.



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33 thoughts on “Case Study House No. 22, 1960

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