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Case Study Houses – The Complete CSH Program 1945 – 1966

Nov 08, 2010 by D. J. Schwartz

When it comes to architecture, the notions of “experimental” and “low-cost,” are not often found.

And, in 1945 building “green” was relegated to academia.

This was the purpose for the Case Study Houses and Taschen’s book–it documents ideas that, for the most part, indeed became realities.

Art & Architecture magazine’s John Entenza, “a champion of modernism as well as the editor of the avant-garde monthly magazine, the Case Study Houses goal was to:

Enable architects to design and build low-cost modern houses for actual clients, using donated materials from industry and manufactures, and to extensively publish and publicize their efforts.

Foreseeing the coming post-war boom in architecture, Entenza invited known architects who had already gained a foothold in the genre:

Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, Craig Ellwood, and Pierre Koenig.

And others who were more locally known–including Whitney R. Smith, Thornton Abell, and Rodney Walker.

The objective for the Case Study Houses was for each architect to use their creativity and imagination to build a house with low-cost standard building materials.

And build they did.

In total, 23 dwellings were completed, most of them in the Los Angeles area.

Several designs never made it past the blueprint stage, due to a lack of an actual client, but were a way “to allow the architects to develop ideas about the use of materials, organization of plan, or their experimental features, in the hope that these elements could be applied when a client was forthcoming.”

Taschen’s Case Study Houses, combines exceptional people on each of the book’s pages; –author Elizabeth A. T. Smith, the former Chief Curator and Deputy Director for programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; editor Peter Gössel, who designs Museums and Exhibitions, and most noteworthy, world renowned Julius Shulman, the recently deceased modernist architecture photographer in Southern California and across the globe for nearly eight decades.

A giant book, containing over 400 pages of photos, original blueprints and sketches, editorial commentary, and the the actual text from each of the Art & Architecture sponsored articles that provide details into the design, building process, and the problems and subsequent solutions unique to each structure.

By the time of the Case Study House’s initial work, Los Angeles was already a strong experimental framework for residential architecture:

From Irving Gill’s work to Frank Lloyd Wright’s block design to the pioneering Schindler-Chace House of 1921-22.

As I read each page of this gem, I was more and more intrigued by each design, how each architect worked to incorporate different ideas—added windows for more natural light, radiant heat, garden space that works along with the natural landscape, and minimalism.

These are ideas bandied about today, but merely an academic concept in 1950’s and 60’s.

With each of Julius Shulman’s photos, the details of each house are featured.

For many of the houses that still exist (two have been demolished and two have been remodeled), more recent photos tell the whole story.

At the end of the Case Study Houses, included are short bios of each of the architects that took part in the Program.

Los Angeles is blessed with many talented architects, and Taschen has brought several of these houses to life in this brilliant book.

To really understand how many houses are included I created a map of the Case Study Houses in Los Angeles.

Each icon has the address, architect, year built, and a photo from Taschen’s book–for areas such as Pacific Palisades, you’ll have to use Google’s increase size feature, because although one icon may only appear as one, there’s actually 3 right around it. Not included in the map is one small apartment complex in Arizona, and two more houses–one in San Rafael, near San Francisco and the other in La Jolla, a part of San Diego.


View Case Study Houses in a larger map

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Architecture, Books, Culture, Los Angeles, Maps, Pacific Palisades, SoCal

2 Responses to “Case Study Houses – The Complete CSH Program 1945 – 1966”

  1. Escott says:

    Another great post! I look forward to seeing the Taschen book.

    Your map is a great resource! Thanks for putting it together!

    [Reply]

  2. alex says:

    really interesting post thanks. Looks like a really good book too, thanks for the tip.
    alex´s last blog ..Glazier DoncasterMy ComLuv Profile

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