Following nearly a decade of effort by the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Modern Committee (ModCom), eleven Southern California homes from the renowned Case Study House program have gained national recognition for their historic and architectural significance.
On July 24, the National Park Service listed ten Case Study Houses in the National Register of Historic Places. Another was determined eligible for listing but not formally listed due to owner objection. Yet all eleven are officially deemed historic and will enjoy equal preservation protections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“We’re proud of ModCom’s perseverance in making sure these important homes received the group recognition they so richly deserve,” said Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy. “Congratulations to everyone who has volunteered their time, effort, and expertise in this historic effort.”
Launched in 1945 by John Entenza’s Arts + Architecture magazine, the Case Study House program commissioned architects to study, plan, design, and ultimately construct houses in anticipation of renewed building in the postwar years. With an emphasis on experimentation and a goal of promoting good, modern, affordable design for single-family homes, the program helped to disseminate the Mid-Century Modern aesthetic through its thirty-five published plans, of which twenty-five houses (and one apartment building) were built in California and Arizona.
While the Case Study House program did not achieve its initial goals for mass production and affordability, it was responsible for some of Los Angeles’ most iconic and internationally recognized Modern residences, such as the Eames House (Case Study House #8) by Charles and Ray Eames and the Pierre Koenig-designed Stahl House (Case Study House #22), famously photographed by Julius Shulman.
Despite the clear significance and world renown of the Case Study Houses, their high profile does not guarantee preservation. Few of the homes have actual protections against demolition or excessive alteration. Since the nomination process began eight years ago, Case Study House #16 designed by Rodney Walker has been completely demolished, and two others have been altered to the extent that they no longer meet the requirements for designation.
“With so few Case Study Houses in existence, and a few owners who do not appreciate the homes’ cultural and architectural significance, we need to stay vigilant,” said Regina O’Brien, chair of the Modern Committee. “We are so delighted to have had a part in ensuring these homes’ future, and we thank all of the owners who were integral to the process."
ModCom submitted a National Register Multiple Property Submission (MPS) for the Case Study House Program: 1945-1966. The MPS included ten residences in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Ventura counties. ModCom managed the multi-year effort to secure the designation, supplemented by professional consulting assistance.
Several Case Study Houses were not included in the nomination for reasons including demolition or significant alteration. Yet for those still eligible (including the one determined eligible for listing and others not included in the nomination), this multiple property nomination will make it easier for them to be listed in the future.
The nomination didn’t include other Case Study Houses, such as the Eames House and Studio (Case Study House #8), because they are already individually listed in the National Register. Case Study House residences included in the nomination are listed below. Please note that these are private residences; owners should not be disturbed. For more information about the nomination and profiles of each home included in the MPS, please visit the Case Study House section of the Conservancy’s website.
Los Angeles County
· Case Study House #1, 10152 Toluca Lake Ave., Los Angeles
· Case Study House #9, 205 Chautauqua Blvd., Los Angeles
· Case Study House #10, 711 S. San Rafael Ave., Pasadena
· Case Study House #16, 1811 Bel Air Rd., Los Angeles
· Case Study House #18, 199 Chautauqua Blvd., Los Angeles
· Case Study House #20, 2275 N. Santa Rosa Ave., Altadena
· Case Study House #21, 9038 Wonderland Park Ave., Los Angeles
· Case Study House #22, 1635 Woods Dr., Los Angeles
San Diego County
· Case Study House #23A, 2342 Rue de Anne, La Jolla, San Diego (determined eligible)
· Case Study House #23C, 2339 Rue de Anne, La Jolla, San Diego
· Case Study House #28, 91 Inverness Rd., Thousand Oaks
The Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee (ModCom) was formed in 1984 in response to the unabated destruction of post-World War II architecture in Greater Los Angeles. Since then, the volunteer committee has expanded to include all twentieth-century architecture and related fields. The committee holds events and helps to identify and protect significant Modern buildings. For more information, visit the ModCom section of the Conservancy website or modcom.org.
Mid-Century Marvelous: An Evening at the Brody House - Saturday, October 19, 2013
To benefit the Los Angeles Conservancy
Join our friends at the Los Angeles Conservancy on Saturday, October 19 for an extremely rare opportunity to spend an evening at one of Southern California’s most spectacular Modern homes. The Conservancy will hold its 2013 Fall Benefit at the Brody House in Holmby Hills, designed by famed architect A. Quincy Jones with interiors by legendary designer Billy Haines.
Completed in 1951 for art collectors Sidney and Frances Brody and spanning more than 11,000 square feet, the Brody House is an early example of Mid–Century Modernism at an extraordinary scale. This architectural masterpiece recently underwent a sensitive restoration and still features many of Haines’ original furnishings.
Exemplifying modern glamour and sophistication, the Brody House features floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto 2.3 acres of property in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Warm woods and black lacquer are featured throughout the interior, and a central atrium is sheltered by a large tree and warmed by a fireplace. The property also includes a pool, tennis court, and separate guest house.
Tickets to the event start at $300 for the three-hour cocktail party; donors at higher levels will also enjoy an al fresco dinner on the grounds. For details and tickets, please visit www.laconservancy.org/benefit.
Up next, let’s take a look at the “Triad,” or Case Study House #23, designed by the architectural firm of Killingsworth, Brady, and Smith, and featured in the March 1961 issue of Arts & Architecture. This project stands out in the Program as it consists of three separate yet adjacent homes, originally intended to be the pilot project of a new tract housing development overlooking the ocean in the hills of La Jolla. But, only this Triad was ever built.
While each home retained its own distinct layout and unique exterior features, the main design objective was to create a sense of cohesion to the project as a whole. The architects accomplished this by paying close attention to the siting and developed a continuity in materials, forms and landscaping.
In order to keep construction costs at a minimum, the homes were built with common materials such as wood framing, infill panel walls, concrete slab foundations, and contained identical appliances and fixtures. All three featured aluminum sliding doors, flat roofs, and acoustical plaster ceilings with the standard ceiling height set at a generous ten feet. Each house also shared the same dramatic entryway, which brought visitors to a shallow reflecting pool on the way to the front door.
As is common in many other Case Study Houses, the homes in this project played up the concept of indoor-outdoor living with living rooms overlooking the outside and bright master bedrooms that offered access to panoramic views. The use of open glass as a focal point in all principal rooms further erased the separation between interior and exterior spaces.
Landscaping tied the total composition of homes together, and ten large olive trees selected for their rugged character were moved in to create a striking contrast against the simple forms of the buildings. The extensive use of multicolored petunias as ground cover throughout the development also provided continuity to the overall composition.
This house is the largest and most elaborate of the three and features a modified “U” shaped plan with a redwood-paneled exterior. Two glass walls in the living room and one glass wall in the bath provide panoramic views of the coastline and mountains beyond. Aluminum sliding windows and doors on the side and rear of the house also take advantage of the spectacular ocean views, and a sliding door off the master suite provides access to a private sunbathing garden paved in sleek white tile.
This house is comprised of two courtyards and a loggia surrounded by the living area in a modified “H” shaped plan. The entryway features tall columns supporting a simple trellis, which paired with the white exterior, gives the house a pavilion-like quality from the view below.
Mosaic tile paving paired with white walls creates an eye-catching contrast to the contemporary furnishings throughout. The master bedroom in particular not only offers spectacular views but is perfectly staged with Knoll furniture as the center of attention.
As the simplest of the three houses, this house engages the visitor with what architect Edward Killingsworth described as an “elusive, friendly quality.” Brick paving extends from the entryway to a sheltered garden off the living room and creates a warm texture against the sheer glass separation screens that make up the terrace.
Much like House A, this house takes advantage of opportunities for outdoor living with patios off the both living room and kitchen, a private patio off the master suite, and direct access to the backyard play yard from the children’s rooms. And, the living room offers the best view of the coastline of any of the houses.
Jane Patton received a B.A. in journalism from Columbia College, and studied graphic design in the continuing studies program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She grew up in Southern California, and is a passionate enthusiast and collector of Mid-Century art and furniture.