10 Iconic Case Study Houses in Southern California

10 Iconic Case Study Houses in Southern California

Architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s iconic image of Pierre Koenig’s 1960 modernist masterpiece, the Stahl House—also known as Case Study House #22—shows the Hollywood Hills residence overlooking the sprawling City of Angels. It turned the photogenic Stahl House into the virtual "poster child" for a series of homes centered around the greater Los Angeles area known as the Case Study Houses.

The homes in the Case Study House Program were built between 1945 and 1966 when Arts & Architecture magazine commissioned the major architects of the day to create inexpensive and replicable model homes to accommodate the housing boom in the United States caused by the flood of returning soldiers at the end of World War II. The resulting experiment in American home design involved many of the great architects of the day, such as Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eero Saarinen—and had a major impact on modern residential architecture. 

Of the 36 houses and apartment buildings that were commissioned, only a couple dozen were built, with around 20 still standing today. Ten were added to the National Register in 2013. While most of the homes are still private residences, some—like the Eames and Stahl Houses—are open to the public for tours. Here are some of our favorite Case Study Houses, in no particular order.

The Stahl House (Case Study House #22)

Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House remains one of the most famous Case Study Houses, and one of L.A.’s best-known midcentury residences. In the years since it was completed in 1960, the Hollywood Hills home been featured in numerous films, fashion shoots, and advertising campaigns. (Renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s iconic photos of the glass-and-steel house are credited with helping to immortalize it.)

The Bailey House (Case Study House #21)

Lesser known than Stahl House, but equally representative of the Case Study House program vision, is Koenig’s Bailey House, also in the Hollywood Hills. Completed in 1959, the simple, flat-roofed, one-story box is built mostly of steel and glass. Koenig oriented it on a north/south axis to trap the sun’s warmth in the winter and screen it out during summer. 

The Eames House (Case Study House #8)

Located in L.A.’s Pacific Palisades neighborhood, the Eames House is a landmark of midcentury-modern architecture. Constructed in 1949 by husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames, the modular house consists of two glass-and-steel rectangular boxes: one served as their longtime residence, while the other was their studio. The facades are comprised of black-painted grids with different-sized glass inserts (clear, translucent, or wired), Cemesto panels, stucco, aluminum, and specially treated panels, some painted white or in primary colors that lend a Mondrian-style touch to the exterior.

The Bass House (Case Study House #20B)

The 1958 Bass House in Altadena, California, differs from other Case Study Houses of the late ’50s in that it was built primarily out of wood, instead of steel. Architectural firm Buff, Straub, and Hensman worked closely with the owners, renowned graphic illustrator Saul Bass and his wife, biochemist Dr. Ruth Bass, for the design of the post-and-beam construction. The architects were interested in the possibilities of wood as it pertained to mass production in home building.

Case Study House #1

Despite its numbering, this 1948 home designed by Julius Ralph Davidson was not the first to be completed as part the Case Study House program. (Davidson’s Case Study House #11, completed in 1946, actually won that distinction, but was later also unfortunately the first to be demolished.) The 2,000-square-foot residence, constructed on a gently sloping lot in L.A.’s Toluca Lake neighborhood, incorporates architectural elements that came to characterize the program, including floor-to-ceiling glass, a flat roof, an open floor plan, and multipurpose rooms.

Case Study House #16

This one-story, flat-roofed home was the first of three Case Study Houses designed by Craig Ellwood. The steel, glass, and concrete residence was completed in 1952 in L.A.’s Bel Air neighborhood. Today, it’s the only surviving, intact example of Ellwood’s designs for the program.

The Entenza House (Case Study House #9)

Designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen and completed in 1949, the Entenza House is situated on a flat bluff in the Pacific Palisades overlooking the Pacific Ocean (adjacent to the Eames House). The modular home features a steel frame construction concealed with wood-paneled cladding.

The West House (Case Study House #18)

Rodney Walker’s West House, completed in 1948, was the first of four adjacent Case Study Houses on Chautauqua Boulevard in Pacific Palisades. The neighboring Case Study Houses #8, #9, and #20 were completed within the next two years. The 1,600-square-foot home takes full advantage of panoramic ocean views with floor-to-ceiling glass panels. 

The Bailey House (Case Study House #20)

Built in 1948, the two-bedroom Bailey House marks the only Case Study House designed by Richard Neutra that was actually built. Working with limited square footage and a low budget, the architect employed a classic midcentury layout: open, with flexible living areas, and large, floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors.


Triad (Case Study House #23A)

Case Study House #23A is the largest of three adjacent single-family residences that form the Triad in San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood, completed in 1960. The three homes, designed by the architectural firm of Edward Killingsworth, Jules Brady, and Waugh Smith, were planned to be the pilot project for a large tract of houses, but only the Triad was ever built. The goal for the three homes was to design in a manner that created a close relationship between the houses, while still maintaining privacy.



Originally published in Dwell
Text by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo


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