Case Study House No 209

TheStudy Housesprogramwas launchedin January1945.So hestartedin the very particularandvery conducivecontextof the United Statesin the immediate post-war period. A man, John Entenzawasable to seethat it wasa key moment. Hewas able to takethe lead inmaximizing its benefits. This context andthe personality ofthe latterare the elements thatmade ​​the successof the program.

Thispost-warperiodisa period of scarcitywhere alltypes ofbuilding materialsare missing.Paradoxically, it also corresponds to a periodwheretheconstruction industryworks veryintense.This intensityis explained by thelong period of inactivitythat preceded it.

On the one handdue to the economiccrisis of 1929,thebuilding activityis veryslowthroughout thethirties.
On the other hand, the war of 39-45marks acomplete and totaloutputanybreakpoint.All economic activityisorientedtothe « war effort » moment. Therewas thenvery littleopportunitéesconstructionexcept forpurely utilitarianbuildingstructures…

During all these years, and especially during the war , there has been a great technological development and many progress. These new technologies will finally be tested and applied to the building , so for example :
– New plastics make possible the construction of homes using panels and translucent screens .
– The invention and use of arc welding allows for welding of such quality that they can finally be exposed indoors .
– Improvement of synthetic resins, which make them more resistant than natural resins, serves to seal and develop jointings adapted to new light building panels .
– The emergence of new adhesives coming from the aviation industry allows the development of a wide variety of new composite materials .

Finally, the construction period was not slowed mean a total shutdown of architectural production . On the contrary, the period between the wars saw a multitude of flower theoretical projects . All its potientalités will finally be able to know a realization . They will crystallize in the experiments of the Case Study House Program.

 

JohnEntenza, a criticengaged…

John Entenza is the man who has by his editorial work and critical to all these reflections to emerge . It opened a whole experimental area .

Entenza began the publication of the  » Arts and Architecture  » magazine in 1938. Context Californian has certainly always been in favor of Modern Architecture . But it is necessary at the time to communicate through a media suppport to the general public. It is thus promote an understanding of new approaches to construction of individual houses emerged during the postwar period . The magazine has become the indisputable leader to win public acceptance of a good design and work on architectural quality . Entenza is who was the initiator.
Essentially teacher, he is convinced that all living with architecture , work on the quality of the built environment affects us all. It keeps a democratic faith in the ability of the public to understand qualitative work on our built environment when making an effort to submit it .

In 1944, he has a good idea of the course will take the modern architecture after the war. The weather is favorable for experimentation. Potential customers have never been so many …
Indeed, the low housing production during the years of depression has led to a shortage of housing that is deeply felt at the end of the war.
In addition, there is a real work to be done because some potential customers are already thinking about the time in terms of house key in hand . Moreover, the term  » Architecture  » seems a big word for families who want , in an emergency, fit comfortably and economically .
While the West Coast has always been a great place for experimentation and innovation in contemporary architecture ; Entenza sees the risk that the architectural quality of the houses built regresses due to the strong post-war production. It is indeed to be feared and that the quality is up to the quantity …

It certainly there has customers who can wait patiently for the architect completes the plans , which are in a demanding approach to architectural quality . It is also at this time that sponsorship organizations can fund experimental work.
But Entenza to realize that despite all many existing innovative ideas on the drawing board or in the minds of designers may not be able to materialize and be permanently lost.

History of the program…

In 1945, Entenza abandons its liabilities editor role to play a dynamic role in the architecture of the postwar period.
He committed eight agencies including the magazine  » Arts and Architecture  » becomes the client. Each of these agencies is responsible for the design of a house. Thus begins the program will continue after the departure of Entenza magazine in 1962. The Case Study House Program ends in 1967 to stop the publication of  » Art and Architecture » .

The success and longevity of the program is due to its simplicity. The only stated goal is the development of an environment of well-being without any ideological bias. Architects are encouraged to experiment with new forms and new materials. But the materials should not be used or only selected according to their objective qualities . There is no question of using a material only because it is new .
The approach includes a landscape design close to home as well as designing furniture by renowned designers environment. During the first three years of the program , six houses are fully completed , furnished and landscaped and open to the public .

Approximately 500,000 people visit the first dozen houses . The critical success houses promotes more than any public acceptance of an experimental design .

Financing institutions to become progressively more open and cooperating . Banks are gradually fund contemporary homes . It should be noted that up to this time they refused fairly systematically fund houses with glass walls, open without dining room , kitchen facing the street, a flat roof and concrete slab floor plans; convinced that it was a risky investment without resale value … However, all the houses of « Case Study House Program » were excellent investments and they prove their resale prices …

In the 50s , after 13 houses either completed the program continues at the rate of one house per year. Selected architects are usually young and little known outside of Southern California . Koenig and Ellwood authors of five projects in two of them have both barely thirty when they are asked to design a Case Study House . Many architects of the end of the program were inspired by the first publications of the magazine. Koenig and decided to study architecture after the interest inspired him reading the newspaper .

By throwing a look at the achievements of the program over the last eleven years Entenza takes stock of the Case Study Houses program :

“ We like to think that these houses have been responsible for some remarkably lucid thinking in terms of domestic architecture. While it is true that not all have been every man’s dream cottage, they have, nevertheless had a demonstrably wide influence in the sound use of new materials and in re-use of the old, and had attempted, with considerable success, to suggest contemporary living patterns. »

The analysis of thesedocuments allowus to identifythree distinct periodsin the program ofthe Case Study Houses:

1945-1950 , the program proved its worth.
In those first years , priority is given to the economics of the projects . In these early years of the program of Case Studies, 13 houses were built and 7 projects presented. The period begins in 1945 with the announcement of the program and ends with the completion of the house of Eames and Saarinen for Entenza .
All the architects of this period are already confirmed and recognized professionals. They each have a personal style already widely proven …
Any houses built during this period, that of Eames and Saarinen was the first to play with the layout and structure. It is also the first in the program to focus on the use of industrial materials and techniques in the field of architecture. Homes # 8 and # 9 are halfway house between the more traditional villas of the first period and purely experimental houses the following years .

1950-60 The experimental period.
In a second time, during the decade of 50, the focus is on innovative dimension villas, the true economic dimension from the background without , however, be lost sight of. This period extends from the summer of 1950 when Soriano started working on his house in the summer of 1960 , with the completion of the second house Koenig.
Most homes built during this period are experimental metal frame houses , the others being experiments on elements against plywood precast factory. For a century and a half the industry has been used for building materials but the house construction has resisted industrialization. Architects believe at the time that we must change that. Steel promises to bring domestic architecture to industrialization after the end of World War II . But the fundamental difference between houses wood frame and steel frame houses is that in the case of a steel frame all the details should be set at design unlike the wooden frame where you can leave a number of details to the discretion of the manufacturer …
The priority of this period is the development of projects that can serve as prototypes for manufactured homes .

1960-65 , Change of scale.
Finally, one last time , the program has a broader focus. The Case Studies developed during this period no longer interested only in experiments on one house. Reflections extend over a larger scale. You work on groups of houses and their integration to the environment and the city.

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a Specific context…

 

Case Study Houses

The Eames House, also known as Case Study House No. 8, is a landmark of mid-20th century modern architecture located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was designed and constructed in 1949 by husband-and-wife Charles and Ray Eames to serve as their home and studio. They lived in their home until their deaths: Charles in 1978 and Ray, ten years to the day, in 1988.

It was a home filled with gifts from friends, family and colleagues. The way the Eameses lived their life in their home echoed how they lived their life at work. They anticipated their guests’ needs – whether welcoming visitors at the house with delightful treats or when designing a chair and considering how best to meet the needs of the user — the guest in this case. They believed in the iterative process: the redesigning and rethinking of a project to improve it, whether it was through creating the three versions of their film Powers of Ten, or the two house designs for the site, or the constantly evolving décor during the early years.

Charles described the house as unselfconscious. There is a sense of that “way-it-should-be-ness”. Charles and Ray designed a house specifically to meet their needs, but they were those universal needs that we all share as humans. They believed in the honest use of materials and straightforward connections. The details WERE the product!

And then by nestling the house into the hillside, rather than imposing it on the site, they realized their original intent: for the house in nature to serve as a re-orientor. The scent, the sound of birds, the shadow of the trees against the structure whether inside or out, the openness of the site—all the elements join seamlessly.

Charles said, “Just as a good host tries to anticipate the needs of his guest, so a good architect or a designer or a city planner tries to anticipate the needs of those who will live in or use the thing being designed.”

Come visit and explore how the house exemplifies many of the themes of the Eameses’ work: from furniture to exhibitions, the guest/host relationship, the iterative process that leads to meeting the need, the importance of the direct experience, the relation with nature, the life in work and work in life, the importance of details, and more. Together the structure, collections, and landscape tell the story of the couple’s approach to life and work.

Structure

The Eames House consists of two glass and steel rectangular boxes: one is a residence; one, a working studio. They are nestled into a hillside, backed by an eight foot tall by 200 foot long concrete retaining wall. The structures are aligned along a central axis with a court on the ocean side of the House, a court between the two structures, and a parking / utility spot on the Studio far side. At 17 feet tall, each has a mezzanine balcony overlooking a large central room. Public and private spaces are naturally defined by what is easily visible.

When Charles and Ray were home, they would open the curtains and doors and windows. We do too. With doors open, the patios and structures became a long, unified space for living.

Color: The facades are essentially black-painted grids (consisting of eight 7.5 foot bays for the House and five for the Studio), with different-sized inserts of glass (clear, translucent, or wired), grey cemestos panels (both painted and natural), stucco (off-white, black, blue, and orange/red), aluminum (silver or painted) and specially-treated panels (gold-leafed or with a photographic panel). The transparency and translucency of the glass combines effortlessly with the painted colors and wood finishes. In referring to the Eameses’ work, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History blogged: “In all of their projects, color was a strategic tool; never did they apply hues indiscriminately. Rather, their brilliant palette spotlighted salient points of information that they wanted to convey, capturing both the eyes and minds of viewers.”

Materials: You can see the use of the off-the-shelf components, or the new plywood and plastic materials that the Eameses developed for their furniture.

Collections

The Eameses looked at life as being an act of design. The residence is filled with the “stuff” of their living. The stuff that tells the story of their lives, interests and loves. Intangibles of color and form. Careful arrangements of objects and flowers, whose value is really based upon being part of the collections. And as some might feel, the stuff that transmutes a structure into a home.

The residence is presented as it was at the time of Ray’s death in 1988. In fact, it has changed little from when Charles was also alive, and even from 1958 when the team consolidated their creative work at the Eames Office located in Venice, California.

Books, fabrics, folk art, prisms, shells, rocks and straw baskets….groupings unified by each element’s careful selection and the overall curation. This may be a modern structure, but it is filled with, as one writer intimated, a wonderful Victorian clutter. While these objects have, for the most part, nominal value as individual pieces, they have a huge value as part of the carefully-placed collection.  They help visitors to better understand the Eameses’ work via that direct experience that the Eameses felt was so important.

In perfect Eamesian fashion, the two structures are presented appropriately, which means differently. The studio is the headquarters of the Eames Foundation and is furnished to meet our needs. Interspersed with contemporary Eames furniture are objects from the pair’s work lives. It had always been a flexible-use space, changing function depending upon the Eameses’ need. It has been a working studio, a guest suite, a home office and skunk works, and after Charles’ death, Ray’s bedroom.

The original intent—particularly for the living room and the studio—was to be a very flexible space, designed with the anticipation that it would be filled with objects. As Charles wrote in the 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture magazine: The living room is a “large unbroken area for pure enjoyment of space in which objects can be placed and taken away — driftwood, sculpture, mobiles, plants, constructions, etc.”

The end result? As one visitor exclaimed in the earliest days of its building, “Oh Mr. Eames, after seeing your home, I’ll never think of Modern as cold again!

Landscape

The appreciation of nature is an essential part of life in the house. You can see, as Charles and Ray put it, how the house in its constant proximity to the whole vast order of nature acts as a “re-orientor and shock absorber” providing the needed relaxation from the daily complications arising within problems.

The final house design was driven by the Eameses’ decision to preserve the meadow and a row of eucalyptus trees. The meadow moves between green and sere as rain falls or stops. As one visitor said: “The Eames House is the only place in LA where you can experience the seasons.”

Flowers

Roses of all colors were favorites, but especially clear reds, whites and pinks. Tiny to small roses (particularly pink Cecile Brunner) and tea roses were also preferred, rather than today’s typical mid-sized, store-bought cut roses. Other favorite flowers include violas, especially the ones with faces, and tiny, delicately-formed flowers, from lobelias to Santa Barbara daisies. Ray would exclaim at how precious they were.

Ray also delighted in picking and arranging these flowers, whether a large vase of roses or a tiny vase with a grass blade, clover and delicate colorful bloom. Mixes of freesias, daisy-style blooms (white, blue or pink), pink or red geraniums (single) and more were picked from the Eameses’ own pots and planting beds as well as the neighbor’s garden. These vases, set in the house, echoed the exterior plantings, helping to blur the line between indoor and outdoor.

Pots

Bordering the house are many pots, presenting bright spots of color seen both from outside as well as inside the house. The house itself contains a ficus tree, a planter filled with philodendrons, ferns, and African violets. Fresh flowers continue to be picked from the pots and planter beds, augmented by flowers from Farmers’ Markets, to form bouquets. By reflecting the seasons, they seamlessly link indoors and out.

Garden Beds

The garden beds were on either side of the two structures: one on the south court by the living room where Charles and Ray would often breakfast at the low table, and the other past the carport.

Between the two structures was a central court where visitors would often be greeted. Many materials were laid in the courts: brick, wood, honed stone or rocks. Smaller squares and rectangles were left open, greened with ground covers or planted with a tree such as the Coulter pine, now grown tall.

The south bed had a specific planting plan, reflecting the seasonal shift between the hot/dry and cold/rainy seasons. In addition to being loosely divided into four quadrants, the bed was rimmed by narrow planting strips along three sides (the retaining wall being the fourth). The meadow-side quadrants might hold Icelandic poppies, while the back-side held delphiniums or foxgloves. Star jasmine edged the side facing the living room; the meadow-side edge held miniature geraniums, Santa Barbara daisies and lobelia (earlier, it held different colored verbenas and lobelia); the path-side edge currently holds lavender (but originally held ivy). On all sides, the plants spill lightly over the edges.

The north bed was more informal, set with a variety of loose plantings that petered into the hillside, but whose blooms beckoned visitors towards the house.

Meadow and Trees

The meadow was intended to look natural, even though a specific rye grass was used due to its color and leaf blade shape. It was not mowed; weeds would be allowed to grow and spring bulbs or wildflowers would be planted on a tiny hill. The meadow would grow with the winter rains, then slowly brown as watering stopped and heat grew. It has been commented: the House is one of the few places in Los Angeles where one can experience the seasons.

Around the perimeter of the property, the landscape was primarily native Californian plantings, notwithstanding non-natives such as the Eucalyptus, olives and pepper tree. Of course, the vast majority are eucalyptus trees. When their leaves dropped, she and the gardeners would carefully pick up all the leaves from the paths, leaving only the brilliant red ones.

At the end of the day, when Ray would arrive home from the Office, she would step out of her car, pause, inhale deeply and smile. It was always a joyful homecoming to the scent of the trees.

Bob Newman, Ray’s gardner talks about the site:

 

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