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Design Longevity & Case Study Housing

July 9, 2014

CSH 22

Arts & Architecture magazine served several purposes during its forty-two year tenure.  And while in many ways it set the American Modernism standard, it can be said the magazine’s most notable achievement was its sponsorship of the Case Study Housing program.

A thought, which became an idea, that turned into a conversation would eventually grow into a very well conceived plan.  One which would not only challenge, but change the view of how people lived in America.  Granted, at the time, I’m not sure if the editors or the architects involved shared the this vision, but they were definitely keen to change things up.

CSH 21

In 1945, as World War II was nearing an end, it was clear housing would become an issue for the millions of men returning from war to start a family.  At the prospect of a potential housing shortage, several prominent Southern California architects and the editors of Art & Architecture magazine began discussing solutions.  And so the Case Study House Program was born.

The program’s mission was to create or re-create the modern house-post war.  This meant the homes needed to utilize the best materials available, be economical and lend itself to mass production.  Easily fabricated, quickly constructed, and ultimately not an eye sore on the American landscape.  The original announcement adds, “It is important that the best material available be used in the best possible way in order to arrive at a ‘good’ solution of each problem, which in the overall program will be general enough to be of practical assistance to the average American in search of a home in which he can afford to live.”

What started with eight homes would eventually grow to over 30, along with names synonymous with architectural significance.  Some of the names at the helm consisted of Koenig, Geary, Eaams, and Rapson, Neutra, Walker for those with a deeper taste for the popular modern architects of the time.  The result would be some of the most impressive examples of modern residential architecture ever created.  Built to incorporate all the elements of their intent, many of the home still stand throughout southern California and parts of Arizona, many unaltered and in their original condition.  Thanks to Julius Shulman, the celebrated architectural photographers, many of the Case Study Homes were well documented and captured in their original form.  Images of Case Study House #22 are amongst some of the most famous photographs ever taken.

Spanning almost 20 years, the Case Study House program was scrapped in 1962 with Arts & Architecture shutting down not long after in 1967.  The homes built by this program created endless inspiration for decades and influenced many of the techniques used to not only design, but build structures today.  What was a great idea was realized, and in many ways changed the face of what America was to look like, even if only for a brief time.  Many of the homes the magazine help create still stand and can be visited today, and a link to the original Art & Architecture announcement can be found here.

CSH Eames

CSH 25 Kappe


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