Case Study Houses: The creation of the modern ‘dream home’

Arts and Architecture would sponsor commissions for architects to build low-cost, experimental model homes in anticipation of the US housing boom post-World War Two, and would document the design and progress of these creations. Entenza championed all things modern – visual art, music and design – and, through the magazine, had the right contacts to attract the architecture world’s brightest talents. After years of forced hiatus on construction during wartime and the Great Depression, the experiment was conceived to create opportunities for up-and-coming architects, anticipating the inevitable needs for new housing as millions of soldiers returned home.

Undoubtedly the most iconic example of the Case Studies is the Stahl House. Cantilevered off the Hollywood hillside, the glass box floats dramatically 200 feet above Sunset Boulevard, with breath-taking panoramic views of Los Angeles’ city sprawl. Its L-shaped plan, hovering flat roof, and walls of plate glass on three sides organised around a swimming pool, made Case Study House no. 22 a stunning spectacle. With its dramatic staging of two glamourous women chatting in cocktail dresses above the twinkling lights of Los Angeles, architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s black-and-white masterpiece perfectly captured the nation’s aspirational mood of the time. The elegance of the image, the most successful residential property photo of all time, elevated the structure to a mid-Century icon that redefined the idea of a dream home. (Credit: Julius Shulman/J. Paul Getty Trust)

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