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John Lautner, Segel House, Malibu, 1979

Segel House by John Lautner

John Lautners Segel House is situated directly on the beach in Malibu.

Segel House, View from the beach

The entrance of the privately owned home is on the Pacific Coast Highway making it difficult to view the house, due to constant traffic on the road.

Through a public beach access visitors can view the back of the house, which opens onto the ocean. The stretch of beach onto which the house looks has only been open to the public for a short time.
Segel House

The length of the house is hidden from view by trees and the homes on neighboring properties. The size of the house, which is placed diagonally on the lot, is only imaginable when viewing it from above.

John Lautner’s Segel House seems to mimic the waves of the ocean it looks upon. The curved form of the roof and the mirrored windows literally reflect the oceans movements. The windows open large views of the beach and ocean, but do not allow gazes from the outside to enter the private living area of the home.

View of the ocean from the Segel House

Seeing the building in person it appears much larger than in photographs. The curved form seems very organic. The beach is on a level lower than the house.

Segel House

The house is not open to tours from the public which makes a visit to the site a rather frustrating endeavor.

Visiting the house did not give me a much better understanding of the building as all that was visible was the same view one sees in photographs.

Despite not seeing much of the building, photographing it during our sunset visit was satisfying as the different materials of the building reacted to the light in interesting ways. The glass front reflected the light, while the wood seemed to glow and the concrete and metal seemed immune to the warmth of the sunset. Do to the low level of the beach as compared to the level of the house it is quite difficult to get a picture of the entire building.


The Stahl House, Pierre Koenig, 1960, Hollywood Hills

The Stahl House by Pierre Koenig is located in Los Angeles‘ Hollywood Hills neighborhood. The house is still owned by the children of Koenigs original client – Buck Stahl.

During our visit to the Stahl House on March 27th we were lucky to have been guided through this impressive example of Southern Californian modernism by a member of the Stahl family.

We arrived at the house shortly before sunset, having booked the ‚Sunset Tour‘ of the house. After signing a photo release we were lead onto the premises by Mrs. Stahl who cautioned us not to fall into the pool, having had seen this on several occasions.

The house is set on a steep hillside and does not have a large surrounding property. The outer most wall of the house even hangs precariously over the edge. The Stahl family have made only minor changes to the house since its original construction: they added a whirlpool on the terrace, renewed the bridges across the pool, added a catwalk to the outer wall for window cleaners and added reinforced concrete walls under the house to protect it from earthquakes, a renovation that is not visible when viewing the building.

(View of the house from entryway, whirlpool and catwalk are visible in the background.)

The bedrooms, living room and kitchen are all accessible from the outdoor terrace through glas sliding doors. The rooms are also connected to each other through interior doors.

(View of the interior of the house from the terrace)

The bedrooms were originally the way they are today (two bedrooms with double beds), however the Stahl family had children of both genders and split the left bedroom down the middle to accomplish a more private living space.

The kitchen – one of the very famous elements of this house – is still in its original form. Koenig built the kitchen into the house as though it were separate entity. The ceiling of the kitchen is below that of the surrounding rooms and separated from the living room by a bar. The kitchen island in the middle is one of the original furnishings of the house.

(View of the kitchen with L.A. in background)

From the kitchen visitors have a view of the dining and living areas of the house.

(View from the kitchen toward living and dining areas)

All of the exterior walls in kitchen, dining and living room are made of glas, opening the building up to a view of Los Angeles lying at the foot of the hill it is built on. The day we visited the house was very windy, making the glas shake in its frame.

My expectations of the Stahl House were met in every way. Seeing Los Angeles from such a high vantage point was truly an incredible experience that no photograph can do justice.

The Stahl family still uses the house for family functions, but have not lived there for many years. Asking Mrs. Stahl about the future of the house, she expressed a wish for the house to remain open to public, something she was sure the original Mrs. Stahl – her mother-in-law  – would have wanted.


All pictures taken by the author.

Katharina Marie Steins

Pierre Koenig, Stahl House, 1959-1960, West Hollywood

Stahl House, via Wikimedia Commons

The Stahl House was built between 1959 and 1960 by the American architect Pierre Koenig for Buck Stahl and his family. The structure is also known as CSH #22, after its number as part of John Entenza’s ‚Case Study House Program’ and is one of Koenig’s most well-known designs. 1

The bungalow is situated in the hills above West Hollywood and is invisible from street-level viewing, thus making the house the epitome of privacy – despite its walls being made mainly of glass, a typical feature of most Case Study Houses.

The one-story metal, glass and concrete structure builds an L-shaped frame for the house’s outdoor swimming pool – a typical feature of California ‚living’. All bedrooms as well as the living rooms face the pool, the main focal point of the building. When excluding pool and outdoor deck, the building harbors only six rooms on it’s approximately 204,4 square meter space.

Arguably most well-known for its portrayal in the architecture photography of the late Julius Schulman 2, the house is a prototype for modern living. From it’s high placement on the hillside, it features a prominent bird’s-eye view of the city’s lights below. The resident of the Stahl House thereby seems removed from the remaining inhabitants of the city – watching from a distance rather than taking part.

Stahl House at Night, via Wikimedia Commons

The view and it’s implications of grandeur and spectacular views have made the Stahl House a popular site for Hollywood movie productions and music videos, a house similar in style to the Stahl House was also used in an episode of the popular cartoon TV show ‚The Simpsons’ (Season 21, Episode 1 – ‚Homer the Whopper’)3.

The architect, Pierre Koenig, was born and grew up in California. The Stahl House is his second project for the Case Study House Program, the first being CSH #21, in West Hollywood.

Today the house is still in possession of the Stahl family, who allow guided tours through the building. This is a possibility we will be taking advantage of on our trip to L.A.



1. Smith, Elizabeth A. T., Blueprints for Modern Living. History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses, Ausst. kat., Los Angeles 1989/1990, Cambridge (Mass.) u.a. 1989, S. 69



Katharina Marie Steins

John Lautner, Segel House, 1979, 22426 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu


Segel House, View from the Beach, CC by Wapster, via Wikimedia Commons


John Lautner’s main interest has always been the interaction between nature and technology. Since his childhood where he lived in a fully equipped log house that he planned and constructed with his family in Michigan, the architect was directly confronted with his rural surroundings. In his architecture, he adapts the building to the site he is working on, by combining the material and form of the house with its environment, hence making the architecture fit in to its surroundings.

Lautner always tried to directly bring nature into his architecture. He achieved this through glass windows and doors creating a fluent transition between the interior and exterior of the house. Although he used a lot of concrete for his architecture, he also incorporated natural materials, such as stone and wood. These were often left unfinished, with the raw stone and wood serving as parts of the shell or the floor of the house, so that these natural features were visible in the interior.

Lautner used all these techniques in his design of the Segel House. The shell roof of the house protects it from the rough and rocky environment. At the same time Lautner mirrors this environment through integrating natural stone in the building. Like with his other works, the architect plans the building so that it adapts to the surrounding. The Segel house is set in scene by the beach and sea in front of it and the hills as a backdrop. The form of the house which can be compared to a shell or a cave with its opening directed at the sea, is a reference to its natural scenery.

The architect plays with the connection of exterior and interior by creating rooms that are partly inside and partly outside in the nature. Through huge glass façades one gets a good view of the surroundings from the inside. The Segel House features a patio roofed by the concrete, allowing one to be outdoors while still being sheltered. He used wood as casing for a lot of the walls in the house. Wood is also used as part of the roof, allowing beams of light to shade the floor where slits were cut into it. This creates a feeling of being outdoors.

Most of Lautners houses are constructed to offer their inhabitants shelter and an escape from the environment – in the Segel Houses case the harsh sea climate and a nearby noisy street. The inhabitants should feel protected and the house should provide the space to match their needs. The patio could be used as a car park or a party room for the dance therapist Joan Segel who commissioned the house.

In the works of this time, John Lautner was more concerned with the contrarieties “of simultaneous safety and expansiveness, groundedness and flight,” as Strickland described it. The house should offer enough shelter, but still leave room for the inhabitants to unfold themselves in their private spheres. The architect himself described the Segel House as a “breakthrough” in this regard.


Campbell-Lange, Barbara-Ann: John Lautner: 1911 – 1994; der aufgelöste Raum, Köln 2005.

Olsberg, Nicholas (ed.): Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner, New York [i.a.] 2008.

Film: Grigor, Murray: Infinite Space, The Architect John Lautner, USA 2008.

Picture: CC by Wapster, via Wikimedia Commons


From the street level a visitor to the house is first confronted with the view of a brick wall, partially obstructing the entrance of the building. Above the wall one can discern the roof and large upper story window of the house rising up towards the sky. The form of the roof, as seen from the street, is triangular and seems as if someone placed a triangle on top of the building.

Upon entering the courtyard, the building opens up towards the visitor, allowing him or her to fully see the form of the roof which curves toward the ground. From the outside the Segel House seems smaller than it is in fact – the long stretch of the house from street to beach isn’t really imaginable from outside.

The most unobstructed view of the Segel House is that from the beach onto which the back of the house opens. Here the building looks almost as if the individual floors weren’t constructed together, but rather separate geometric forms placed on top of each other and are connected invisibly.

The form of the roof has a wavelike look which connects it seamlessly with the adjacent ocean. Lautners chosen materials do not attempt to mimic the natural surroundings the large glass slates reflect the beach and rocks onto the house. In this building as in other buildings, Lautner exhibits interest in the topic of natural shelter. The roof on the Segel House is visually inspired by architects such as Felix Candela (Mexico) or Jean-François Zevaco (Morocco). Both architects used curved concrete forms to construct their intricate roofs. The use of concrete is a logical choice, since the Segel house is exposed to the elements constantly.

Lautner’s affinity to a connection of building and nature works perfectly in the Segel house. It fits into the surrounding landscape, connecting the inhabitants to the land they live on.


Campbell-Lange, Barbara-Ann: John Lautner: 1911 – 1994; der aufgelöste Raum, Köln 2005

Cohen, Jean-Louis: Perspective. John Lautner’s Luxuriant Tectonics, in: Olsberg, Nicholas: Between Earth and Heaven. The Architecture of John Lautner, New York 2008

Viola Menzendorff and Katharina Steins