Archiv der Kategorie: On the spot

Pierre Koenig, Stahl House, 1959, Woods Drive, Los Angeles


I was lucky to have been the driver for that distance to Stahl House when we went to West Hollywood. The route to the site was full of tight serpentines and steep hairpin bends, making the ride to a real adventure. I needed this change after constantly having driven straight, monotonous roads within the huge signature grid pattern of LA. Melissa, our guide, was already waiting for us on the spot.

Stahl House, photo by the author.
Stahl House, photo by the author.

However, I was curious what the front of the house would look like because it wasn’t possible to catch a glimpse on the web — for instance via Google Street View. I didn’t expect such a modest and plain entrance. The front was made of nothing except corrugated steel. If I hadn’t known that it’s the famous Stahl House I never would have paid any attention to it. In addition, the house is located on the outside edge of a sharp curve, one would not assume that there is a huge luxury home behind this presumed “construction site“. In comparison, Koenig used a slightly different method to guarantee privacy than Lautner did for the Sheats-Goldstein Residence. Koenig used the position of the house on the peak of a slope to prevent frontal prying eyes while Lautner took advantage of an artificial jungle which closes the property hermetically. Furthermore, Koenig allowed the rear exterior of the building to be obviously visible to the public area on the street, while ingeniously disguising the whole house as an ordinary building. The spectacular front side is hence only visible from Sunset Boulevard at the bottom of the hillside.

Stahl House, photo by the author.
Stahl House, photo by the author.

Let’s have a more theoretical look at this point: Perhaps even more interesting than the house itself is the effect-mechanism behind the photographic reproductions which were made of this architecture. Why could Shulman’s shots function so well as a representation of LA as a modern metropolis? What we know is that modern architecture pays attention to the use of  reduced geometric basic forms which merge into unornamented and asymmetric cubes, that unsupported constructions dominate the structural shell, which is why supporting and floating becomes an issue of modern transparent architecture. Pierre Koenig also knew this and he was aware of the increased application of glass. What classical-modern architecture initiated is raised to a whole new level by Stahl House in its usage of full-glass-walls. The developed outline is therefore structured thanks to the dematerialised relation between inside/outside and the disclosed construction. These features create an exhibition-like character of the house, which in turn evokes a clear atmosphere. Parts of the scenery are further brought to life by Shulman’s intelligent staging method. The view on the urban landscape through the vast glass panel is rendered highly iconic. It could basically be considered to be a new edition of the Classical superior gaze or the Romantic window view. And it is exactly this atmosphere two-dimensional images are capable of communicating. Stahl House is an Eldorado of vanishing lines, clean and open spaces, unhindered perspectives; Shulman’s skills and his visionary view on the one hand and the offensive pursued way of medialization on the other hand help reinforce the character of a pure and clean modernism — or perhaps evidence of an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Stahl House, photo by the author.
Stahl House, photo by the author.
Stahl House, photo by the author.
Stahl House, photo by the author.


Alexander Eyber

Photos by the author.


Prigge, Walter: Ausgestellte Moderne, in: ders. (Hg.): Ikone der Moderne. Das Bauhausgebäude in Dessau, Berlin 2006, S. 24-34.

Lubell, Sam and Douglas Woods, Julius Shulman Los Angeles. The birth of a modern metropolis, New York, 2011, S. 20-29.

Frank Lloyd Wright, George Sturges House, 1939, 449 North Skyewiay Road, Brentwood, Los Angeles

George Sturges House

We visited the George Sturges House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939 rather spontaneously in the evening short before sunset. As we arrived we were not even sure if the house was inhabited or not.

From the internet, we had learned that it has been a difficult case to sell the house in the past. After the deaths of its last owners Jack Larson and James Bridges the house descended into their foundation. In 2016, the Los Angeles Modern Auction announced to put the house up for auction. More than 100 potential buyers viewed the property but in the end no qualified bidder was found.

George Sturges House

Our little gathering in front of the house must have drawn the attention of one of the neighbours. First, we were not sure if he was pleased to see us standing and parking in the street, but luckily, he was very interested to find out why we visited this landmark. He told us about the immense problem of selling the house, so the story we have read on the internet became more vivid. He updated us with the news that some weeks ago the house had finally been sold. He believed that the reason why it took so long to find a new buyer was the humidity the house suffers from, especially in the lower level where the chimney is grounded.  In addition to the bad condition the expected price was set too high which might have been a crucial factor, too. The fact that the house was finally sold made him very happy since he really appreciated living next to a Frank Lloyd Wright house; ideally next to one that is well taken care of.

After the little chat we had a closer look at the house itself. It was pretty much equivalent to the pictures we had in mind. The nautical connotation became visible immediately, since the cantilevered balcony faced the street. While standing beneath the balcony the altitudes proportions of the dwelling were easier to understand – it was very impressive and I felt very small in contrast to the big balcony dominating the lot. Nonetheless it was difficult to conceive the whole setup, since the house respectively the site seemed somehow enclosed, even though there was no fence or wall. Instead the plants next to the street, but also the heightened building itself in connection to the sloping road and even the long driveway up to the house amplified the feeling of inaccessibility.

balcony from below the street

Regarding the fact that with only about 110m2 the living space is rather small the whole property and the house itself seemed a lot bigger than that. I could imagine that this results from the lot being situated at the corner of the street. In contrast to the neighbouring houses I had the feeling that it could unfold. Somehow it seemed to be more open to the public than the surrounding houses.  It was not confined by a real enclosure, but was still not accessible due to its construction resembling a nautical fortress.

Elena Schmidt


All pictures are taken by the author.

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