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.
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 ↩
Between mountain ranges and the Pacific beaches, Los Angeles is embedded in a sort of paradisiac garden. A place where the earth is soaked with creativity and the minds can bloom. Where ideas can rise, and become something more than just illusions . The finish line of the western, modern final frontier seems to be the essence of civilizing development . All the cultural accomplishments of mankind are represented here and it could come to your mind that there is no further level to be reached. That there is only one step for us to take before bringing our science fiction fantasies to earth and space . But we must overcome ourselves to reach it. It’s an escape for those who seek for a new kind of freedom and a room to let their spirit fulfil itself, some might say . This all sounds too much for one place to be real and we are willing to proof these words right or wrong.
We, students of the art historian faculty at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, have dedicated ourselves to this place of desire in the past semester. We searched for the trails of modernist architecture at the shores of the pacific and the slopes of the foothills. Our ledgers were architectural masterminds like Richard Neutra, Rudolf Schindler, John Lautner and Frank Gehry. During our studies one main statement was frequently repeated by many architects: Los Angeles is an ugly place. And it seems to be true when also Reyner Banham describes the metropolis as dictated by the automobile and divided by its freeways. But this statement doesn’t really fit in our idea of Los Angeles. The place of palms, beaches, beautiful, creative and rich people. So, for us there is still the question, if we could picture us the city correctly, when we are only looking on singular buildings – as those in Julius Schulman’s photographs . Do we require the aspects of mobility, reality and three-dimensionality, to understand the city of angels completely?
There is only one way to get some satisfying answers: boarding a plane.
So, we will follow the example of two European exiles and leave our continent: Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler, two Austrian architects, were attracted to the United States from hearsay of a place where they could fulfil their architectural dreams. As their new mentor, they had chosen Frank Lloyd Wright. After stops in New York and Chicago, where they first met their idol, they found Los Angeles as their place to be . There they laid the fundament for modern architecture and following generations of architects. John Lautner and others followed and conquered the foothills by planting extraordinary structures, opening new sights on difficult sites. But modernism seemed to be just a privilege for upper classes. Till the Case Study House Program was announced and tried to find forms which could be replicated for everyone. While the program stuck in theory, some architects took on practical, often in suburbs or new settlements: William Krisel for example experimented in big scales, in the desert town of Palm Springs, to bring modernism to the masses. Another approach for modern architecture in everyone’s everyday life is, to build in a modernist way not only in the housing sector. Franklin D. Israel and Frank Gehry tried to think factories and cultural institutions modern. They were not the first, but especially Gehry managed to put this commercial architecture to a new level.
Like Banham we will drive on the freeways through architectural space and time. Neutra and Schindler are the starting point, followed by John Lautner. We will search for the starting point of modernism for the people in the Case Study House Program and practical approaches by William Krisel. Franklin D. Israel and Frank Gehry then will be the finish line for our excursion, but not for modern architecture in Los Angeles
 Olsberg, Nicholas, Between Earth and Heaven, 2008, p. 18.; James Steele and Franklin D. Israel, Interviews, 1994, p. 13.
 Banham, Reyner: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, 2001.
 Hines, Thomas S., California Calls You, 2010, p. 273.
 Campbell Lange, Barbara Ann: Lautner, 2005, pp. 19.
 Announcement, The Case Study House Program, Arts and Architecture, January 1945, p. 37-38.
My research on the Ocean Towers turned out to be an unexpectedly exciting experience. As usual I began with a research in our university library – unfortunately with no satisfying result. The next step was a inquiry in established magazine search engines – again with no satisfying result. So I was forced to continue my research in a common search engine – Surprisingly, I was confronted with countless results which redirected me to real estate agency pages. I did not expect to come across the architecture of a famous architect in a highly popular region like Santa Monica, still to take place in an advertising/commercial context. This kind of represantation leads to questions: Why is this building is mainly featured in commercial-oriented settings or does the architecture possess a lack of quality to be represented autonomously in the literature? Perhaps the architect himself did not wanted to give priority to the building.
The literature on Krisel does not represent or analyse the Ocean Ave. Towers architecture as an independent work. It is mostly mentioned as a comparison to other buildings without any deeper information concerning the Towers themselves. The Ocean Avenue Towers were designed as luxurious residential apartment buildings under the partnership of Krisel/Shapiro & Associates in 1971. The towers consist of two identical steeples which were built symmetrically to each other and an attached building, which serves as a connection between the two Towers. The high-rise condominium is quite untypical for the horizontal orientated area of Los Angeles. Marketed on real estate pages as the tallest residential building in Santa Monica with a total height of 160 ft, the Ocean Ave. Towers contain 17 floors. Located on an elevation right in front of the beach of Santa Monica, the Towers benefit from a gorgeous view which is used as an advertising preference.
Author: Begüm Inal
Creighton, Heidi/Menrad, Chris, William Krisel’s Palm Springs. The Language of Modernism, Layton 2016, p. 135
Located in proximity of the popular Silver Lake, the house benefits from a tranquil and nature-bound location inside the city. 
The VDL house is named after Richard Neutra’s Dutch benefactor, Dr. Van der Leeuw. At the same time, the building is an embodiment of the architectural perception of his architect. The architectural concept combines living with working space in one building serving as the residence and office of Austrian-born architect.
The VDL Research House (I) was the first architecture which Neutra conceived after his return from Europe in 1931 . European influences are obvious: Neutra, who had worked for the Austrian Werkbund in Vienna the same year, was strongly inspired by the Dutch industrial architecture of Brinkman & Van der Flugt. The two architects of the Rotterdam Van Nelle Fabriek had been employed by the Van der Leeuw-family . Their avant-gardist concept of space permits daylight to flood into the factory building. A continuous filmstrip-like window penetrates the facade and allows the sunlight to brightly illuminate the inner space of the building.
This parallelism is often interpreted as an honouring gesture of Neutra to C.H. Van der Leeuw who advanced a considerable sum to the architect so that he could build his house.  According to certain sources, Van der Leeuw was horrified after visiting Neutra’s former residence in Echo Park. So he pulled out his check-book and wrote down a sum of $3000 as an inducement to build a new, more suitable home.  Neutra completed the remaining sum to cover the total costs of $8000.  The VDL Studio and Residences (I and II) comprise in fact of three phases of construction: The first original constructing phase of 1932, a second phase of 1939 – 1944 in which a smaller construction the garden or guest house, and the rooftop ’solarium‘ were added.  The third (re)construction phase became necessary because of a devastating fire in 1963 which broke out in absence of Richard Neutra. The house burnt down to its foundation. Luckily the construction and soil of the ground floor was made of concrete beams with suspended floor structures which prevented the fire from burning through right into the cellar where the essential archive of Neutra’s work was located. 
On a lot of 18 x 21 m, the VDL Research House occupies a space of 214m² spreading over three floors. The H-shaped building consists of two parallel main buildings, a private building and a guest house. As an attachment, a narrow connecting building is placed between them which include a rarely used room and two children bedrooms. The free space between the two main buildings was used as an enclosed patio garden. The ground floor of the private tract was mostly used as an office including rooms for the secretary and employers. The first floor was where the private rooms were located.  The bright, former known as ‘solarium’ completes the building with a third floor. Over time it was converted into an ordinary bright room. 
A special feature of the building is the use of new materials, for example aluminum, rock wool, solid insulation boards,  cork floors, e.g.. They were sponsored and produced according to Neutra’s demands.  He also imitated materials: Neutra tried, for example, to evoke the effects of steel construction which was too expensive to afford. He used painted wooden frames instead of steel window frames. The wooden frames were joined continuously like a filmstrip and were fitted with steel windows to achieve the desired visual effect of the modern European steel constructions. Other remarkable features of the house were sliding steel doors saving indoor space. The functional modern European aesthetics was quite uncommon by that time in the U.S. For Neutra, it included theoretical aspects as well. He investigated the aesthetic or sensual effect of the combination and apparition of materials in building. He also meditated or the benefits of architecture for the human-being by involving nature in the planning and realization of architectural landscapes. 
Barbara Lamprecht describes the sensual effects of the VDL House as follows: The characteristics and the combination of the used materials, rooms painted in dark and silver tones and the low sill height affect the sensual perception with lustrous moments which evoke a unique so-called ‚honeymoon experience‘. 
Neutra used illusionist elements like mirrors or glass panels to enlarge the space and play with the theoretical contrast pair of inside and outside.  He focused on creating an innovative and experimental kind of a residence combined with an office. The architecture should be flexible to adapt to varying circumstances like the changing constellations of the inhabiting families.  The interior of the building with its built-in furniture was conceived to be offer a maximum of functionality and to be easily maintained – perhaps another tribute to the Werkbund colonies. A residence which offers his inhabitants such flexibility and function-oriented comfort seems obviously familiar to the 1920’s/1930’s Werkbund and Neues Wohnen movements. Acting in a time with economic and social grievances, politicians and architects began to build small but functional and affordable residences in colonies for the middle and lower class to stop their exclusion from the social and economic system.  Neutras articles were also often featured in the journals “Die Form” and “Das Neue Frankfurt”. They delivered information on those modernist movements including topics of architecture and design. Neutra surely applied the modernist aesthetics not only because of his low budget, but also as a proponent of the idea of functionality and flexibility in architecturally enclosed space. 
Author: Begüm Inal
Lamprecht, Barbara, Richard Neutra. 1892-1970. Gestaltung für ein besseres Leben, Köln 2016, p. 29
Hines, Thomas S., Architecture of the Sun. Los Angeles Modernism 1900-1970, New York 2010, p. 367