Although only included in the Case Study program after its completion in 1947 as certain intricacies in the plans were not fully realized before its construction, Case Study House #10 epitomizes the aspirations of the program.
Designed by a father and son team of architects, Kemper and Nomland Kemper Jr, the house, like many other Case Study homes, is a simple, low-cost modern building designed with an ease of living and positive family cohesion in mind.
Case Study House #10, still standing today on a quiet, leafy San Rafael Avenue in Pasadena, is primarily constructed with wooden posts and beams that frame large walls of glass.
Set in concrete, the house was constructed over a gradual slope. The sites natural gradient enabled the architects to plan the rooms of the house on several different levels and, subsequently, the Kemper’s were able to utilize a basic shed roof, which paralleled the slope of the landscape, to adequately cover the entire structure.
The affordable materials used for the house’s construction system and the basic shed roof not only exemplify the goals of affordability and simplicity so often associated with the Case Study program but also indicate, due to the structure’s reflection of the landscape’s gradient, a harmonious relationship with the natural contours of the chosen plot of land; a quality that is at times lacking in other Case Study homes.
Kemper and Kemper Jr designed Case Study House #10 in a way that divided the interior space into three separate levels.
A studio and garage flanked the entrance to the home, a middle level consisted of bedrooms, and the lowest level, at the rear of the structure, housed a light and spacious kitchen and living area.
By placing the living area at the rear of the house and sufficiently away from the road, the architects were able to further integrate the house with its natural landscape by imparting on the design the possibility of completely opening up the interior dining space to the outdoors by means of a large, sliding glass partition.
This enabled the inhabitants of Case Study House #10 to relax, eat and spend family time among the many eucalyptus trees that furnished a major part of the surrounding landscape and exuded a subtle, relaxed atmosphere that seems to reflect the ideas behind the house’s design.
The top layer of the structure, housing the studio and garage, is situated parallel to the street itself and creates a boundary between the public street and the more private, family rooms further down the slope. The exterior side walls of the house converge diagonally as they move down the slope, giving the house the outline of a trapezoid if it were to be viewed from above.
The main entrance to the garage is situated on a side street but a small path enables the inhabitants to join the main path which leads to the front entrance of the house. This entrance, housed in a narrow porch that is recessed between the extended studio room and the back of the garage, is marked by a neatly designed pergola that covers the lower terrace while smoothly adhering to the lines of the house’s roof and, by proxy, the lines of the land itself.
The architects decided to situate the interior entry to Case Study House #10 near the center of its lengthwise circulation axis.
On the right, as you enter the home, there is a narrow passageway that leads to the garage and the service area of the house, whereas on the left, another passageway leads directly to the bedroom wing of the home.
Due to this layout, there is a physical division between the more functional rooms of the home and the family rooms of the home which enables the inhabitants to enjoy the intimacy and privacy of their rest and recreational areas.
It is easy to see why Kemper and Nomland Kemper Jr’s design received a great deal of positive recognition and praise after its construction. By utilizing affordable materials, understanding and emphasizing the natural slope and of the land and creating a domestic space that welcomes and encourages indoor/outdoor living, the architects were able to design and build a pioneering house that is very much at home in the Case Study House Program.
Photos via Case Study Houses.