The Origins of The Case Study House Program.

The best place to start researching and learning about the Case Study House Program is definitely the Arts and Architecture Magazine that promoted the program since 1945.

Recently, Taschen reissued the Magazine covering all the Case Study House Program, from 1945 to 1967. I bought the volume about 1945, the year the Case Study House Program was launched.

arts and architecture taschen

(pic via steffienelson)

It is an amazing source of information and it is awesome to read the original editorial notes about some of the most famous mid-century modern houses in history.

Arts and Architecture started in 1929 and for its first ten years it was more in to classic architecture -Spanish Colonial, Mediterranean, Georgian- than modern.

During the great American depression its financial situation got worse and bankrupted in 1938. The same year John Entenza took over it becaming the mind and the force behind the Arts and Architecture Magazine -and the Case Study House Program- until 1962.

case study house #20 - exterior

(Case Study House #20)

Entenza was particularly interested in the modern architecture movement and through Arts and Architecture wanted to offer real solutions to post-war families and their dwelling problems.

In the introduction to the Case Study House Program he wrote: “Because the most opinion, both profound and light-headed, in terms of post war houseing is nothing but speculation in the form of talk and reams of paper, it occurs to us that it might be a good idea to get down to cases (…) certainly we can develop a point of view and do some organized thinking which might come to a practical end. It is with that in mind that we now announce the proejct we have called THE ‘CASE STUDY HOUSE’ PROGRAM.”

case study house #21 interior

(Case Study House #21)

During the years there was some confusion about few points stated by Entenza in the Case Study House manifesto.

The editor said that the Magazine would have been the client for the houses included in the Program never officially changing his point.

The truth is that the Magazine -alias Entenza- financially supported the Case Study House #9 only; the Entenza private residence designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen published in 1950.

All the other projects followed another path. As David Travers wrote in the introduction to the Arts and Architecture Tashen’s reprint: “The architect would bring a client and a design and if deemed worthy, the project would be included in the program. Materials weren’t donated as some have reported; rather manufacturers and suppliers would provide top of the line materials and equipment at bottom tier prices.”

case study house #22 interior-exterior

(Case Study House #22)

In the presentation of the Case Study House Program, Entenza underlined this concept pointing out the importance of the honest use of materials by the architects: “It is to be clearly understood that every consideration will be given to new materials and new techniques in house construction. (…) these materials will be selected on a purely merit basis by the architects themselves.

(…) No attempt will be made to use a material merely because it is new or tricky. On the other hand, neither will there be any hesitation in discarding old materials and techniques if their only value is that they have been generally regarded as ‘safe’.”

Case Study Houses #8

(Case Study House #8)

case study house #9 - living room

(Case Study House #9)

The projects were published without any critical analysis, the only text was a short introduction by the architect.

They had to be exceptionally interesting and deserving to be published, the good qualities had to overcome the bad ones and if not the building was not published; in any case never publicly criticized.

Unfortunately -despite the great international success of the Program in the middle forties- the Magazine was always short on money and closed in 1967.

Even though the Program had to host only eight projects, many more where presented but never built -as the Richard Neutra ’Omega’ and ‘Alpha’ houses or the Whitney Smith’s ‘Loggia’ House- due to an actual lack of clients and sites or they greatly diverted from the original design because of materials shortage or specific clients’ requests.

The Case Study House Program became such an important and influential contribution to the modern architecture movement also thanks to the architects involved; as Richard Neutra, Rodney Walker, Charles and Ray Eames with Eero Saarinen, Ed Killingsworth, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood and Pierre Koenig.

To this day it still influents contemporary achitecture.

arts and architecture

Photos found on Case Study House Program and Arts and Architecture.


case study houses cover
arts and architecture cover book