“It’s our home. We were all so comfortable growing up here. It did not feel like we were in the pressure of Los Angeles. It’s a quiet and peaceful spot.”
— Bruce Stahl
"They signed in 1954, on a $100 deposit and a handshake."
If you happen to take the steep winding drive up the hill from Sunset Boulevard, you’ll come to a residence that has defied gravity since the 1950’s.
Known as the Stahl house, or also Case Study House #22 it was part of a series of 27 homes from Arts & Architecture’s famous case study series which commissioned emerging modernist architecture in California. Embodying a home of the future, the house has since become one of the most recognisable houses in the series.
Designed by architect Pierre Koenig, he was commissioned by Buck and Carlotta Stahl who dreamed their quintessential LA home atop a spectacular view, set high in the ragged Hollywood Hills. An ambitious young architect, he was chosen for his ability to think outside the box, which is perhaps why he signed on to the project, given it was constructed on a dramatic and almost unbuildable site.
Envisioned by Buck Stahl as a modernist glass and steel construction that offered panoramic views of Los Angeles, Pierre helped to transform that vision in to a modernist icon. The aim of the project had been to introduce modernist principles into residential architecture, to advance the aesthetic and introduce new ways of life in a stylistic sense and one that represented a modern lifestyle. Keeping the design modest, the house is small but elegant in its simplicity. Taking form of an ‘L’ shape, so that the private and shared aspects of the house were separate, it is compositionally adjacent to the swimming pool, that one must cross in order to get into the house.
The walls are made completely of glass, creating a fluid transition from indoors to outdoors, and it features an astonishing 270-degree clear view from the mountains to the sea. The living space is set back behind the pool and is the only part of the house that has a solid wall.
Surprisingly, little was known about the house till photographer Julius Shulman took a photograph he called ‘one of his masterpieces’ inside the residence. It is an image of two glamourous women in cocktail dresses that appear to be floating above a mythical, twinkling city. Perfecting the art of aspirational staging, it turned the house in to the embodiment of the ‘good life’ and showed California as a promised land. Shulman was known for his photographs that demystified modernism by highlighting the graceful simplicity and humanizing the angular edges.
The Stahl house is still proudly owned by the Stahl family, who were able to purchase the land with a $100 deposit and a handshake back in 1954. Their children reminisce about the quiet and peaceful tranquillity they enjoyed in their sanctuary, floating high above a sprawling and chaotic Los Angeles.
Image Credits — Julius Shulman (additional image credits are in the image title)
Design — Buck Stahl and Pierre Koenig
Architecture — Pierre Koenig
Location — Woods Drive, Hollywood California
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