Case Study House Bluff

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John Entenza, publisher of Arts & Architecture magazine, purchased a five-acre meadow overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the intention of building several demonstration houses in close proximity for the Case Study House (‘CSH’) Program. Originally, six houses were intended to be built, but only five were (one of which was disavowed). It is a unique concentration, illuminating the innovative thinking of different architects as they addressed the challenge issued by Arts & Architecture magazine.

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Not only are the structures significant, but the siting is. Two of the homes, the Eames House and the Entenza House, were co-designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen with a particular focus on the their orientation. As discussed in the December 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture: “While the land is intended to be used communally, each house is so oriented so that it has complete privacy within its indoor-outdoor needs. The road follows the natural contour of the hill and will be allowed to gather leaves and regain the natural surface of the land. It serves each of the two houses, expanding for necessary turning and parking areas.” To accomplish this goal, a berm was built between the Eames and Entenza houses, seen to the left, that was then planted heavily. Within relatively few years, the berm was no longer visible.

The Five Bluff Houses

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The following photos of the Entenza and West houses were taken during construction at the Eames House, but are no longer visible. 

CSH #8, THE EAMES HOUSE, completed 1949

HO_UCn017Designed by Charles and Ray Eames,
Featured in December 1949 Arts & Architecture,
Eames Foundation, open to the public.

The second design for the site, the house was nestled into the hillside in order to preserve the meadow and trees. The same off-the-shelf materials–steel, expanses of glass and stucco–were reassembled into the new design, essentially a kit of parts.  The structure is fully revealed, a celebration of the honest use of materials. View the National Historic Landmark Nomination here.

CSH #9, THE ENTENZA HOUSE, completed 1949

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Designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen,
Featured in July 1950 Arts & Architecture,
Private property, closed to the public.

Construction photo of the Eames House, with the Entenza House clearly seen beyond.

The Entenza House was designed for John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture, who spearheaded the Case Study House Program. As described by the LA Conservatory, CSH #9 “is a modular plan and features steel frame construction. But in contrast to many modern residences utilizing steel frame construction, that of the Entenza House is not actually revealed, but concealed with wood-paneled cladding… This design exemplified the concept of merging interior spaces through glass expanses and seamless materials.”

The Eames House and the Entenza House are not only linked by their designers, but they have also been described as comparative spaces. While the Eames House has been described as a revealed vertical space, the Entenza House offers a complimentary concealed horizontal space. Through these comparisons, CSH #8 and CSH #9 offer different perspectives of inside vs. outside space as well as private vs. public space. View the National Register of Historic Places Nomination by clicking here.

CSH #18, THE WEST HOUSE, completed in 1948

HO_UCs192Designed by Rodney Walker,
Featured in February 1948 Arts & Architecture,
Private property, closed to the public.

Construction photo looking through the Eames House, with the Entenza House to the left, and the West House with its garage and lawn reaching to the right.

CSH #18 was the first Case Study House built on the bluff, and as described in Arts & Architecture, it displays “a simple, straight-forward solution of the client’s problems”. The intended clients for the West House were a couple in their early thirties who expected to entertain frequently.

Walker used floor-to-ceiling glass panels in public areas to emphasize the impressive ocean views, as well as created a living room with “a feeling of openness and informal spaciousness” for ease in entertaining. As explained in Arts & Architecture, the house was constructed on a three-foot module system to emphasize efficiency, symmetry, and the “absence of waste”. View the National Register of Historic Places Nomination by clicking here.

CSH #20, THE BAILEY HOUSE, completed in 1948

Original structure and later expansions designed by Richard Neutra,
Featured in December 1948 Arts & Architecture, article here,
Private property, closed to the public.

At the time the Bailey House was built, Richard Neutra was the most well-known and respected architect taking part in the Case Study House program. As was typical for him at the time, Neutra designed the house with an extensive use of glass, steel and wood.

The client, Dr. Bailey, was a young, newly married doctor who needed to keep the budget low. Neutra’s design included several potential future additions, so that the house could grow along with the doctor’s family and budget. In addition, Neutra incorporated flexible, multi-purpose spaces open to the exterior, allowing the family to use the outdoor space for dining and entertaining.

HOUSE #201, Unofficial

Original design by Richard Neutra,
Featured in May 1947 Arts & Architecture,
Private property, closed to the public.

Considered the “forgotten case study house”, the House at #201 was originally designed by Richard Neutra in the late 1940s. The design was changed at the request of the first owners and therefore was not included in the Case Study Program.