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Stahl House: A Modern Steel and Glass Constructed Home that Provided a Full Blown Panoramic View of Los Angeles

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The Case Study Houses were experiments in American residential architecture that were promoted by Arts & Architecture magazine, which commissioned major architects of the day, the goal of these case study homes was to design and build economical and effective model homes for the United States residential housing boom caused by the end of World War II and the return of millions of soldiers. The program had begun from 1945 until 1966, and had enticed over 400,000 tenants. The stahl House was assigned he number 22. The establishment of the residence began in May 1959 and was completed a year later in May of 1960.

History of the Stahl House

Constructed in 1959 as part of the Case Study Houses program, the house is considered an iconic portrayal of modern architecture in Los Angeles during the twentieth century. The house was made famous by photographer Julius Shulman presenting two women sitting in a corner of the house with a panoramic view of the city through floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

“Buck” Stahl and Carlotta Stahl

In 1953 a mutual friend introduced Clarence Stahl, better known as Buck, to Carlotta Gates Buck was 41 and Carlotta 24. The newlywed, Carlotta and Buck Stahl, moved into the house Buck was renting,

Pierre Koenig

Pierre Francis Koenig was an American architect, who was widely known in los Angeles. Koenig taught and southern California university los Angeles. Koenig worked with Raphael Soriano and Edward H. Fickett among others, and began private practice in 1952 . These architects emulated the stele and glass design in their works. Koenig practiced in los Angeles mainly and had been recognized for his two major projects ,of the Case Study Houses No. 21 and 22. When Koenig began to work on the Stahl House (Case study No. 22), he was in his early 30’s and had already built seven of the more than 40 projects he would design in his career.

The Case Study House No. 22 is the best known and is considered his main masterpiece of Koenig’s career. In 1960, Both the Bailey House and the Stahl House were constructed on exaggerated, and on unbuildable sites. Koenig’s intention “was to be part of a mechanism that could produce billions of homes, like sausages or cars in a factory.”

Involvement of Buck Stahl and Carlotta Stahl

On the Hillside Avenue in the Hollywood Hills, Owner of the stahl house, Buck Stahl, had a vision of his future home and how he wanted it built. This vision was something such as, a modern steel and glass constructed home that provided a full blown panoramic view of Los Angeles. When Buck Stahl bought the lot in 1954 he cost him about $13,500, which played on the definition of those post war homes; cheap and sustainable. Buck Stahl started to dig out and start reviving the property, essentially taking on the responsibility of an architect and contractor; it was not until three to four years later after attaining the property, then Stahl hired Pierre Koenig to take over the model and artistic scheme of the home

Buck and his wife Caroletta were initially renting the lower half of the wood-frame house. As Buck started to prepare the lot for construction, he began to analyze the lot and how it can be constructed with little to no expense. Buck had accomplished building up the edges to make the lot plane and uniformed. To form a sizable buildable space, Buck laid the perimeter of the bedrock with broken and recycled concrete, which was essentially free and at no cost to buck which was the main goal of this home. Considering the pieces weren’t monumental, buck was able to transport whatever material he needed to the lot and back with no need of a fork lifter. Everything was readily available and doable for him. The walls were next to be constructed, which were also built using the recycled material and concrete to form.

Materials and Purpose

Using the recycled granite from the ground and surrounding area, this granite was used to fill in the openings and holes in the concrete. What was extraordinary about the house is that it had such extreme topographic features really made the Hollywood hills home stick out. The way it was a part of the existing land and built on this land contributed to this aspect of topography. Originally, Buck’s home was a wooden building but then he converted it o er to a steel and glass house with Koenig . In Esther McCoy’s book Modern California Houses: Case Study Houses, 1945-1962, Koenig declares, “Steel is not something you can put up and take down. It is a way of life.”

The architect’s main goal was to use industrialized constituents in unique ways to create distinctive, buildings using the same standard parts. The use of steel, glass and cement were the main constituents of his constructions. The use of steel was vital to this style of modernism. Before, the home was made of wooden frames which left a risk when it came to stability, through earthquakes etc. so instead, Koenig replaces the wood with steel for a more modern look and also to ensure stability . The second and most important material for this vision, was glass. Glass allowed the house to be exposed and have the panoramic view of los angels, bringing in the city into the home. The exposure of the home from inside-out illuminated its translucity as an indoor-outdoor living space. And lastly, the last material that was necessary for the construction of the home was cement. All in all, these mediums made the home as simple as possible yet they were still economically and financially realistic.

“The steel house is out of the pioneering stage, but radically new technologies are long past due,” Koenig explained in an interview with Esther McCoy. “Any large-scale experiment of this nature must be conducted by industry, for the architect cannot afford it. Once it is undertaken, the steel house will cost less than the wood house.” The result was a solid form that remains intact and stable today, almost 60 years later. With its glass-and-steel construction, the Stahl House remains one of the most famous examples of the program’s principles and aesthetics.

This approach of the modernistic style of architecture was to introduces such a genre in everyday homes, not just artistic architecture. This introduction to this aesthetically pleasing approach pushed civilians to like stylistically.

Koenig relationship with the Stahl’s

When the stahl’s were working with Pierre Koenig, an architect that mainly focused on a major medium which was glass, steel, and concrete, the couple created perhaps the most widely recognized house in Los Angeles, and one of the most iconic homes ever built. Koenig was able to hone in on the vision that Buck Stahl and Caroletta stahl had about this modernized home. He began to do what he did best and that as to construct the steel and glass house which was the most recognizable characteristic of the modernized homes back in the fifties. Although the way the house was envisioned to be constructed, there was still an element of privacy due to the fact that the home had glass panoramic views. Koenig started to envision and execute the arrangement and layout. Of the home in a way that still made it private.

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