The case study houses of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s have long been my idea of the perfect contemporary home – open plan, maximum glazing, simple, functional. Perhaps the climate helps (these homes were most often built in California), but they seem to embody a free and easy lifestyle and optimism. Post war construction methods and new materials made the houses possible, and yet…
The Case Study house program stated that: each ‘house must be capable of duplication and in no sense be a individual performance.. It is important that the best material available be used in the best possible way in order to arrive at a ‘good’ solution of each problem, which in the overall program will be general enough to be of practical assistance to the average AmerIcan in search of a home in which he can afford to live…’ I just adore this philosophy.
Nine architects were involved in the initial scheme, including Richard Neutra and Charles Eames. I have often wondered how they could get these simple, easy-to-build forms so right; contemporary architecture today very often loses sight of its modernist roots.
Now a new partnership between the son of Richard Neutra, and the California Architecture Conservancy, means one can license the right to build from the plans of Richard Neutra. More about the scheme, here. Neutra (1892-1970), one of the most important of the mid-century modernist architects, became famous for the simple geometries of his designs, which were often made of steel and glass, and the prefabricated elements that made them extremely easy to build. Known for rigorously geometric yet open and airy structures, Neutra blended the interior and exterior of a space such that it would ‘place man in relationship with nature; that’s where he developed and where he feels most at home’. This philosophy grew from a feeling that “our environment is often chaotic, irritating, inhibitive and disorienting. It is not generally designed at all, but amounts to a cacophonous, visually discordant accretion of accidental events, sometimes euphemized as ‘urban development’ and ‘economic progress’’’.*
A very funny account of what it must be like to live in a mid-century modern home with children, here
* Quotation from Neutra’s biography, Life and Shape, available from this dreadful-looking Neutra web-site..