Case Study House #22 – The Stahl House

I don’t know if anyone ever still reads this blog. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago, and interestingly enough, found myself with new content to add.

Last November after several years of trying to get access to the Stahl House, I finally got to tour this celebrated home.

A few years ago, when I started this Blog and became moderately obsessed with Architecture, and I set out on a mission to visit every major Architecturally Significant home in Los Angeles. I mean, I even started this blog! I may or may not have gone to great lengths to visit these sites, and my exploits may or may not have included trespassing, stalking the owners, and impersonating B-list celebrities… In this way, I was able to visit almost every major home from Palos Verdes to the Valley… The Stahl House however, the cream of the crop, had always evaded me.

The Stahl House was like an impenetrable fortress open only to a select few… Finally, on Nov 2nd, 2018, amid a splendid sunset in LA, I was able to visit what is truly, in my opinion, the crown jewel of Mid Century Architecture.

I feel like any thought of this house is intimately connected with that famous Julious Shulman photograph that not only gave this house its notoriety, but some say,  could be said to be wholly responsible for kickstarting the Mid-Century movement across America.


Can you imagine living inside this space, making your life inside its crystal walls? For those Ayn Rand fans reading this, I am often reminded of Gail Wyland’s Crystal Penthouse atop New York City whenever I see this space… I won’t belabor on this too much, as coincidentally I am mid reading The Fountainhead, and my feelings about its simple lines, and its quiet and unobtrusive design, can be best summed up in this incredible quote from the great Ayn Rand: “The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”


As if touring the house was not enough, during our brief stay, we were  blessed with a breathtaking sunset that painted the LA sky in every shade or purple and orange, reflected across the pool, and thus portrayed the genius of its design as the skies finally turned dark and revealed bellow them a million lights sprawling across a city.


If you ever get a chance, visit the Stahl House. It is every bit as majestic as you imagine it would be.



The Gamble House

Picture building a house with no nails. Although this is not entirely a fact at the Gamble fact, it is as close as one can get to this idea.

While Frank Lloyd Wright was pioneering the Arts and Crafts movement in Chicago, in California the Greene brother’s, through their architectural firm – Greene & Greene, were pioneering the movement in Southern California.

The main premise of the Arts and Craft movement is incorporating small decorative elements into architectural design, thus steering construction away from the sterile design that was inherited from the Industrial Revolution.

The Gamble House, originally built by Greene & Greene for the Gamble family (from Procter & Gamble) is considered by some experts the greatest exponent of the Arts and Crafts moment in Southern California.

Traditionally, when a house like this was commissioned by a wealthy family, such as the Gambles, the commission included the design and manufacture of custom furniture, which to this day still sits inside the notorious house.

There is a myth, which has been throughly debunked, that the house was built using no nails. Although the statement is almost true, it is nevertheless inaccurate. However, the house was built using almost no nails or screws, and the few that were used, are not visible.

There is a strict no-photography allowed policy at the residence, but I somehow snuck a couple pictures to show my ample readership… You may recognize this house as the home of Dr Emmet Brown in the now iconic film Back to the Future.



Richard Neutra – VDL House

If you’ve lived in Los Angeles for any amount of time, you have probably driven by this house at some point. You might not have noticed it, but you have definitely passed by it. The Neutra VDL house is right in front of the Silver Lake Meadow, on Silver Lake Blvd, opposite the Silver Lake Reservoir.

Currently, the house is under the care and administration of the Pomona State University. They do a fair job at keeping the house in good shape and touring visitors every Saturday morning. The house could be in even better shape, but it is not by any means in bad shape.

The VDL house was originally built through the financial support of dutch industrialist Cees Van der Leewu – hence the VDL acronym. Although the house served as a residence and study for Richard Neutra, it retains the moniker of the patron who made it possible.

For me, what is most fascinating about this house, is just how big it feels despite being just a little under 2,000 sq. ft. There are two adjacent structures which together add up to more square footage, but the main house itself is not particularly big. However, due to the clever utilization of windows, space planning, and wise color schemes, it feels much bigger than it actually is.

If you’re looking for something to do on a given Saturday morning, grab some coffee at LA Mill and head on down to the VDL House for a tour of the live-and-work space of one of the greatest proponents of mid-century architecture.





And finally, here is my Jeep by the entrance to the house.



A Gloomy Day at the Getty

At the beginning of the year, a few days before my parents flew back home after the holidays, we decided to go on a spur-of-the-moment drive to the Getty. The Paul Getty museum has long been one of my favorite museums in Los Angeles. Although I admire and appreciate the art collection, it’s the space and the architecture that gets me.

As an interesting note on the architecture, more than 90% of the exterior and interior floors ceilings, and walls, were mined from a single travertine quarry in Italy, and brought to Los Angeles, to fulfill Richard Meier’s vision of creating a white travertine palace atop a hill and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As an additional fact, almost all pieces were cut to the exact same rectangular size, that is, the 30 inch by 30 inch tile on the floor, has the same measurements as the exterior travertine walls and even the polished travertine ceilings.  This sense of uniformity, in addition to the crisp lines of the design make this a magical space in which to enjoy art.

When we visited the Getty last, in early January, we happened to visit it at a very unique time; Southern California is not particularly known for its foggy days, but by some strange coincidence, we happened to visit the museum as a thick layer of fog covered the expanse of the campus. Here are some pictures I took that day:


And finally, here is a picture of my mom.



The Guggenheim: A Temple of Spirt

Last month, while I was in NY for my birthday, I couldn’t miss visiting FLWs magnum opus, the Guggenheim.

I’ve always believed that one of the greatest traits of a great artist is the ability to reinvent himself and do things that are totally new. It is actually hard to believe that the same guy that designed this:


Also designed this:


It is said that this was the first modern museum, and that all contemporary museums have been derived from this vision. The idea, was not to have giant open halls plastered with paintings, but rather, to provide individual nooks for individual artists to portray their art.

The museum was originally conceived to be a “Temple of Spirit”. An interesting fact, is that FLW never got to see the museum completed. He passed away just months before its grand opening. The spirit of his work, however, is alive and well in this, his last great gift to humanity.

Here, a panoramic picture  of the inside I took with my iPhone when I was there in June:


Live from the Hollywood Bowl

A fact that might be of very little interest to most people, is that the day I discovered the Calori House, I was actually, on my way to the Hollywood Bowl. This is a significant coincidence as the Hollywood Bowl was originally built and designed by non-the-less than Lloyd Wright himself. I found this coincidence to be incredibly serendipitous, and maybe even an omen.


The Hollywood Bowl has seen many transformations throughout the years. Here is a graphic of its many faces in the early 1920’s.


Although the face that we know today is the one from 1929, the bowl itself was rebuilt from the ground up in 2003 to allow more room for the orchestra and expand the stage. The second and third renditions of the bowl were designed by Lloyd Wright and even to this day, the final design is mostly attributed to him.

An interesting piece of curiosa is that that seating chart has remained virtually unchanged since its grand opening almost 90 years ago. The Bowl was designed to mirror a greek amphitheater and has lived up to that design now hosting dozens of performers from any array of different genres each year. 1937

One of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles each summer is visit the Hollywood Bowl. I’ve never been to any concert venue quite like it. To show you guys just how much I love the Bowl, bellow is a short video of the LA Philharmonic and the USC Marching Band playing Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture with a Fireworks Spectacular. This was taken just hours after discovering the Calori House…1406312149-venue-hollywoodbowl

For more information on the history of the Hollywood Bowl, their official site has a retrospective of the architectural evolution as well as its significance in popular music and culture.

The Wayfarers Chapel

When people think about Lloyd Wright’s work in Southern California, they normally think of one of his signature homes, like the Sowden House or the Derby House. If not that, they think of the Hollywood Bowl. In my opinion, one of his greatest contributions to Southern Californian architecture, is the Wayfarer Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes.

A few Sundays ago, I finally “bit the bullet” and drove down to Palos Verdes to visit the now iconic chapel. Some of you, in my age bracket, might remember this location from the season finale of Season 1 of The O.C.a0107674_162476

This marvel of modern architecture was one Lloyd Wrights most ambitious projects. The so-called “Glass Church”, was mostly built out of crystal and redwood. Many of the materials were locally sourced, a concept pioneered by his father in the early 1920s and promoted by Lloyd Wright in many of his later projects.

The church stands a top an ocean-side cliff with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean. Just a few steps away from the main altar you can marvel at breathtaking panoramic vistas that sprawl across both sides of the Chapel. Here, a panoramic shot I took while I was visiting last week:IMG_4594

While the grounds are absolutely beautiful, and the views unlike anything you’ve ever seen, the insides of the Chapel are the true pièce de résistance.

In the most true Lloyd Wright style, the Church is designed around a series of geometric features including circles, triangles, and rectangles. There is so much symbolism attached to these mathematical figures, that an entire book in the likes of The DaVinci Code could be written around the secret meaning of geometric design in the Wright’s work.


In the same way Lloyd Wright was often commissioned to build additions for many of his father’s projects, some years ago, Eric Lloyd Wright, son of Lloyd Wright, was responsible for building a visitor center, and addition to the Chapel built by his father. Both building follow his father’s design in the truest sense imaginable and blend seamlessly with the landscape and the original structures.

The undeniable mark of a true Lloyd Wright is the perfect dovetailing of interior and exterior, the blending of nature into the design, and the honest belief that we are borrowing the land and resources from the Earth to contribute and enhance the existing landscape. In none of Lloyd Wright’s work is this more true than in the Wayfarer Chapel.



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