Up next, let’s take a look at a house that architect Rodney Walker never imagined would end up as part of the Case Study Program in the first place. Walker designed the house as his own family home, and it wasn’t discovered by Arts and Architecture editor John Entenza until a few years after it was built. But, when Entenza saw that the home characterized the same modern aesthetic that he hoped to promote with the Case Study project, he just had to include it.
Built on a 3.5 acre lot above Beverly Hills, Case Study House 16 became the most spacious of the program at just 2,000 square feet. Sliding panels and hanging screens divided the open living space into smaller areas, and Walker included builtin shelves and closed compartments for magazine storage in a library corner to maximize space. He also installed a 21foot light shelf with fluorescent tubing to illuminate the room, which added a dramatic touch of flair to the otherwise minimalist structure. The house came decked out with the most cuttingedge appliances of the day: a dishwasher and radiant heat.
Rodney Walker’s sons, Bruce and Craig Walker, both grew up in the home and share fond memories of the time they spent there. The brothers were devastated to learn that the house was demolished in the late 90s when they tried to visit, but instead of giving it up for lost, they decided to pay tribute to their father’s work by rebuilding the house not once, but twice. Today, there are two nearreplicas of Case Study House 16 in Southern California: in Camarillo, where Bruce lives, and in Ojai, where Craig later built his own duplicate.
Beyond the fact that two brothers built themselves the same house, what’s most unusual is that up until they started building, they had no idea that their father was an important figure in modern architecture.
Rodney Walker didn’t even call himself an architect. His sons remember “designerbuilder” as his preferred title, which reflected his passion for the physical act of building the homes he designed. Later on, when the American Institute of Architects offered to give him the honorary title of architect, he respectfully turned them down.
Part of the reason the brothers knew so little about their father’s architecture was that he never talked about it. In an interview with the LA Times, Craig said, “He never saw himself as influential, never hobnobbed with those big names like Pierre Koeing. He wasn’t self-promoting”
Walker didn’t keep any of his architectural plans, and other than the articles written about his three homes chosen for the Case Study Program, he left behind no written record of his work. When his sons took on the challenge of rebuilding their childhood home, they had nothing to go on but memory.
But, just as Craig was about to start building his replica, the brothers had a stroke of luck. By doing some detective work, they discovered a house their father built in Louisville, KY. Bruce and his wife went to go check it out, and while they were driving around an area they thought it might be, there it was: another duplicate of Case Study 16. Their father left a set of his plans with the original owner, who still lived there, and she gladly turned them over.
Bruce and Craig say they didn’t rebuild Case Study 16 for sentimental value, or because it was part of the Case Study program. They built it because it perfectly met their needs. Their father’s thoughtful approach to design embraced “on trend” in smart measure, with an emphasis on modular construction and simple geometry. The house is as practical today as was when it was first built, and is a testament to good design that stands the test of time.
Jane Patton received a B.A. in journalism from Columbia College, and studied graphic design in the continuing studies program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She grew up in Southern California, and is a passionate enthusiast and collector of Mid-Century art and furniture.
Yes, you can now have your very own, brand spanking new, freshly-built house designed by mid-century modern master Richard Neutra--the Neutra Office (and Neutra's son Dion, a partner) has teamed up with the California Architecture Conservancy to offer the architect's plans for license. According to a press release, "For the price of what one would customarily pay for an architect to design and render supervising architectural services, you can build one of the mid-century modernist master's works of art and have Dion Neutra and the Neutra Office supervise the construction." Two of the designs available are Neutra's unbuilt houses for Arts & Architecture's Case Study House program--Alpha (number 13) and Omega (six).
Fancy brokerage The Agency, which has been getting into all kinds of interesting territory lately, is handling marketing and sales for the project; partner Billy Rose says "Our clients have long coveted and wished to acquire 'Neutras' and homes from the Case Study House Program." Meanwhile, some of the fees involved in the licensing will go toward preservation and "effort[s] to support and foster" great architecture (although no specifics on that yet).
Neutra, in case you don't know, is one of the biggest names in American modernist architecture: "Known for rigorously geometric yet airy structures, Neutra worked with a keen sensitivity towards blending 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." You can of course sometimes buy his already-built houses around Los Angeles.
· Richard Neutra Architectural Plans [The Agency]
· Richard Neutra Archives [Curbed LA]