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The New Frontier: 1960

The New Frontier: 1960

May 9, 1960. A landmark image in the history of modern architecture: Julius Shulman's nighttime shot of Ann Lightbody and Cynthia Murfee in Case Study House No. 22, the Stahl residence in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Architect: Pierre Koenig. The photo, taken with a Swiss-made Sinar 4x5 view camera, is a double exposure: Seven minutes for the background, then a flash shot for the interior, the house lights having been replaced with flashbulbs. There's a fascinating account of the image at Taschen, where you can order a book on the Case Study houses. View full size | L.A. Mag article.

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Oh My Goodness! This house looks like the party pad for Shag and Rian Hughes! It's like seeing their artwork come alive. I will be going to Taschen to learn the history of these Case Study Houses. How wonderful.

Case study: lighting

The major part of the drama of this shot is the impression it gives of the house being suspended considerably out past the edge of a precipice of coronary-inducing height. Other photos from different angles, both then and now, and of course Google and Live Search aerial and bird's-eye views show that this really isn't the case; it's only a rather gentle slope that starts not all that far below the supporting member. Note: this is not a criticism, quite the contrary.

Videos of the Stahl house

There are several videos of the Stahl house on youtube. (I used Case Study 22 as a search term.) Several of the windows around the pool are indeed sliding doors. There's now a ledge along the overhang portion, so the glass can be washed... but only by someone who is not afraid of heights. I don't know if the ledge was part of the original design. The Taschen article (which I cannot currently access) talks about how parts of the project were unfinished at the time of the photo shoot.

Philip Johnson's Glass House

for Craig F: There IS such a house in cold-weather CT... Philip Johnson's famous "Glass house"...

... which predates this Koenig house by about 10 years. I don't know how much time he spent in it during the winter but Johnson did live in his glass house for a time.

The Doors

I just love these series of Modern photos you've been hosting. Absolutely brilliant.

Those "windows" aren't I don't think. They're huge two panel sliding doors it looks to me. One door is closest to the camera and the other is behind the woman on the chair and it's open. The ground seems to be level with the door right there. Scary, but what a view! It's too bad such a house could never be anywhere where winter reared its ugly head. The design and the construction just couldn't take it.


Well it's a stunning house with a spectacular view but I don't think I would feel safe perched on the edge of a cliff in earthquake-prone LA.

Practical question

Hate acknowledge the housekeeper part of me, but how did they ever wash the windows on the outside? No place to put a ladder, and the roof overhang is too wide to come down from above.

Ahhhh, the view

Architecturally very simple--almost minimalist because obviously, the view is everything. What a panorama!!


Make me a martini while I put on some Burt Kaempfert. Absolutely I am there. Well in my dreams, anyway.


I thought the four by six foot windows in my guest house were big, but these are huge. You just don't see windows that big these days.

[Certainly not in my guest house. - Dave]

I think I was there for this!

There, just behind the potted plant and out of camera range in my smoking jacket with my pipe...I wish! I really love the early 60s stuff you have on here so much! Heck, I love it ALL ... keep up the good work, Dave, as it's now official -- I'd never make it through the day without my Shorpy fix!

Flash fun

I love stories like this one. Sometimes all it takes is a photographer looking outside of the usual photo setup to see something new. I've been a commercial photographer for almost 30 years and I've always loved architectural projects ( This house must have been a dream AND a nightmare to shoot. The view really makes it work but lighting through all that glass is a study in madness!

One thing we used to LOVE to do was take those big, screw-in flashbulbs that they mentioned in the story and screw them into fixtures of unsuspecting friends. Bear in mind, these bulbs are as big as a 100w bulb and when they go off, it's like a controlled explosion. Childish? Sure. Fun? You bet!!

Case Study Houses

I'd never seen this picture or heard about these houses until you made a reference a day or two ago to the famed picture of this house. I had to Google it, but it's nice to see it here and be able to zoom in on it. What an amazing picture. Thanks for including the info on how he took it--I don't know much about photography, and never would have guessed that's how he achieved the shot. It's pretty amazing it worked on the first try. (At least, no one mentions subsequent tries in the linked article!)


I've seen this photo in color, too -- is it possible to post that version as well? Thanks so much for introducing me to the work of Julius Shulman -- I'm really enjoying it!

[There is no color version of this photo with the girls. - Dave]

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