Case Study House #21 is the second of the two Case Study houses Janey and I tracked down during our recent trip into LA. Built along a winding, narrow street in the Laurel Canyon area, Case Study House #21 is generally considered one of the most successful Case Study Houses. For a refresher on the Case Study House program, there is a small introduction in my first post on Case Study House #25.
Architect Pierre Koenig was commissioned by psychologist Walter Bailey and his wife in 1957 to design a small home for the childless couple. Koenig would use Case Study House #21 to develop ideas and techniques he would later use in the what is considered the most famous Cast Study House, the Stahl House, such as concentrating all the bathrooms and water heater in the center of the house to divide the public and private space, as well as the use of prefabricated steel framing and floor to ceiling glass.
The house is in remarkable condition but it wasn’t always that way. In 1969 the Baileys relocated and subsequent owners remodeled the house several times, adding skylights, a fireplace, and a new center island kitchen. Eventually the house was bought by Matrix producer Dan Cracchiolo and he commissioned Koenig to restore the house to its original state. Restoration took over a year, twice as long as the original construction and included reconstructions of some of the original custom furniture.
Eventually Cracchiolo would sell the house to fellow producer Michael LaFetra, who shortly after buying the house received a call from Koenig saying “Hello, this is Pierre, your architect, and I want to talk.” Koenig told LaFetra “he ought not to have to change anything in the house but, if he needed to, he should get in touch with him.”
Eventually the two would register the house as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument before it was sold to art collector in 2006 for over $3 million.
The house features five reflecting pools with a custom circulation system that allows the water to cascade back down from the roof. There are no overhangs to regulate sun and heat but instead the North-South orientation of the house helps regulate the temperature with the help of a few well placed sun shades.
Case Study House #21 is generally considered one of the most successful of the program due its it extreme simplicity, modern feel and very affordable cost. It as built on site in about six months for $20,000, about $168,000 today, making it one of the most affordable Case Study Houses. The design was simple enough that it could have been recreated easily.