Architecture

Case Study House #1 and JR Davidson

This is part of an ongoing series on the Case Study Houses, their designers and influences. For information about the Case Study Houses, see previous articles or follow this link[1]. You can find books illustrating these houses in the Associate Store as well as a recommendation for the Taschen publication on Mid Century Modern Groovy.

The first Case Study House was designed by Julius Ralph Davidson. Davidson was born in Berlin in 1889 and died in California in 1977. He had no formal training in architecture, picking up skills apprenticed to architectural firms in Germany, England and France. He came to Los Angeles in 1923, and after a brief stint in Chicago, returned to California to remain until his death. Early on, due to his apprenticeships, Davidson was influenced by the British Arts and Crafts Movement and gained invaluable experience as a draftsman for a company specializing in cabinetry for boat interiors.

Case Study House #1, J. R. Davidson, 1948 (Photo by Larry Underhill)

In spite of this house listed as #1, it was not completed until 1948, with Davidson’s #11 finished in 1946. Davidson designed three Case Study Houses, #1, #11 and #15.

California was a fertile ground for the modernist movement in commercial as well as residential architecture due to the demographic changes of populations moving to the west and southwest especially after World War II. Of course, Florida must also be included in this architectural movement. Vast tracts of land were converted to the suburban sprawl so familiar today in most areas of the US and Canada.

Europe was a different kettle of fish. The depressing and overwhelming effects on the populations of Europe led to large scale building, some of which sought to reject the past and look to the future, but required much restoration and rebuilding, especially infrastructure. Europe, in general, did not have large, open areas of land available for development. Many of the artists and architects fled the onslaught of the war to the Americas, in particular the United States, which after the war had a vibrant, free economy, full of opportunities and excitement. Germany, for instance, did not officially complete rebuilding until the 1980s.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Case Study House Program is the emphasis on the small house, usually around two bedrooms. Never has the design world given so much attention to such residences, some of which neglect the large family in favor of the couple or couple with one or two children. In terms of design, the Case Study House designers ironically looked to International Style rather than an American interpretation, most likely because so many designers had landed on American shores.

These houses also led to a marvelous array of modernist furniture, object and landscape design. Not just content with creating the surrounding structure, these designers sought to design the objects in them. Many familiar designs still in use today come from the Case Study House designers.

Unlike future houses, Case Study House #1 is a wood framed building. The use of steel framing became part of the utilitarian standardization of housing construction that would prevent costly increases in building houses. Unfortunately, the standardization, as well as the open floor plans, did not necessarily result in reduced costs. Except in terms of office and commercial buildings, the use of steel never caught on among the public and with the developers, in particular.

Davidson’s house introduced floor to ceiling windows and sliding glass doors that allow access to the outside at multiple points. Open floor plans, multi-use rooms, a minimum of hallways and a flat roof, all part of the major features of a Case Study House, were introduced in #1. The house is around 1100 sq. ft. (not including the garage) with two bedrooms, two baths and a kitchen. Walls inside the house are basically partitions that do not provide load bearing support. Continuous trusses span the widths of the structure, relieving the need for support in the interior.

As a side note: The first submission called CSH #1 was never built and can be seen at this link:

http://www.artsandarchitecture.com/case.houses/pdf01/01.pdf.

 

Floor Plan of CSH #1

Case Study House #1 by J. R. Davidson, 1948

Case Study House #1 by J. R. Davidson, 1948

 

Case Study House #1 by J. R. Davidson, 1948 (Drawing from Arts and Architecture)

 

Case Study House #1 by J. R. Davidson, 1948

Case Study House #1 by J. R. Davidson, 1948 (Drawing from Arts and Architecture)

 

 

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Case Study House #11 floor plan by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

 

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

 

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Front Entrance

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Interior

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Interior

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Showing the innovation of radiant heating is not new.

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Kitchen

 

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Interior

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Interior

Case Study House #11 by J. R. Davidson, 1946 (Now Demolished)

Bedroom

CSH #15 designed by Davidson can be found here: http://www.artsandarchitecture.com/case.houses/pdf01/15.pdf

 

CSH #15 by J. R. Davidson, 1947

 

Link to the unbuilt CSH #1.

 

Unbuilt CSH #1 by J. R. Davidson, 1945

J. R. Davidson was an amazing architect and as one can see, many of the ideas promoted by the Case Study House Program find a creative outlet from the designs of Davidson, receiving further elaboration by the steel frame designers of the next decade.

Here is a link to a page on Curbed that includes some information on J. R. Davidson and the unfortunate demise of his Kingsley residence:

http://la.curbed.com/tags/jr-davidson


Kingsley Residence, J R Davidson, 1947. (Original photograph by Julius Shulman of the interior.)

These are a couple of videos about the Case Study Houses, Part 1 includes a brief look at CSH #11:

HBosler

http://www.midcenturymoderngroovy.com

self-portrait-in-red200.jpg

Self-Portrait in Red

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] “Case Study Houses – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 5 Jan. 2016 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_Study_Houses>

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One thought on “Case Study House #1 and JR Davidson

  1. Pingback: California history, marketed as a teardown home | eats shoots 'n leaves

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