Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Nature of Forces...

Structural Rationalism, minimalism, mid century modern, call it what you want, but Pierre Koenig's work stands alone as one of the truly great innovators and timeless masters of architecture and architectural theory. Koenig's own personal theory on architecture, as a discipline which is driven by and at the service of its context, manifested in what he called the 'Nature of Forces' laboratory (which was also a studio he taught @ USC) broke architectural design down to its most primitive elements, and showed us the power of not being in order to be. The constraints and opportunities of the site dictates a clear diagram and that diagram is immediately manifest in structure and space. Architecture is about the way we live, and life is an extension of our relationship with nature, so why not remove as much of the 'architecture' from the equation as we can so that we can cut to the chase and enjoy life?

We started with a not so typical beach house which fits Koenig's theory to the 't'. Perched on the upward sloping side of a street in the Palisades, the Schwartz House is lifted up from its siting and torqued to find the best views of the Pacific. Though not as warm feeling as the white painted steel and glass which typified is socal creations, the power of its logical expression is immediately recognizable and certainly sets it apart from its surroundings. Next we stopped off at Koenig's own residence in Brentwood to check out his own version of a stepped hillside retreat (albeit on a flat parcel of land) for the sake of opening interior space out into courtyards and gardens. His wife Gloria still resides in the house, and if you're lucky enough to catch up with her, she'll gladly talk to you about the house. A quick stop for lunch and then it was up to our final place of rest. Perched high above the city, Case Study House #22 is not only one of Koenig's finest works, but also one of Los Angeles' favorite sons. In as much as the city makes the house, the house also sort of made the city. By far the stand out icon for Mid Century Modern and more importantly SoCal Modern design, the rigors of Koenig's hands and Schulman's eyes helped make Southern California and Los Angeles as the posterchild for life lived as it should be. The original and still current owners, the Stahl family, graciously allowed our small gang of bicycle bandits to gaze at the city from a perspective that very few do. We posed like the two women in the photo, conjured images of 60s LA, and reminisced about all the history and fun the house has laid witness to. Its a stunning home, an incredible site, and an experience like none other.

A Case of Koenig Modern Photos

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