The making of an icon

Case Study Houses. An interview with Julius Shulman, Pierre Koenig, Buck and Carlotta Stahl, Cynthia Tindle and Ann Lightbody

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The people who participated in that legendary photograph (below right) met up again at the same place in 2001: Julius Shulman, Pierre Koenig, Buck and Carlotta Stahl (on the patio from left to right) together with Cynthia Tindle and Ann Lightbody (in the living room). Mary Melton of LA Magazine conducted the interview.

CARLOTTA STAHL: Every weekend kids would be up here, cars were parked up here-we knew what they were up to. We've always maintained that this was meant to be our lot, because we came over one day to see it, and guess who was here? The owner. He had driven in from La Jolla, and he was thinking about selling it. He said, "I'll make it easy. I'll carry the loan."We set on a price, $13,500.We had friends and family who just didn't understand us-"Why are you doing this? You can buy a nice three-bedroom home for that price, or even less."

BUCK STAHL: Even my father said l was crazy.

CARLOTTA STAHL: It took us four years to get it paid off. In the Sunday papers, there used to be a section called the Pictorial, with everything pertaining to homes. We saw one of Pierre Koenig's works. At the same time, we saw Craig ElIwood's work. Buck called both of them, and three other architectural firms, to take a look. It was definitely Pierre. Some of the others didn't understand, because Buck kept saying, "l don't care how you do it, there's not going to be any walls in this wing." We didn't want to lose any view anywhere.

BUCK STAHL: Several architects looked at the lot and said it's just impossible to do it.

PIERRE KOENIG: In class l was interested in steel, and my instructor said, "No, Pierre, you can't use steel on a house. It's an industrial material, and housewives wouldn't like it." For No. 22, the site was terrible. Nobody could build on it. I was trying to solve a problem. The client had champagne tastes and a beer budget.

CARLOTTA STAHL: We didn't have the foggiest notion you could build with steel in homes. We figured that was for industrial buildings. l have friends who say, "Why don't you have some walls where you hang pictures?" And I say, "I've got a picture out there that is perfect."

KOENIG: We've got to shoot, we've got to publish, we've got to go to press. On Monday morning this has got to be done. Half the stuff isn't done, it's a bare yard, the furniture was supposed to be there Friday. l called Van Keppel-Green, who were bringing the furniture. "Where's the truck?" "We're working on it, we're tracing it now, but we have to stop at five o'clock because that's the end of the day." l said, "Give me the number, I've got to have that furniture."
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Julius Shulman, Pierre Koenig, Buck and Carlotta Stahl (on the patio from left to right)
Pierre Koenig: Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, California