A sumptuous 440 page visual record of this southern Californian house design program. It is a big book (at a BIG price) weighing TWELVE POUNDS and the landscape format opens up spreads thirty-four inches wide, beatifully printed with English, German and French text.
Each of the thirty-six houses is covered in the same way with:
1 A short introduction by editor Smith
2 The relevant editorial copy from Arts & Architecture magazine about the house.
3 Photos, plans, diagrams, illustrations. Lots of the photos are by the brilliant Jules Shulman and I doubt you will see them this big anywhere else.
4 Colour photos of the house today.
Some of houses only have a spread or two (the unbuilt ones) while others have several spreads, Pierre Koenig's famous Stahl House (#22) has twenty pages. I was intriqued by a photo on one of these, it shows the living room with a small table on which are the obligatory selection of magazines, two of these are 'America', the Russian language publication put out in the sixties by the US Information Agency, were these on display when the house was open to the public or did Shulman put them there just for the photo session?
I have given this glorious book only four stars because it is not as complete as it should be, the focus is very narrow, essentially a visual history of the Study Houses and that's it! What is missing is any historical and contemporary background and surely the reason the whole project was important was the influence it had on other architects, house builders, planners, the public and manufactures.
To get a perspective you will have to get Elizabeth Smith's earlier book 'Blueprints for Modern Living' published in conjunction with an exhibition in Los Angeles in 1989-1990. As the sub-title to the book says: 'History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses' I found this a marvellous book telling me every thing I wanted to know, though there are only forty-two pages of text and photos on the actual houses. It is a pity that a lot of the information in the remaining 214 pages was not included in this huge volume.
Now that I have the book, where will I put it, who makes bookcases over sixteen inches deep anyway? Maybe I'll just leave it on a table. I bet it will soon pop up in those house interior photos you see in glossy magazines where folk have piles of large art books neatly arranged on their coffee tables, the cover with its black and white diagonal design will make it very visible.