Learning from Pierre Koenig
by Kevin Matthews
"It was my notion, when I started, to make anonymous architecture for ordinary people." — Pierre Koenig (1925 - 2004)
Ironically, the beautiful steel houses of Pierre Koenig, with their stunning, frank simplicity, graceful proportions, and sunny, contextually attuned openness, could hardly expect anonymity in an American landscape of neocolonial, neoclassical, and neovernacular norms.
Following on such earlier Los Angeles examples as the 1922 Kings Road House by Rudolph Schindler, and the 1929 Lovell "Health House" by Richard Neutra, Koenig's steel houses were a significant contribution to post-World War II modernism.
Going beyond the relatively precious purity of the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or the Glass House by Philip Johnson, the minimalist steel house in the hands of Koenig became a practical statement about modern living.
Koenig's houses were popularized through photographer Julius Shulman's powerful images, first published in Art and Architecture magazine's Case Study Houses program. Expressing the dynamic strength of steel, with open plans for casual living, combined with graceful adaptation to indoor/ outdoor living in the benign coastal climate of Southern California, they made a lasting mark on the popular imagination. >>>
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Pierre Koenig with a design student at the University of Southern California.
Photo: Courtesy USC News Service
Rendering of the Bailey House, also known as Case Study House #21, by Pierre Koenig.
Image: David Owen
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