What would Craig Ellwood do today?

29/03/2011 | birgitklauck

BA WP 1.1.6 Entwerfen Stegreif (Design) [als Stegreif im Diplomstudiengang]
3 LP (2 SWS)
Advisors: Birgit KlaucK

A short design exercise based on the Case Study Houses program, which were experiments in American residential architecture. The design seminar is part of the ISLANDS ARE FOREVER series.


The Case Study Houses program was a design-build-publication program sponsored by the influential californian periodical Arts & Architecture.

arts and architecture mag.com

After World War II a few young american creatives and designers dedicated themselves in the making of a modern periodical which covered news about art, architecture and music and at the same time propagated new ideas in residential design. In an unprecedented youthful enthusiasm they initiated the Cases Study House program and were responsible for the first eight houses.

As such the magazine helped many young architects like Richard Neutra, R.M. Schindler, Charles Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Lautner, Craig Ellwood, Pierre Koenig and others to build their careers and to become recognized, almost all of them with low-cost, modern and efficient designs.


Craig Ellwood was one of the architects featured with 3 houses No CSH#16, CSH#17 and CSH#18 (see> houses). In Europe Craig Ellwood might not be as renowned as Charles Eames for example but in California he was an early architectural superstar. Although he had no academic training as an architect, he gained hands on experience in engineering during the war and because  of that he believed that he was  “never tied to standard detailing or inhibited from trying out new methods. Instead he was committed to new methods and materials”1 and he believed in the logic of the technique.

Armed with ambition, style and a seductive charm as well as an unmistaken eye for powerful designs he created buildings which evoked profound emotions – this was the case for both amateurs and professionals. The houses he designed within the CSH# program were distinguished for the masterful use of steel structures as well as for their meaningful formal approach. Accordingly the realization of CSH#16 to CSH#18 effected the direction to the further development of the program.

Apart from the elegant and efficient use of steel in the design of these houses, the transition from enclosed spaces to the open natural surrounding was a specific focus. Boundaries between inside and outside, between architecture and landscape dissolved. John Lautner, another architect featured by the CSH#program perfected this approach in his projects. Whereas Pierre Koenig addressed the integration of the house within the urban context – in doing so creating highly ambiguous spaces. Looking at the famous image of CSH#22 of Julius Shulman it almost seems as if the grid of the steel structure continues in the urban grid of Los Angeles. At the same time the setting of the house is such that it appears to float above the city and somehow withdrawn from urbanity.

The powerful images of Julius Shulman were seductive and fostered together with the Arts & Architecture periodicals the Modern Californian style, a desirable way of life for fashion-conscious urban dwellers.

1 – Blueprints for Modern Living : History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses edited by Elizabeth A. T. Smit.h p63.

case study houses 16 and 18 by Craig Ellwood


With this short design exercise we investigate contemporary sustainable architectural concepts. The task will be to design a shelter for one or more urban dwellers.

What do urban dwellers expect from houses today? How does a modern lifestyle affect popular design concepts. What could “sustainable” mean? Do new manufacturing methods affect building designs?
… are just a few questions raised.

achievement: plans, renderings, 3d models, presentation



WP – 1.1.6  Entwerfen // 3 LP


Please sign up in the list at the door of room A 611.


First meeting
Thursday, June 16 at 10 p.m. in studio A 204.


Dates (compulsory)
This design seminar will be held as a workshop.

Thu, June, 16 10 a.m. –  lecture + issuing of task
Thu, June, 23 –  desk crits
Thu, June, 30 10 a.m. –  final review

Course language is English.