Csh 21, La: Challenges and Innovations in Its Construction

Case Study House 21, LA. Challenges and Innovations in Its Construction

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The Case Study House 21 (Bailey House) epitomizes an icon in the Case Study program. It was implemented as a visionary project aimed at re-establishing the modern living that was implemented by John Entenza for arts and architecture magazine. After its completion in 1959, Arts and Architecture appreciated it as one of the immaculate imaginations in the development of the small contemporary house. It is pertinent to mention the development remains a vital global influence for architects. The purpose of this article is to explore the challenges and innovations experienced in building by the time Case Study House 21 was developed. In this case, the paper analyzes the condition of the building industry regarding the materials and technologies available for construction.

As mentioned, the establishment of the above program was envisioned as a response to the imminent building boom. The latter was expected to follow the great depression and World War II. Before Case Study House 21, there were few and . For this reason, Entenza requested the involved architects to utilize donated materials from the industry and manufacturers to develop cheap and modern housing prototypes. Before the implementation of the modular building techniques, the construction industry was faced with enormous challenges about design innovation. Among these barriers and constraints included manufacturing costs and varying dimensional requirements that hindered the transportation process (Koenig, 2000). By the time the prototype was constructed the biggest challenge was to develop a way of implementing steel that was standardized enough to be economical. However, architects identified that the feature had to go together with the desired quality and finish. It is essential to mention that various individual designs were established. However, they represented remarkable errors that posed challenges. For these prototypes, the primary challenge was the difficulty of duplication. It was asserted that each prototype house had to be easily duplicable. The notion meant that it was not supposed to be an individual performance. Additionally, the development of the program was faced with the challenge to affordability. The development of the ideal prototype was expected to have a practical assistance to an average American looking for a home he or she can afford to live (Dhir, et al., 2002).

The inflexibility of the steel framing enhanced disproportionate lateral stability at different points of the houses. Sandwiched steel decking walls were some of the techniques implemented in the designing process. These were pertinent because they facilitated insulation, implementation of pipes and wiring. Moreover, the architects pierced the roof over the utility core and bathroom. The action was essential because it enhanced the penetration of the core of the house with exterior components such as light, water, and plants. The step was essential because it provided a buffer between the living and sleeping spaces beside enhancing the natural feeling of the house. However, it is eminent to mention that the project experienced a setback. In this case, the public did not embrace the steel framing material (Verge, 1993). Additionally, the public experienced economic pressures that facilitated residential construction in a different way. The aim was to accommodate the merchant builders that work to deskill constructing tradesman and architects. Although they assumed that factory manufactured materials could be more economical than the wood framing, this was not the case. These are some notions that facilitated both social and economic obstacles in the building industry. The CSH21 incorporated the process of painting both walls and ceiling white. The architects also maintained the on the steel. Essentially, the moves were imminent because they enabled the developers to establish a visual emphasis on the structural frame (Koenig, 2000).

The CSH21’s ambiance of the finished house is defined by water that surrounds it like a shield. The introduction of the design introduced a new concept of water as a structural and landscape element. The aim of the design was to link the house to the landscape instead of separating it. The water aimed at reflecting and amplifying the clean lines of the completed structure. In fact, it contributed to the beauty and the serenity of the environment. As a result, the whole process implemented water as an integral designing material in the construction process. For this reason, the water provided a mirror-like quality that accommodated the changing moods of the clients. It is essential to identify that the architectural design used light as a pertinent natural element to impose reflections of both nature and architecture. Moreover, the water plays as a cooling agent, especially in the hot Los Angeles summer. It should be identified that during this era, some architects such as Koenig were ahead of their time by considering implementing natural ventilation as a design mechanism (Llinares-Millan, Fernandez-Plazaola & Hidalgo-Delgado, 2014).

More so, the period experienced eminent innovative tools in the building sector. One of the primary innovations included bathing facilities in the open courtyard in the central area of the house. Notably, the move was imminent because it facilitated the penetration of both air and light into the bathroom. Additionally, the stroke eradicated the need of imposing small windows on the bathroom’s exterior walls hence maintaining the sleek discretion of the exterior. Other innovations include the implementation of a fireplace and installation of a modern fashionable kitchen island. Various notions were implemented to show the innovative efforts in this architectural era. For instance, the expression of the simple box without overhangs expressed the simplicity and attractiveness of the rectangular designs (Verge, 1993). One of the primary goals of the Case Study Houses was to establish fully glazed North and South walls that would cover both the interior and exterior. From the architects’ perspective, the implementation of steel as the primary construction material was not only economical but provided a different living environment. It is because of this step that the plan for the latter was imposed. For instance, the Case Study House 21 facilitated the use of more glass materials to allow more light in the house. As a result, a better relationship between the interior and exterior was enhanced. Architects also implemented ponds around the perimeter of the houses (Dhir, et al., 2002). The action was effective because it allowed the house to look as if was floating. It is vital to identify that the reflections of the trees and the sky integrated on the water’s surface with pure boundaries of the house. The technological advancement and natural environments mingled to bring a good phenomenon. Arguably, the Case Study House 21 was the finest example of steel-framed houses. Moreover, it was an ultimate refinement of a developed simple family house (Koenig, 2000).

It is pertinent to assert that the World War II had a serious impact on the economy. Clearly, it affected different phases of the American life. For this reason, it needed unprecedented efforts to coordinate both strategy and tactics. Economically, the war ended the great depression and the military spending to foster military effort gave the nations an economic boost. Assertively, the end of the great depression made most Americans work as they sought to make money for weaponry purposes (Llinares-Millan, Fernandez-Plazaola & Hidalgo-Delgado, 2014). The cost plus a fixed fee initiative allowed Americans to work more. The pattern was eminent because the government guaranteed all development and production costs. Additionally, it paid a fixed percentage profit on the goods produced. Because of war, there were various disruptions at home. In fact, that made them start dealing with rationing issues like housing shortage. The problem affected many people who moved to the war-prone areas. Historically, the end of the 1930s was an era in which a large percentage of Americans were unemployed and lived in poverty. More so, the era experienced housing shortages in places where production was not severe such as California and Los Angeles. For this reason, most people who were not participating in the war decided to vacate these areas while evading the effects of the war (Verge, 1993).

People started migrating from war-prone areas and moved to other cities to find peaceful places. The large population influx facilitated housing shortages especially in port cities such as Los Angeles, Oakland and Richmond among others. It is important to note that the city governments were not prepared for such huge amount of new residents that needed housing and schools. They were also in need of medical care and running water. For this reason, the regions were overwhelmed as they required new constructions and solutions (Dhir, et al., 2002).

The problem of housing shortage was further heightened by the temporary structures that were implemented before. Although these were meant to relieve the problem of population growth, it turned into a menace as people struggled to live in them. For this reason, the poorest migrants including African-Americans and Mexicans occupied all these temporary houses. The nightmare of housing shortage was further worsened by housing discrimination and loan restrictions. The notion prevented most nonwhites from accessing housing. Therefore, the end of this period meant that a housing boom would be experienced because of the difficulties in the platform (Llinares-Millan, Fernandez-Plazaola & Hidalgo-Delgado, 2014).


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Koenig, G. (2000). Iconic LA: Stories of LA’s Most Memorable Buildings. New York: Balcony Press

Llinares-Millan, C., Fernandez-Plazaola, I. & Hidalgo-Delgado, F. (2014). Construction and Building Research. New York: Springer Science & Business Media

Rothstein, Mignon E. A Study of the Growth of Negro Population in Los Angeles and Available Housing Facilities between 1940 and 1946. University of Southern California.

Verge, A. C. (1993). Paradise Transformed: Los Angeles During the Second World War. New York: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company