Only three of the Arts & Architecture Case Study Houses were built outside Los Angeles, and those three formed a united concept. The Triad Houses in La Jolla, a seaside suburb of San Diego, share a single driveway, motor court, and design vocabulary, while being created to meet different needs.
In keeping with the Case Study mission, all three houses used open-plan design, affordable modern materials (such as aluminium and concrete with wood frames), and plenty of glass to create a fresh and open mood. The emphasis was on strong geometric forms, careful detailing, horizontal lines (with perfectly flat roofs) and – this being the Californian coastline – dramatic views and outdoor living space, creating the illusion of more interior space than was actually present.
One striking feature of the Triad designs was the reflecting pools and planting at the entrances, serving both to soften the stark rectangular facades and to enhance the drama of the landscape – which included views of the other houses – when looking out. House A, the largest and most formal of the houses, also has the largest such pool, occupying the area between the two wings of the U-shaped house. White concrete stepping stones lead across the water to the front door, providing a marked sense of occasion to every entrance.
Once through the front door, the same precast white concrete flooring, flanked by smaller reflecting pools and glass walls, extends the outdoor experience into the entry hall. Behind a screening wall (re-sawn redwood, to match the outdoor cladding), the living room offers spectacular views towards the sea. The far wall of floor-to-ceiling glass is interrupted only by a white concrete pillar for the fireplace; and moreover, the glass extends around the left wall too, opening onto a semi-enclosed terrace that wraps around to connect with the master bedroom.
From this terrace, it is possible to look right through the bedroom and bathroom, which features yet another glass wall, to an enclosed sunbathing terrace. This master bathroom with its bold glass side sports dramatic flourishes such as a sunken tub – with Pomona Laurel Leaf tiles, to create patterned reflections in the water – and walnut cabinets, suspended from a mirrored wall.
The right wing is formed by the family space: a kitchen leading to a “snack area” and three children’s bedrooms, sharing a bathroom (compartmentalized for maximum privacy) and each opening onto the outside play area. This use of outdoor space to extend the living area, not just visually but practically, is consistent with many other Case Study designs and by now, synonymous with modern California style.
All the Triad houses had high ceilings and made ample use of full-length glass walls and sliding doors, with quality finishes providing a sense of luxury. More than any of those details, though, it is the indoor-outdoor circulation, the ample light (and views!) that made these houses so aspirational, and that along with the rest of the Case Study designs had such a profound influence on mid-century desires. Take a walk through Archilogic’s cardboard-inspired 3D model – this is still the way we want to live: a relaxed, glamorous style that seems to promise ample time to enjoy its pleasures.