Nestled in the verdant seaside hills of the Pacific Palisades in southern California, the Entenza House is the ninth of the famous Case Study Houses built between 1945 and 1962. With a vast, open-plan living room that connects to the backyard through floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, the house brings its natural surroundings into a metal Modernist box, allowing the two to coexist as one harmonious space.
Like its peers in the Case Study Program, the house was designed not only to serve as a comfortable and functional residence, but to showcase how modular steel construction could be used to create low-cost housing for a society still recovering from the the Second World War. The man responsible for initiating the program was John Entenza, Editor of the magazine Arts and Architecture. The result was a series of minimalist homes that employed steel frames and open plans to reflect the more casual and independent way of life that had arisen in the automotive age.
One of the houses built under the program was to be used by Entenza himself. His project was taken on by industrial designer Charles Eames and architect Eero Saarinen, a pair that had already worked collaboratively for years. Eames would design a house not only for Entenza, but for his own family as well; this house, Case Study House #8, would be sited on the same 1½ acre lot as Entenza’s #9.
The two houses shared more than a site. Each house’s frame was composed of the same structural elements: four-inch H-columns supporting twelve-inch open web joists. This structural system allowed the Entenza House to enclose as much space as possible within a minimal frame. The roof above the house is a simple concrete slab, finished with birch strips covering the soffits. Only four of the steel columns are exposed within the house, while the rest are hidden within the walls.
The dominant feature of the Entenza House is its vast, open-plan living room. Almost half the house is given over to it, the intention being to create a versatile public gathering space which could host either a party of almost forty people, or a gathering of only half a dozen. A large fireplace divides the room into both a wide, uninterrupted space and a more intimate one, providing accommodation for groups of either size. This ability to entertain varying numbers of guests was a primary driver behind the design of the house, thanks to the particular professional requirements of Entenza’s journalistic career.
The living room, already a full 36 feet wide, was made to feel even larger by the installation of floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors along the length of the rear wall. The entire rear facade was glazed, connecting the interior space of the living room to the expansive backyard patio. From within the living room, one could see the Pacific Ocean framed by the narrow mullions of the windows and, further away, the trees dotting the backyard.
Aside from the living room, the Entenza House comprises a dining room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a study. In stark contrast to the open and airy living room, the study was specifically requested by Entenza to be entirely closed, with no windows to invite distractions from the outside world.
It is difficult not to make comparisons between the Eames and Entenza Houses; that the two sit within such close proximity of each other makes it almost inescapable. Beyond their shared structural typology, the two houses take radically different approaches to its application. The Eames House is, above all, a celebration of structure – the steel framework was on open display throughout the entire building.
In subtle contrast, the Entenza House makes almost no overt reference to its structural system. Most of the framework is hidden, with the effect that attention is focused on space and views instead of the building itself. It seems likely that Saarinen’s influence was responsible for this more architectural form of design, distinguishing the collaborative effort from Eames’ independent work on his own home next door.
Entenza lived in his Case Study home for only five years after its completion in 1949. Since that time it has been purchased and inhabited by a series of different owners, each of whom has made their own alterations to the original design. While its neighbor the Eames House has become the headquarters for the Eames Foundation, to this day the Entenza House remains a private residence.
This month’s interactive 3D floor plan shows a simple and beautiful steel frame structure designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. The Case Study House Program, initiated by John Entenza in 1945 in Los Angeles, was conceived to offer to the public models of a low cost and modern housing.
- Architects: Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen and Associates
- Location: Los Angeles, United States
- Architect: Eero Saarinen
- Engineer: Edgardo Contini
- Area: 1600.0 ft2
- Project Year: 1949
 Curtis, William. Modern Architecture Since 1900. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1982. p405.
 McCoy, Esther. Case Study Houses, 1945-1962. Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, Inc., 1977. p54.
 Koenig, Gloria. Charles & Ray Eames. Köln: TASCHEN GmbH, 2005. p41.
 McCoy, p54.
 Koenig, p42-43.
 McCoy, p55.
 Koenig, p43.
The photographs presented in this text of Case Study House No. 9 (Los Angeles, Calif.), 1950, have been reproduced from the J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute’s Julius Shulman Photography Archive. While reproduction has been granted, the copyright remains the property of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.