Case Study House No 26

Case Study #26, August 2015... exterior side view with its incredible roof line

Tucked away in the rolling hills of Marin County, California is a sleeping giant. The unassuming suburban neighborhood of Peacock Gap leads you to an asphalt driveway with a secret- a slope and a corner which reveals a beauty on the hill overlooking an eternity of oaks and redwoods, and the mountains which lead to the ocean... 

Built near the end of the program, this sweeping, complex, and elegant steel house is one of the renowned group of homes called Case Study. 

Case Study #26 was designed by architect Beverley David Thorne, aka David Thorne, in 1962. Currently at 90 years of age, Thorne is the last surviving Case Study architect.

Predominantly in Los Angeles, and running from 1945-1966, the Case Study program was born out of a desire to express creativity and explore modernism for the masses. Lead by editor John Entenza, who used some of his own money to fund the program, Case Study was sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine. The homes were also used as a way of advertising new methods and materials for residential architecture, such as steel, as well as demonstrating the ideal of architecture and its relationship to the environment.

Case Study architects include: A. Quincy Jones, Charles Eames, Craig Ellwood, Eero Saarinen, Pierre Koenig, Raphael S. Soriano, and Richard Neutra

Case Study #26, 1963, aka the Harrison House, was the only home in the program built in Northern California. It has never been on the market until this week. Original owner. Being in the presence of such brilliant architecture was truly awe inspiring.

Case Study Home #26

177 San Marino Drive, San Rafael, CA    asking $1,850,000 

4/2, 1,955 sf, 37,950 sf lot

Designed by Architect Beverley David Thorne, 1962

Original plans for 1,400 sf lower level available with home

Built 1962-63 by Bethlehem Steel 

carport, walls of glass, views, clerestory windows, 800 sf deck

home is intact with minor changes, extremely well maintained

Case Study #26, my first glimpse of this remarkable home

Case Study #26, 1963

back to 2015.... right edge of the carport with magnificent steel posts extended from roof line

original exterior lights, steel post & beam, douglas fir roof deck runs throughout the house- roof deck is made from 2"x6" boards standing on end and sistered together... it's extremely heavy!

Looking left towards the home you can see the two roofs with large clerestory windows creating a  double roof... stunning!

stepping back, looking at the roofs and view beyond

still standing in carport, looking to the right towards entrance

wide angle shot of entrance- aggregate stairs leading to entrance slider... all exterior doors are sliders (as it should be :)

from base of stairs looking up

entering through first slider and a sea of aggregate... heaven!

coming in through entrance slider- livingroom is behind me, kitchen is right, bedrooms are left

now turning around facing the back of the home- kitchen is on the left- looking towards the  entrance vestibule, eating area and kitchen

three floors in this home, the original aggregate is the best!

looking back towards entrance slider... there are several sliders here leading to the living room or kitchen

this eating area is just beyond the entrance and off the kitchen

Eating Area: this cut out was a *site change* decision. it brings in light, creates a drop ceiling effect which gives the eating area a more intimate feel

in the kitchen facing the back of the home. this is not the original, changed by the owner (original owner). looks to be fairly period correct, but probably changed in the 1970's to open up the space...

here's the original kitchen with walnut veneer cabinets... (from Arts and Architecture Magazine, January 1963))

looking back into the kitchen

and the original! (photo courtesy of Arts and Architecture, January 1963)

cool original AM/FM radio & multi-channel intercom in kitchen

little seating area, or second eating area, just off kitchen facing back of the home. Original owner had a wood burning stove here!

going out to the deck and looking back at kitchen with its mitered glass corner- there are two of these corners which were a *site change* when the architect saw the view from the home

turning to look down the massive 800 sf foot deck which runs the entire back length of the house. most rooms have a slider to the deck for maximum indoor/outdoor living. Interestingly, this is not original deck...

this is... wow, an 800 foot aggregate deck! that's what you can do with a steel structure (photo courtesy of Arts and Architecture, 1963)

another shot of the deck outside the kitchen with the second roof coming over

original Sullivan Porter slider door handle! all but one slider is original. Sliders are 8' x 10' and  were custom fabricated to fit between the steel posts.

going back inside, standing in the kitchen sitting area, looking towards dining area and living room

dining area ceiling

dining area from living room

standing in dining area looking into living room (book case is not original- was added later). Another fun fact- the aggregate floor to the right was one place where architect was going to put a spiral staircase if lower level was built...

lovely, original open fireplace

original light fixtures are throughout the home

fireplace from the side with a dropped roof above, makes an intimate space

living room facing the back of the home

living/dining facing the back of the home

living room's large clerestory windows where second roof flies over lower one

going around to the bedroom wing where there are 3- 10" x 10" kid's bedrooms and a Master at the end of the hall... this is one of the kid's rooms. All have sliders to deck, and the view!

ceiling detail in one of the bedrooms. this roof deck runs throughout the entire home. it's made of 2" x 6" Douglas Fir and White Fir boards on end, rough side showing and glued together, appears to have been lightly stained

stepping out of another kid's bedrooms, looking in from the deck

master bath with its inventive corner toilet. both bathrooms have the same fixtures

Master is the last & largest room. has corner window

wide angle shot of Master bedroom deck area & view

deck view from outside of Master

heading back outside to the lower right hand side on the home.. on the same level as the front slider

right side of home, exterior has what looks to be a stucco skim coat

stepping back... right side of the home with upper roof, steel and concrete pillars into hillside

walking back to the house noticing this awesome original door bell!

back next to the home near the kitchen slider... structure above and to the right is the carport

detail of steel near kitchen slider

heading back up the stairs, through the carport and to the driveway... this is where the stairway to the back yard is located (wide angle shot of stairs down to back)

going down the stairs you can see under the house. David Thorne excavated when the home was built in anticipation of the lower level being eventually constructed

back view of the home with a wide angle. lot is graded but mostly unlandscaped

dry, sun drenched earth with a dusting of oak leaves... very Northern CA! this is the back yard (please excuse the sideways orientation- editor is on the fritz :0) 

back view of Case Study #26

David Thorne visiting Case Study #26 in 2015   (photo courtesy of Kathi Elliott)

for you *enthusiasts* out there... some additional historic photos of the home

plans of the home (photo courtesy of David Thorne)

original elevation drawing with proposed lower 1,400 sf level (photo courtesy of David Thorne)

elevation drawing of home as built (photo courtesy of David Thorne) 

Harrison family snapshot of home as it was being built (photo courtesy of Harrison Family and Kathi Elliott)

house construction- Bethlehem Steel worker, 1962-63 (photo courtesy of David Thorne)

steel frame of Case Study #26 (photo courtesy of David Thorne, Bethlehem Steel)

original brochure (photo courtesy of Arts and Architecture, January 1963)

one more view of newly constructed Case Study #26, 1963 (photo courtesy of Arts and Architecture, January 1963)



**all photos by Suzanne Dunn, The Glass Box unless otherwise noted. Please do not re-post without photo credit and permission. Thank you!!**




Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any realtor or real estate brokerage. I am not a general contractor or home inspector. I am an Mid Century Modern homeowner with 15 years of renovation experience. Observations on homes are my own and are made during a walk through viewing. Buyers should obtain their own inspection by a qualified home inspector before purchase.



















TheStudy Housesprogramwas launchedin January1945.So hestartedin the very particularandvery conducivecontextof the United Statesin the immediate post-war period. A man, John Entenzawasable to seethat it wasa key moment. Hewas able to takethe lead inmaximizing its benefits. This context andthe personality ofthe latterare the elements thatmade ​​the successof the program.

Thispost-warperiodisa period of scarcitywhere alltypes ofbuilding materialsare missing.Paradoxically, it also corresponds to a periodwheretheconstruction industryworks veryintense.This intensityis explained by thelong period of inactivitythat preceded it.

On the one handdue to the economiccrisis of 1929,thebuilding activityis veryslowthroughout thethirties.
On the other hand, the war of 39-45marks acomplete and totaloutputanybreakpoint.All economic activityisorientedtothe « war effort » moment. Therewas thenvery littleopportunitéesconstructionexcept forpurely utilitarianbuildingstructures…

During all these years, and especially during the war , there has been a great technological development and many progress. These new technologies will finally be tested and applied to the building , so for example :
– New plastics make possible the construction of homes using panels and translucent screens .
– The invention and use of arc welding allows for welding of such quality that they can finally be exposed indoors .
– Improvement of synthetic resins, which make them more resistant than natural resins, serves to seal and develop jointings adapted to new light building panels .
– The emergence of new adhesives coming from the aviation industry allows the development of a wide variety of new composite materials .

Finally, the construction period was not slowed mean a total shutdown of architectural production . On the contrary, the period between the wars saw a multitude of flower theoretical projects . All its potientalités will finally be able to know a realization . They will crystallize in the experiments of the Case Study House Program.


JohnEntenza, a criticengaged…

John Entenza is the man who has by his editorial work and critical to all these reflections to emerge . It opened a whole experimental area .

Entenza began the publication of the  » Arts and Architecture  » magazine in 1938. Context Californian has certainly always been in favor of Modern Architecture . But it is necessary at the time to communicate through a media suppport to the general public. It is thus promote an understanding of new approaches to construction of individual houses emerged during the postwar period . The magazine has become the indisputable leader to win public acceptance of a good design and work on architectural quality . Entenza is who was the initiator.
Essentially teacher, he is convinced that all living with architecture , work on the quality of the built environment affects us all. It keeps a democratic faith in the ability of the public to understand qualitative work on our built environment when making an effort to submit it .

In 1944, he has a good idea of the course will take the modern architecture after the war. The weather is favorable for experimentation. Potential customers have never been so many …
Indeed, the low housing production during the years of depression has led to a shortage of housing that is deeply felt at the end of the war.
In addition, there is a real work to be done because some potential customers are already thinking about the time in terms of house key in hand . Moreover, the term  » Architecture  » seems a big word for families who want , in an emergency, fit comfortably and economically .
While the West Coast has always been a great place for experimentation and innovation in contemporary architecture ; Entenza sees the risk that the architectural quality of the houses built regresses due to the strong post-war production. It is indeed to be feared and that the quality is up to the quantity …

It certainly there has customers who can wait patiently for the architect completes the plans , which are in a demanding approach to architectural quality . It is also at this time that sponsorship organizations can fund experimental work.
But Entenza to realize that despite all many existing innovative ideas on the drawing board or in the minds of designers may not be able to materialize and be permanently lost.

History of the program…

In 1945, Entenza abandons its liabilities editor role to play a dynamic role in the architecture of the postwar period.
He committed eight agencies including the magazine  » Arts and Architecture  » becomes the client. Each of these agencies is responsible for the design of a house. Thus begins the program will continue after the departure of Entenza magazine in 1962. The Case Study House Program ends in 1967 to stop the publication of  » Art and Architecture » .

The success and longevity of the program is due to its simplicity. The only stated goal is the development of an environment of well-being without any ideological bias. Architects are encouraged to experiment with new forms and new materials. But the materials should not be used or only selected according to their objective qualities . There is no question of using a material only because it is new .
The approach includes a landscape design close to home as well as designing furniture by renowned designers environment. During the first three years of the program , six houses are fully completed , furnished and landscaped and open to the public .

Approximately 500,000 people visit the first dozen houses . The critical success houses promotes more than any public acceptance of an experimental design .

Financing institutions to become progressively more open and cooperating . Banks are gradually fund contemporary homes . It should be noted that up to this time they refused fairly systematically fund houses with glass walls, open without dining room , kitchen facing the street, a flat roof and concrete slab floor plans; convinced that it was a risky investment without resale value … However, all the houses of « Case Study House Program » were excellent investments and they prove their resale prices …

In the 50s , after 13 houses either completed the program continues at the rate of one house per year. Selected architects are usually young and little known outside of Southern California . Koenig and Ellwood authors of five projects in two of them have both barely thirty when they are asked to design a Case Study House . Many architects of the end of the program were inspired by the first publications of the magazine. Koenig and decided to study architecture after the interest inspired him reading the newspaper .

By throwing a look at the achievements of the program over the last eleven years Entenza takes stock of the Case Study Houses program :

“ We like to think that these houses have been responsible for some remarkably lucid thinking in terms of domestic architecture. While it is true that not all have been every man’s dream cottage, they have, nevertheless had a demonstrably wide influence in the sound use of new materials and in re-use of the old, and had attempted, with considerable success, to suggest contemporary living patterns. »

The analysis of thesedocuments allowus to identifythree distinct periodsin the program ofthe Case Study Houses:

1945-1950 , the program proved its worth.
In those first years , priority is given to the economics of the projects . In these early years of the program of Case Studies, 13 houses were built and 7 projects presented. The period begins in 1945 with the announcement of the program and ends with the completion of the house of Eames and Saarinen for Entenza .
All the architects of this period are already confirmed and recognized professionals. They each have a personal style already widely proven …
Any houses built during this period, that of Eames and Saarinen was the first to play with the layout and structure. It is also the first in the program to focus on the use of industrial materials and techniques in the field of architecture. Homes # 8 and # 9 are halfway house between the more traditional villas of the first period and purely experimental houses the following years .

1950-60 The experimental period.
In a second time, during the decade of 50, the focus is on innovative dimension villas, the true economic dimension from the background without , however, be lost sight of. This period extends from the summer of 1950 when Soriano started working on his house in the summer of 1960 , with the completion of the second house Koenig.
Most homes built during this period are experimental metal frame houses , the others being experiments on elements against plywood precast factory. For a century and a half the industry has been used for building materials but the house construction has resisted industrialization. Architects believe at the time that we must change that. Steel promises to bring domestic architecture to industrialization after the end of World War II . But the fundamental difference between houses wood frame and steel frame houses is that in the case of a steel frame all the details should be set at design unlike the wooden frame where you can leave a number of details to the discretion of the manufacturer …
The priority of this period is the development of projects that can serve as prototypes for manufactured homes .

1960-65 , Change of scale.
Finally, one last time , the program has a broader focus. The Case Studies developed during this period no longer interested only in experiments on one house. Reflections extend over a larger scale. You work on groups of houses and their integration to the environment and the city.

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