Case Study House #22: exploring the
Stahl House in Lumion
classic glass and steel
Jan 18, 2024 | Behind the scenes
Seeing a famous view with fresh eyes
Welcome to the latest in our series of iconic architecture studies. This time, we’re focusing on Case Study House #22, better known as the Stahl House. Perched precariously atop a cliff overlooking Los Angeles, the Stahl House is a true icon of mid-century modern architecture. The home’s clean lines, glass walls, and minimalist design embody the spirit of its era like no other.
The house was designed by Pierre Koenig in 1959 as a part of Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House program, an initiative that sought to showcase efficient, cost-effective, and aesthetically pleasing homes. Koenig’s innovative use of industrial materials such as steel and glass – pioneering for residential constructions at the time – helped achieve this goal.
The house, and its view, quickly became world famous, partly thanks to a photograph taken by Julius Shulman. Possibly the most widely published architectural photo in the world, Schulman’s shot of the iconic glass-walled Stahl House, seemingly floating above the dark city below, catapulted the home into global recognition, turning it into what is arguably one of the most recognizable residences in the world.
Reimagining it in Lumion
We asked talented architect and visualizer Carlos Rodriguez to recreate this modernist icon in Lumion. Here’s what he came up with.
Enjoy his cinematic exploration of Case Study House #22, fully rendered in Lumion 2023.
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Hi Carlos, when we approached you to take part in this series, you were quick to suggest the Stahl House as a potential building to explore. What drew you to this design in particular?
The seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, the intriguing use of glass, and the breathtaking views. They're all defining features of the Stahl House.
I wanted to delve into the interplay of light, materials, and form, offering a unique perspective on its timeless appeal. I aimed to capture not only the structural elements and spatial qualities of the Stahl House but also the emotional and experiential essence that makes it an architectural landmark.
Which aspects of the original architecture did you find most crucial to represent accurately in your visualizations?
Faithfully representing the original's seamless indoor-outdoor connection, iconic materials, and the play of natural light was paramount. To ensure the accuracy of my visualizations, I had to pay meticulous attention to spatial layout, material authenticity, and lighting dynamics. Thorough research and continuous cross-referencing with historical documentation also guided the process, guaranteeing a true-to-life digital recreation.
Can you discuss the importance of the LA backdrop in your visualizations?
It was vital. Capturing the breathtaking views, city lights, and the unique hillside context was integral to conveying the immersive experience of Koenig's design.
I focused on ensuring that the visual narrative extended beyond the architectural elements, incorporating the dynamic relationship between the house and its surroundings. This contextual interplay not only pays homage to the original design's intent but also enhances the viewer's appreciation of the Stahl House within its iconic urban landscape.
Can you discuss the materiality at play and how it shapes the overall modernist aesthetic of the Stahl House?
Materiality is crucial for any architectural project, but to authentically capture the modernist aesthetic of Stahl House I tried to replicate Koenig's masterful use of steel, concrete, and glass – essential elements that define the modernist movement.
I faithfully represented the sleek surfaces, clean lines, and minimalistic approach. I gave careful attention to material textures, reflective qualities, and how light interacts with these surfaces.
I wanted to honor Koenig's pioneering design and its enduring contribution to modern architecture.
What role does light play in the Stahl House and how did you emphasize it in your recreations?
Light is pivotal in defining the Stahl House's character as it helps to create a symbiotic relationship between architecture and nature. I accentuated this interplay by meticulously replicating the dynamic lighting conditions.
By emphasizing the house's expansive glass walls, I ensured accurate reflections, refractions, and shadows. By utilizing Lumion's lighting tools, I simulated the unique Californian sunlight and the mesmerizing late evening glow of Los Angeles. And by prioritizing authentic illumination, I think I was able to capture the essence of this iconic home, where light becomes an integral, transformative element in shaping the Stahl House experience.
You mentioned the relationship between the interior and exterior spaces. How did you address that balance within your recreations?
Pierre Koenig's architectural brilliance cleverly blurs the distinction between the interiors and exteriors of the Stahl House. It's a harmonious design symphony, so highlighting that seamless connection was a focal point in this project.
I wanted to erase boundaries visually so I took care to precisely replicate the open floor plan and extensive glass elements. Lumion's rendering capabilities were instrumental in allowing me to capture the transparency and spatial continuity. I paid very careful attention to details such as sightlines and the integration of surrounding landscape features, in order to allow the viewer to experience the natural flow of the house's floorplan.
When it comes to the house’s interior design, how did you use furnishings and decor to lean into the original design philosophy? How did you decide which to feature in your recreations?
As the furnishings in the house itself are on constant rotation, I had to make a choice about what to feature in my recreations.
I aimed to align furnishings and decor with the original design philosophy of Pierre Koenig and the Bahuaus movement. Based on that, I selected furniture and decor elements that echoed the era's clean lines, simplicity, and functionality. I consulted historical references and prioritized iconic pieces consistent with Koenig's aesthetic vision.
By carefully curating the interior elements, my goal was to maintain design coherence and authenticity, providing viewers with a glimpse into the timeless elegance of mid-century modern living within the Stahl House.
Were there any particular challenges you encountered while recreating the Stahl House?
Yes. If I'm honest, recreating the Stahl House presented its own set of challenges, and overcoming them was an important part of the creative process.
Aside from the amount of meticulous referencing of architectural plans and historical documentation to ensure authenticity, one notable challenge came with trying to capture the nuanced play of natural light and the reflective qualities of materials. That posed a real complexity. I overcame this only through iterative adjustments, working with Lumion's advanced lighting tools to achieve the desired final result.
In essence, the challenges encountered became opportunities for refinement and innovation, ultimately contributing to a more authentic and captivating recreation of the Stahl House.
How did you feel recreating such an iconic piece of architecture? What were the highlights throughout the process?
Recreating the iconic Stahl House was an amazing journey for me. I became filled with a profound sense of responsibility and respect for such a brilliant piece of architectural history.
Using Lumion to recreate the house allowed me to bring the Stahl House to life digitally, in an entirely new way – I was able to discover new and never-before-seen points of view within the house.
Overall, the project was a deeply gratifying endeavor and a great opportunity to contribute to the legacy of this landmark in modern architecture.