C​ase Study House #5: Experimental Planning Defies Convention

case study homes 5

Next in the series, let’s take a look at Whitney R. Smith’s C​ase Study House #5,​ often referred to as the “Loggia House.”

Although it remained unbuilt, Smith’s attempt to dramatically reorganize the approach to traditional planning resulted in one of the most unconventional designs in the Case Study House program.

While other architects at the time experimented with the concept of “bringing the outdoors in,” Smith took that idea one step further by incorporating outdoor living right into the floor plan.

The loggia created an open air living space, made up of four separate rooms within a garden. Sliding partitions and glass doors between the rooms created a versatile open space between the separate structure. And, plastic rollers easily transformed the central loggia into a screened room for extra privacy.

Case Study House #5, (Loggia House), Floor Plan and Scale Model, published in Arts & Architecture, Sept. 1945.

Case Study House #5, (Loggia House), Floor Plan and Scale Model, published in Arts & Architecture, Sept. 1945.

In Smith’s narrative that accompanied the design, he said, “The ‘Loggia House’ is a pattern of shelter and space which turns inward upon itself. It anticipates the possibility and hope for introspective living even within the present mania metropolitan.”

By orienting the house toward a garden with natural plantings, Smith bridged the gap between his experimental design and the Southern California landscape. He also used building materials specifically chosen to suit the region and climate: adobe brick within a steel framework, glass block accents on the façade, and brick and cork flooring throughout.

“I think that one of the primary characteristics of Smith’s designs not only in these but throughout his career was his synthesis of experimental materials and structures with a real sense of appreciation for nature, the climate in Southern California and the landscape,” said Elizabeth A.T. Smith, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. “And he was able to fuse these concerns to create very sensitively designed works of architecture.”

In 1949, Smith joined architect Wayne R. Williams to create the firm known as Smith and Williams. For the next 24 years, the firm of Smith and Williams developed a transitional, distinctive American take on modernism. Their designs included the UCLA north campus student union; the central power building at Caltech; and the Blue Ribbon Tract Houses set in a walnut grove in Reseda, CA.

Smith left the firm in 1973, and went into private practice until he retired in 1987 and moved up to Sonoma, California. He died on March 13, 2002 at Bend, Oregon, at 91 years old.

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