Case Study House #23: Three Houses in One Project

Up next, let’s take a look at the “Triad,” or Case Study House #23, designed by the architectural firm of Killingsworth, Brady, and Smith, and featured in the March 1961 issue of Arts & Architecture. This project stands out in the Program as it consists of three separate yet adjacent homes, originally intended to be the pilot project of a new tract housing development overlooking the ocean in the hills of La Jolla. But, only this Triad was ever built.

While each home retained its own distinct layout and unique exterior features, the main design objective was to create a sense of cohesion to the project as a whole. The architects accomplished this by paying close attention to the siting and developed a continuity in materials, forms and landscaping. 

In order to keep construction costs at a minimum, the homes were built with common materials such as wood framing, infill panel walls, concrete slab foundations, and contained identical appliances and fixtures. All three featured aluminum sliding doors, flat roofs, and acoustical plaster ceilings with the standard ceiling height set at a generous ten feet. Each house also shared the same dramatic entryway, which brought visitors to a shallow reflecting pool on the way to the front door.

As is common in many other Case Study Houses, the homes in this project played up the concept of indoor-outdoor living with living rooms overlooking the outside and bright master bedrooms that offered access to panoramic views. The use of open glass as a focal point in all principal rooms further erased the separation between interior and exterior spaces.

Landscaping tied the total composition of homes together, and ten large olive trees selected for their rugged character were moved in to create a striking contrast against the simple forms of the buildings. The extensive use of multicolored petunias as ground cover throughout the development also provided continuity to the overall composition.

House A:

CSH #23 House A_2

This house is the largest and most elaborate of the three and features a modified “U” shaped plan with a redwood-paneled exterior. Two glass walls in the living room and one glass wall in the bath provide panoramic views of the coastline and mountains beyond. Aluminum sliding windows and doors on the side and rear of the house also take advantage of the spectacular ocean views, and a sliding door off the master suite provides access to a private sunbathing garden paved in sleek white tile.

CSH #23 House A

House B:

CSH#23 House B

This house is comprised of two courtyards and a loggia surrounded by the living area in a modified “H” shaped plan. The entryway features tall columns supporting a simple trellis, which paired with the white exterior, gives the house a pavilion-like quality from the view below.

Mosaic tile paving paired with white walls creates an eye-catching contrast to the contemporary furnishings throughout. The master bedroom in particular not only offers spectacular views but is perfectly staged with Knoll furniture as the center of attention.

CSH #23 House C

House C:

As the simplest of the three houses, this house engages the visitor with what architect Edward Killingsworth described as an “elusive, friendly quality.” Brick paving extends from the entryway to a sheltered garden off the living room and creates a warm texture against the sheer glass separation screens that make up the terrace.

Much like House A, this house takes advantage of opportunities for outdoor living with patios off the both living room and kitchen, a private patio off the master suite, and direct access to the backyard play yard from the children’s rooms. And, the living room offers the best view of the coastline of any of the houses.

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