Modernism is a philosophical movement that forever changed the landscape of residential architecture in Los Angeles.
With industrialism came the rapid growth of cities. Naturally, a push and pull between the old and the new began. Everything from art, literature, religious beliefs, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and even the sciences, were being questioned and identified as outdated social norms in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world.
Architecture and residential construction was under the gun too.
In 1931 Le Corbusier, a pioneer of modern architecture, summed up the shift eloquently by stating,
“Eradicate from your mind any hard and fast conceptions in regard to the dwelling-house and look at the question from an objective and critical angle, and you will inevitably arrive at the “House-Machine,” the mass-production house, available for everyone, incomparably healthier than the old kind (and morally so, too) and beautiful …”
This journey in discovering a fresh take on housing led to pre-manufactured or prefabricated homes, materials like steel, and affordability in housing.
The first noticeable wave of change in housing came about with the inception of the Aladdin Company. Brothers Otto and William Sovereign started their family owned business in 1906. According to their website many of their customers, after having rented property for many years, decided that Aladdin proved a viable option in design features, choice of model, and especially cost. Aladdin sold mail-order kit homes. These homes were selected via catalog, packed up and shipped to their customers who often easily built their new home over a weekend. And since these homes were affordable the Sovereign brothers made homeownership possible for America’s middle class.
While kit homes were a hit there were few choices and pretty soon everyone’s home started to look the same. However, the essence of the modernist ethos believes we, as human beings, have the power to create, improve and reshape our environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology. And so steel was introduced as a new material in residential construction. It was a game changer.
Focusing on the use of new materials and affordability John Entenza, editor of Arts and Crafts magazine, saw an opportunity to introduce and cement modernism via the construction of mid-century modern homes to the post-war suburbs of Los Angeles. He created The Case Study House program. CSH ran from 1945 to 1966. It attracted more than 350,000 people who viewed first hand what architects could do with lightweight steel and the new arc welding process.
The majority of the CSH residences are listed as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments and/or National Register of Historic Places.
To find mid-century modern homes for sale in Los Angeles visit my curated list of homes currently on the market.