Commissioned by the Stahl family as part of the Case Study house scheme (a program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine throughout the 1950 & 1960’s, which was intended to bring modern design to the middle classes), this house has been used in countless film and television productions, in part as a result of an iconic photograph taken of the house in 1960 by Julius Shulman.
The photograph has become an intrinsic part of mid century American identity. It speaks of post war possibilities, of industry and of reinvention. It captured for the first time the fresh lifestyle aspirations of a new generation. The site (thought to be unbuildable before Pierre Koenig came up with his radical structural scheme) is also partly responsible for the house’s popularity. Suspended over the city lights of Los Angeles, the dramatic setting is just made for film.
2000’s release Nurse Betty is one of the many films to feature the Stahl House but it is particularly interesting because it plays on the house’s real iconic status in modern culture. Renee Zellweger plays Betty, a waitress from Kansas City who becomes delusional after witnessing the horrific murder of her husband. A hospital soap opera fan, she becomes confused between her own life and that of her favourite characters and comes to believe she is the ex fiancée of the cardiologist in the TV series. Bettys understanding of the world outside of Kansas is informed by TV and movies so when she finally tracks down her ‘cardiologist’ and finds him living at the Stahl House, it all fits in to place - this is how wealthy people live in LA. This connection is confirmed by the recreation of Shulmans famous image, a task which earned Shulman further admiration from cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier who found the myriad of glass reflections somewhat of a challenge.
With a resurgence in popularity of mid century design the house is more sought after than ever. Following a few decades of domestic life it has now moved into retirement but true to its generation, it is not planning on slowing down.
The Stahl House offers occasional tours. See www.stahlhouse.com