“Chautauqua is an Iroquois word, meaning either “two moccasins tied together”, “bag tied at the middle”, “where the fish are taken out” or “jumping fish.”-Wikipedia

Over the weekend, I visited and photographed the 1950 Case Study No. 9/ Entenza House, designed by Charles Eames & Eero Saarinen in Pacific Palisades.

There was a time, just after the Second World War, when the USA borrowed from its just vanquished enemies, the German concept of machine-made modernism and Japanese living within nature, and built model homes in California that pointed to a new future for American domestic living.

Yesterday, I drove down a eucalyptus-lined road, passing meadows and grassy fields overlooking the Pacific. Here is where the elite once lived self-effacingly and modestly, making do with one or two bathrooms, and narrow steel kitchens.

No.9 is now behind a tall white wall and electronic gate, having been absorbed and subsumed by a larger house of 10,000 square feet that recently sold for $10 Million.

No.9’s former front garden: a natural forest of trees and overgrown grasses; is now a flat lawn and carved into long right angles of walls, sunken pool, statues and a boxy white mansion that commands a view of the Pacific and Catalina Island in the distance.  Enormous and egregious, the muscular mansion and its grid garden are welded onto the delicate old modernist house like a bad face lift.

Though it no longer is the sole structure on its property, No. 9 retains its original architecture and much of its furniture.  Which is good, because its survival is critical for not only historians but futurists.

The brilliance of the Case Study Houses, including #9, is not only in their subtle and measured use of proportion; nor is it found only in their judicious and economic materials; nor is it measured in the way light pours into rooms through opaque skylights, steel windows and sliding doors.

What made the Case Study group so fine was its Marshall Plan of post-war architectural renewal. It accomplished and created a vision of melding technical know-how with aesthetic principle, and placing the urban dweller into a natural environment.

Los Angeles has some hidden treasures, which require exploration and research, but when you find them, you realize what brought people west of the west.  We are a city of houses, and a city of gardens, and a city of light; and air, and sea and sun……trees and dreams.

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