From 1945 to 1966, Arts & Architecture magazine commissioned many of the leading architects of the day to design low-cost model homes for the post-WWII housing boom. Only 24 or so architects/teams participated in this Case Study House Program, and Rodney Walker was the only architect/team responsible for more than two of the Case Study Houses actually built. While not one of the program’s homes, The Agency’s new listing at 11320 Joffre Street in Brentwood was designed by Walker during this time and showcases his signature design elements. In fact, Walker’s design of this 2-bedroom / 2-bath home was so compelling that it served as the personal residence of legendary architect A. Quincy Jones, who also participated in the Case Study House Program. We recently caught up with the home’s listing agent, Billy Rose, to learn more about the architectural significance of 11320 Joffre Street.
What was the Case Study House Program and tell us a little about its impact on architecture?
The Case Study House (CSH) program, initiated in 1945 in Los Angeles, remains one of America’s most significant contributions to architecture at mid-century. The motivating force behind the program was John Entenza, a champion of modernism and editor of the avant-garde monthly magazine Arts & Architecture. Entenza envisioned the Case Study effort as a way to offer the public and the building industry models for low-cost housing in the modern idiom, foreseeing the coming building boom as inevitable in the wake of the drastic housing shortages during the depression and war years. Using the magazine as a vehicle, Entenza’s goal was to enable architects to design and build low-cost modern houses for actual clients, using donated materials from industry and manufacturers, and to extensively publish and publicize their efforts.
How would you best describe Rodney Walker’s architectural style?
Walker pioneered the creation of private spaces within an open floor plan, refining a key element of modern architecture. His homes are characterized by transparency, floating roof planes, and what were, at the time, innovative materials such as steel, plywood, and fiberglass panels. Walker built most of his houses after WWII. He focused on building low-cost homes for returning soldiers. Like Case Study House #17, many were smallish homes. He strove to build high-quality homes at a good value. The Joffre house exhibits many of Walker’s signature hallmarks.
Do you know who 11320 Joffre was originally designed for?
Walker would frequently build a home for a client while simultaneously building a spec house for himself that he would later sell. It is believed that Joffre was originally built as one of Walker’s spec projects.
So in addition to being the architect, do we know if Walker was also the builder of 11320 Joffre Street? How common is it that the architect is also the builder?
Walker served as builder and designer on most of his homes, to ensure that they were built according to his vision. It is unknown if Walker was the builder of Joffre, but it is considered to be likely the case. It it actually quite uncommon for the architect to also be the builder of his own design, however, Walker felt the creative act was in building, and he ran a crew that built about 90% of his designs.
What are some of the noteworthy architectural features of 11320 Joffre?
Walker favored designing and building smaller homes, and he necessarily became particularly successful in merging the indoors and the outdoors in order to maximize the feel and livability of his homes.
This merging was achieved at Joffre through the use of sliding walls of glass, clerestory windows and defined exterior entertaining spaces. The slatted wood ceiling treatment also accentuates the merging of the indoor spaces by integrating and unifying the various living spaces.
What design element featured in the home is your favorite?
I’m completely taken by the unique slatted wood ceiling treatment. It serves to not only visually merge the living spaces, but it also adds an organic and tactile warmth to an architectural style which, at times, can feel a bit ascetic. Concealed within this ceiling treatment is lighting which provides a warm glow in the evening.
Who do you see as the ideal owner of this home?
Joffre will appeal to those who enjoy light and airy living environments and appreciate a thoughtful layout for easy living. The centrally-situated Brentwood Glen location makes it easy to get to Westside locations like the beach, eastward locations such as Beverly Hills and Hollywood, and the proximity to the San Diego freeway allows for easy access to LAX, the Valley and Downtown. Joffre is perfect for a single person, couple or a new family.