Time Magazine has trained its editorial eye on the millions of images produced in the nearly 200-year-old history of the photographic medium and come up with 100 that it deems the most influential in the history of the world. Appearing on that prestigious list is Julius Shulman’s iconic image of one of the most famous homes in Los Angeles: the Stahl House.
Also known as Case Study House No. 22, the home was designed by Pierre Koenig as part of the Case Study program sponsored by Arts & Architecture that showcased the works of some of California’s greatest modern architects. Perched in the Hollywood Hills, the glass-walled home seems to float above the lights of the city in Shulman’s brilliant photos—smartly taken both at night and during the day, when views from the pool deck are equally impressive.
The two women Shulman enlisted to pose within the glass-walled home look a little out of place among the burnt bodies and war-torn cities depicted in many of the other photos on the list, but it’s certainly true that Shulman’s photo significantly impacted contemporary attitudes toward modern architecture, Los Angeles, and even the American Dream.
At a time when a two-story home fronted by a green lawn and a white picket fence still embodied success for many Americans, Shulman’s shot presented a starkly different alternative: a dramatic, glassy box that seems to defy gravity—and yet still looks like home.
As Time argues, the picture “perfected the art of aspirational staging, turning a house into the embodiment of the Good Life, of stardusted Hollywood, of California as the Promised Land.”
For decades, the California Dream meant the chance to own a stucco home on a sliver of paradise. The point was the yard with the palm trees, not the contour of the walls. Julius Shulman helped change all that. In May 1960, the Brooklyn-born photographer headed to architect Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House, a glass-enclosed Hollywood Hills home with a breathtaking view of Los Angeles—one of 36 Case Study Houses that were part of an architectural experiment extolling the virtues of modernist theory and industrial materials. Shulman photographed most of the houses in the project, helping demystify modernism by highlighting its graceful simplicity and humanizing its angular edges. But none of his other pictures was more influential than the one he took of Case Study House No. 22. To show the essence of this air-breaking cantilevered building, Shulman set two glamorous women in cocktail dresses inside the house, where they appear to be floating above a mythic, twinkling city. The photo, which he called “one of my masterpieces,” is the most successful real estate image ever taken. It perfected the art of aspirational staging, turning a house into the embodiment of the Good Life, of stardusted Hollywood, of California as the Promised Land. And, thanks to Shulman, that dream now includes a glass box in the sky.
TIME 100 Photos
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