11 iconic works of Californian modernism

Under the dazzling sun of Southern California, amidst palm trees and swimming pools, the modernist houses built in the post-war years have redefined the traditional aesthetic and functional approach to living, becoming milestones of contemporary architecture.

At the end of the Second World War, the United States awoke from the nightmare in a territory fortunately not devastated, with renewed technological expertise in the field of construction – previously developed specifically for the war industry – and an irrepressible desire to refound obsolete visions of culture and society through the tools of architecture and planning.

The Modern Movement, which had already taken its first steps in Europe under the leadership of Le CorbusierGropius and Mies van der Rohe, expressed itself in California with a profoundly innovative language, especially in the field of housing. The “Case Study Houses” programme launched by John Entenza, editor of the Los Angeles magazine “Arts and Architecture”, in 1945 and active until 1966, was intended to entrust American studios with projects for prototype houses capable of offering a new, effective and economically sustainable response to post-war housing needs, free of any formalist, rhetorical and grandiloquent regurgitation inherited from the past modus operandi.

Living is thus stripped of the rigid formal and structural constraints of the past, in favour of constructions with a simple, functional layout, with light, punctiform structures in favour of a free plan and greater flexibility of the spaces, with pure geometries characterised by large windows, and under the banner of enthusiastic use of light and landscape as essential design elements.

Figures of the calibre of Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, John Lautner, Raphael Soriano, Craig Elwood, Pierre Koenig, Robert Skinner, Albert Frey and many others dot the urban landscape – especially in Los Angeles – with iconic works which, despite their expressive differences, convey the same identical message: a feeling of optimism and an overwhelming desire for a better future, under the banner of the “American dream”.

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