Pierre Koenig, FAIA (1925-2004)
Pierre Koenig is one of the most recognizable names in California Modernism. He designed one of the most iconic and photographed houses in the world, the Stahl House (Case Study House #22) in the Hollywood Hills. Yet he and his work went far beyond that single house, helping to define Modern architecture as we know it.
Born in San Francisco in 1925, Koenig moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1939. He began attending the University of Utah’s School of Engineering in 1943, then left school to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II.
After his tour of duty, he attended Pasadena City College for two years and ultimately earned his architecture degree at USC in 1952. He interned at the offices of great Modern architects Raphael Soriano and Edward Fickett before establishing his own practice.
Koenig took hands-on experimental risks to forge a new way of suburban living. He was devoted to using industrial, prefabricated, and economical materials, and he advocated the use of natural ventilation.
John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture magazine, invited Koenig to participate in his Case Study House program in 1950, after seeing a home Koenig had designed as a student at USC. Koenig’s Case Study House #21 (Bailey House) is a small steel-and-glass structure that perfectly expressed the emerging ideologies of Modernism in postwar Southern California.
Commissioned by Buck Stahl in 1957 and built in 1960, Case Study House #22 became Koenig’s project when other architects turned the commission down due to the problematic hillside site. Considered by many as the embodiment of postwar Modern architecture, the house was immortalized by legendary photographer Julius Shulman.
In 1964, Koenig was asked to join the architecture faculty at USC, where he taught for forty years. He also lectured at other prestigious institutions and shared his time generously. He once hosted members of the Conservancy’s Modern Committee at his home to discuss how to nominate Modern buildings for local landmark designation.
Koenig received numerous awards, including the USC Distinguished Alumni Award and the Architectural Gold Medal from AIA, Los Angeles. He continued teaching and working until a few months before he died in 2004.
His last known residential design is a two-story glass and steel beachfront home in Malibu, which according to Koenig, “has views that rival the Stahl House.”