Photo by Larry Underhill

Bass House (Case Study House #20)

Case Study House #20, also known as the Bass House, was completed in 1958 as part of the Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House program. It represents a departure from other Case Study houses of the late 1950s in that it was constructed of wood rather than steel.

This striking house was designed for industrial and graphic designer Saul Bass and his wife, biochemist Dr. Ruth Bass and was constructed on the site of an old estate in Altadena. Architects Conrad Buff III, Calvin C. Straub, and Donald C. Hensman of the architectural firm Buff, Straub and Hensman designed the house.

The post-and-beam wood construction is set on a concrete slab foundation and features a complex roof with prefabricated plywood barrel vaults, flat stressed skin panels, and 12-inch hollow box beams that span 16 feet and form a series of 8-foot bays.

The panels, vaults and box beams were trucked to the site and handled by forklift hoist, which made it possible to erect and assemble the components quickly. The vaults covering the central area of the house were positioned and initially secured in rapid succession. The vaults were custom-built for the job to the same 2-inch thickness as the panels, and were pressure-glued and bent into the required forms.

View the National Register of Historic Places Nomination

 

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