Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Pierre Koenig papers and drawings
Date (inclusive): 1925-2007
Koenig, Pierre, 1925-2004
195.7 linear feet
(126 boxes, 274 flatfile folders, 8 rolls)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
The archive of Los Angeles architect Pierre Koenig, consisting of drawings, photographs, documents, writings and client correspondence,
and three models. The archive is an important resource for the study of Southern California Modernism, as well as for the
study of pre-fabrication in housing in the United States.
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Language: Collection material is in
Pierre Koenig was born in San Francisco on October 17, 1925. Even as a boy, Koenig displayed a nascent interest in architecture
and Modernism. In 1939, the family moved to San Gabriel, a Los Angeles suburb, and here, among a new group of friends who
also wanted to be architects, Koenig's earlier interest crystallized. Yet World War II loomed, and at age 17 Koenig enlisted
in the United States Army Advanced Special Training Program, which offered a compressed 4-year college degree in 2 years.
However, in 1943 the program was abruptly ended and after only one semester of study at the University of Utah, School of
Engineering, Koenig was sent to basic training. From 1943-1946, Koenig served on the front lines in France and Germany as
a flash ranging observer, spotting enemy fire and calculating their position, with the 292nd Field Artillery Observation Battalion.
After the war, Koenig returned to Los Angeles and applied to the University of Southern California (USC), School of Architecture.
Due the influx of returning GIs, there was a two-year waiting list for admission, and Koenig spent this time studying at Pasadena
City College until he was finally admitted to USC in 1948. At this time, USC was the leading architectural school in California,
and a hotbed of new ideas brought about by the aftermath of the war: ideas about how architecture should respond to social
issues, such as the population boom in Los Angeles and the need for low-cost housing, and ideas about how to apply the new
materials and industrialized techniques of the wartime economy, such as mass-production and pre-fabrication, to peacetime.
Although Koenig struggled somewhat within the strictures of a traditional academic framework, he certainly absorbed the new
ideas surrounding him, and they would continue to guide him throughout his career.
After receiving his B.Arch in 1952, Koenig worked both independently and for a number of other architectural practices. In
fact, Koenig had begun designing and building houses while still a student. When a USC studio instructor rejected his design
for a steel house, questioning the applicability of steel to residential architecture, Koenig decided to prove him wrong.
His response, Koenig House No. 1, designed and built by Koenig in 1950, was constructed at a cost lower than a traditional
wood frame structure and earned him the American Institute of Architects' "House and Home" Award of Merit. After graduation,
Koenig would design and build three more steel houses in rapid succession. During this period he also worked for other practices,
both to supplement his income and for the professional experience required before taking the California licensing exam. In
1950, the same year he built his first house, Koenig worked as a draftsman for Raphael Soriano, who shared his interest in
steel, doing the presentation renderings for Soriano's unnumbered Case Study House. Koenig subsequently worked for brief periods
for Candreva and Jarrett, Edward Fickett, Kistner, Wright and Wright, and finally in 1956 for Jones and Emmons, on the Eichler
X-100 steel model. Also in this period, Koenig began a short-lived furniture business, designing and building modern case
1957 was a watershed year for Pierre Koenig. He was licensed; he received his first invitation to participate in an international
exhibition, the São Paulo Biennial; and
Arts and Architecture magazine published his designs for a "Low-cost Production House" exemplifying his goal to produce "off-the-shelf" houses
as efficiently as automobiles. Most importantly though John Entenza invited him to participate in
Art and Architecture's Case Study House Program.
Case Study House # 21, immediately followed by Case Study House # 22, defined Koenig's style and brought him great attention.
With their steel construction, open-planning, and emphasis on the unity of nature and architecture, these two steel houses
exemplified the California aesthetic as being different from East Coast Modernism. Despite their conceptual similarities,
the two houses were quite different from one another. Case Study House # 22, which quickly came to be seen as the perfect
manifestation of modernity in Los Angeles and of life in post-war America in general, was a unique custom house, an exercise
in overcoming the engineering issues of a near vertical site. Case Study House #21, on the other hand, was meant to be a prototype
for affordable, mass-producible housing, an embodiment of Koenig's belief in architecture as a social study.
After this early recognition, Koenig went on to have a long and prolific career as an architect, designing and building over
forty-three steel and glass houses, including award-winning structures, such as Schwartz House and Koenig House No. 2, as
well as many residential additions and renovations and commercial buildings. Throughout his long years of architectural practice
Koenig never relinquished the principles that led him to design and build his first house. He retained a sense of mission,
never losing his commitment to the social agenda of Modernism. He truly believed that he could make people's lives better
In addition to his architectural practice, Koenig was passionate about teaching. In 1964, Koenig officially joined the faculty
of the USC School of Architecture as an assistant professor, having worked as an instructor there since 1961. He gained tenure
and promotion to Associate Professor in 1970 and then to Full Professor in 1997. Along with his teaching load, Koenig filled
a variety of administrative roles during his many years at USC including serving as Assistant Director of the Institute of
Building Research, and Director and Founder of both the Natural Forces Laboratory and the undergraduate Building Science Program.
Koenig's work has had a tremendous impact on contemporary architects worldwide. He was elected to the College of Fellows of
the American Institute of Architects in 1971 and named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in
2000. His work has received numerous awards and has been celebrated in over one thousand journal and periodical articles and
more than seventy books. Exhibits in cities around the world have featured his architecture. In 1989, a landmark exhibition,
Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses, held at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary
Art, included a full-scale walk-through model of Case Study House #22. Pierre Koenig remained active in both his architectural
practice and his teaching until shortly before his death in April 2004.
Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of unreformatted computer files. Contact the repository for information
regarding access to the architectural models.
All videos have been reformatted, except for a few that were damaged or contained duplicate content. Digitized versions are
Connect to digitized video recordings.
Access to video recordings is available on-site only.
Pierre Koenig papers and drawings, 1925-2007, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2006.M.30
Acquired in 2006.
Sheila Prospero rehoused the collection upon receipt in 2006. Alan Tomlinson processed the collection in 2008-2009. Ann Harrison
did further processing and created the series arrangement and finding aid in 2010.
One book and several issues of a periodical were separated to the library.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Pierre Koenig papers and drawings contain the archive of this Los Angeles architect best-known for his work in steel and
participation in the Case Study House Program. Consisting of drawings, photographs and slides, documents, client correspondence,
and three models, the archive provides in-depth information about Koenig's 50-year career. The archive is an important resource
for the study of Southern California Modernism, as well as for the study of pre-fabrication in housing in the United States.
The Pierre Koenig archive documents an extremely important chapter in post-war American domestic architecture: the development
of post-and-beam structures that could be constructed for a reasonable price. Before the war, European architects, such as
Walter Gropius, Konrad Wachsmann, and J.J.P. Oud, had sought to mass-produce housing from standardized, pre-fabricated components.
Koenig's work can be seen to a certain extent as a continuation of this quest. Following the Second World War, many well-known
architects, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller, Raphael Soriano, and Jean Prouvé, addressed the enormous
need for good, but inexpensive housing. Yet Koenig's work differed significantly from theirs. This is largely due to how deeply
his work is rooted in the architecture of Southern California. Koenig formed his style by melding the aesthetics of Charles
and Henry Greene's and Rudolf Schindler's Asian-inspired, wood-frame residences, which incorporated indoor and outdoor living
through modular planning; the pre-fabricated modular components advanced in Frank Lloyd Wright's textile concrete block homes
built in the early 1920s and Richard J. Neutra's unprecedented domestic use of steel frame construction in the Lovell Health
House of 1929. It is also due to his commitment to steel as a material. Koenig stands out from his contemporaries for his
use of steel not only for the structural skeletons of his houses, but for their walls and roofs as well. John Entenza's
Arts and Architecture magazine brought the idea of steel residential construction to the mainstream through the Case Study House Program of 1945
to 1963, which promoted modern, indoor-outdoor California living through innovative steel-frame design and construction. Although,
Koenig was one of the youngest architects included in the Case Study House Program, the editors of
Arts and Architecture considered Koenig's Case Study House #21 (the Bailey Residence, 1959) the program's quintessential example of an affordable,
modest-sized, single-family home.
Records and drawings relating to Pierre Koenig's architectural projects form Series I, the core of the archive. With over
2,000 original and reproduction drawings, the archive is very complete. More than eighty executed and unexecuted building
projects, including all of Koenig's major houses, such as Case Study Houses #21 and #22, the Johnson House in Carmel Valley,
CA (1962), the Iwata House in Monterey Park, CA (1963), the Gantert House in Los Angeles (1983), and the Schwartz House in
Santa Monica (1996), are represented in the archive. A particularly interesting project is the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation
Planning Program, sponsored by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Koenig and his USC students
designed pre-fabricated steel homes for the reservation located near Havasu Lake in San Bernardino County, California, but
the project was never built.
The two subsequent series record other aspects of Koenig's professional life. Series II is comprised of Koenig's teaching
materials and documentation of his administrative role at the University of Southern California, School of Architecture. Koenig
took his teaching very seriously. He was very conscious of the fact that he was training the next generation of architects
and proud of the fact that he had supervised over 100 student research projects investigating the interaction of structures
and the natural environment. Series III is comprised of all the other materials, aside from the individual project files,
relating to Koenig's role as an architect, such as his office files and reference files. Also included here is a dossier of
Koenig's work. Koenig was very active in interpreting and publicizing his work, and he also maintained documentation of others
citing his work in a variety of media from clippings to exhibitions to videos.
Series IV is comprised of Pierre Koenig's personal papers. His college class projects trace Koenig's emerging development
as an architect and the extensive documentation of his early military service helps place his personal development. The final
series of the archive, compiled after Koenig's death in 2004, documents the continuing legacy of his life and work.
Arranged in five series:
.Series I. Project records, 1950-2004;
Series II. Faculty papers, 1961-2004;
Series III.Other professional papers, 1945-2004;
Series IV. Personal papers, 1925-2004;
Series V. In memoriam, 2004-2007
Subjects - Topics
Architecture, Modern--20th century--California, Southern
Modern movement (Architecture)--California
Subjects - Places
Los Angeles (Calif.)--Buildings, structures, etc.--20th century
Genres and Forms of Material
Architectural drawings--20th century
Architectural drawings--United States--20th century
Gelatin silver prints--United States--20th century
Photographic prints--California--20th century
Slides (photographs)--20th century