Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Preferred Citation
  • Separated Materials
  • Processing History
  • Publication Rights
  • Digitized Material

  • Contributing Institution: Special Collections
    Title: Pierre Koenig papers and drawings
    Creator: Koenig, Pierre, 1925-2004
    Identifier/Call Number: 2006.M.30
    Physical Description: 239.6 Linear Feet(165 boxes, 275 flatfile folders, 6 rolls)
    Date (inclusive): 1925-2007
    Abstract: 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.
    Physical Location: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language of Material: Collection material is in English.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    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 goods.
    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 through architecture.
    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 available online. Connect to digitized video recordings.  Access to video recordings is available on-site only.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2006.


    Arranged in five series: Series I. Project records, 1950-2004; Series II. Faculty papers, 1961-2004; Series III.Other professional papers, 1945-2007; Series IV. Personal papers, 1925-2004; Series V. In memoriam, 2004.

    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 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. Koenig was 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 memorials marking Koenig's death in 2004 are documented in the final series of the archive.

    Preferred Citation

    Pierre Koenig papers and drawings, 1925-2007, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2006.M.30.

    Separated Materials

    One book and several issues of a periodical were separated to the library.

    Processing History

    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 initial finding aid in 2010. After the initial acquisition, subsequent additions of material in 2008, 2013 and 2015 were incorporated into the collection and the finding aid was revised accordingly.

    Publication Rights

    Digitized Material

    Some videotapes have been digitized. Access is available on site only: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/2006m30av 

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Architecture -- California -- Los Angeles
    Architects -- California -- Los Angeles
    Architect-designed houses -- California
    Architectural drawings -- 20th century
    Architectural models
    Architecture, Modern -- 20th century -- California, Southern
    Floppy disks
    Video recordings
    Slides (photographs) -- 20th century
    Architectural drawings -- United States -- 20th century
    Modern movement (Architecture) -- California
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc. -- 20th century
    Gelatin silver prints -- United States -- 20th century
    Photographic prints -- California -- 20th century
    Architects -- Archives