Case Study Houses By Bay Area Architects
Thorne met neither Entenza nor Travers. His involvement with the Case Study House program occurred through his direct relationship with Bethlehem Steel Pacific, the West Coast branch of the then giant in the steel industry. Together with Pierre Koenig and Craig Ellwood, Thorne became the primary supporters of a residential architecture based on the steel frame.
This is the only built example of the Case Study House program in Northern California. It started as a speculative house to be built next to a site owned by the same developer. One residence was to be built in steel, the other in conventional wood framing. The pros and cons of each technology would then be verified side by side. Thorne was given a hypothetical program of a house for a family of four to be designed on a hillside lot. His primary concern was how to minimize the disturbance of the site showcasing the inherent strength of steel. It was the wedged space between the underside of the structure and the site contours that preoccupied him the most: how to handle that space architecturally.
He set the main level of the house at a lower elevation from the garage descending to the living quarters. The structural solution was equally architectural. Nine frames set on a 10-foot module were sequenced linearly. Four additional frames tilted hovered over the lower ones to cover the carport and create the additional height in the living-dining area. Infill partitions modulate the light and functions inside. Landscape architect Garret Eckbo conceived a design for the outdoor areas that remained unbuilt. The house is at its third owner.
Beverley D. Thorne (1924 – 2017)
Born in Alameda, California, he underwent air training as a pilot at the Army Air Forces Command toward the end of World War II. His appreciation of three-dimensional space was rooted in that experience. Thorne graduated from UC Berkeley in 1950. While Erich Mendelsohn was one of his teachers, it was historian Harold Stump who exerted significant influence on his thinking about the importance of structure in architecture.
Thorne embraced the steel frame as the veritable, economic, and durable response to the post-war house. He stayed committed to this idea all his life. Among his most noteworthy achievements are Brubeck West (1949-54) in Oakland and Brubeck East in Winton, CT (1960) for jazz legend Dave Brubeck. He designed over a 100 steel frame homes primarily in California.