Outside view of corner of glass-walled home, showing two seated women. City lights stretch out in the background.

Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, 1960, Pierre Koenig, architect, photo by Julius Shulman. Gelatin silver print. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Getty Research Institute, 2004.R.10. © J. Paul Getty Trust

Legend has it that on a warm May night in 1960, famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman set up his camera alongside a swimming pool to stage a seven-minute exposure of the glass-walled living room of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22. The resulting black-and-white photo of two elegant women soaring over a sea of twinkling L.A. lights in a glamorously modern room became what Time Magazine called “the most successful real estate image ever taken,” and one of the Getty Research Institute’s most-requested photos since the acquisition of Shulman’s archive in 2004.

But, Case Study House #22 wasn’t just the most famous example of an experiment to shape post-war living through affordable designer housing, or a new vision of life in booming Southern California. Also known as the Stahl House, it was a home built for Buck and Carlotta Stahl in 1960 to raise their family.

A new book, The Stahl House: Case Study House #22: The Making of a Modernist Icon, written by two of the Stahl children with journalist Kim Cross, reveals the surprising backstory of chaos behind this iconic photo of California living. The day of this legendary photoshoot was filled with construction dust, furniture movers, and last-minute arrangements. And, according to Bruce Stahl and Shari Stahl Gronwald, life growing up in a modern masterpiece was wonderful but rarely as glamorous as the scene in the photo.

To learn more about the family behind the pool, the walls of glass, and those stunning views, check out the book or learn more about the Getty Research Institute’s Shulman photography collection here.

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