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Acquisition Expands GRI's Architectural Collection

April 16, 2007

LOS ANGELES—The Special Collections of the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (GRI) recently acquired the architectural archive of Pierre Koenig, the internationally celebrated architect whose work helped to define modern architecture.  This important archive, containing more than 3,000 objects, including drawings, models, photographs, slides and documents, will enable scholars to study a significant chapter in post-war American domestic architecture. 

Among the architectural gems documented in the collection are Koenig’s Case Study Houses #21 and #22, which were both executed as part of Case Study House Program of 1945–1963 for John Entenza’s Arts & Architecture magazine.  Koenig was one of the youngest architects included in the program, which promoted modern, indoor-outdoor California living through innovative steel-frame design and construction.

The world-renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman, whose archive was also acquired by the GRI, immortalized Case Study House #22 in his most widely published photograph of two women conversing in the living room of a Hollywood Hills house cantilevered above a hillside and floating above the urban glow of Los Angeles.  

“The Koenig archive, together with the Julius Shulman Architectural Photography Archive, has greatly expanded the direction of our architectural collection,” says Wim de Wit, the GRI’s head of special collections and visual resources.  “These holdings make the Getty one of the most important centers for the study of California Modernism.”

Born in San Francisco in 1925, Koenig became interested in the structural possibilities and advantages of steel residential construction while a student at the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture in the 1950s.  Confronted with the skepticism of his professors, who questioned the applicability of steel to residential architecture, Koenig proved them wrong by designing and building his own steel home at a cost lower than that of a traditional wood frame structure.  This innovative structure earned him the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) House and Home Award of Merit.  Upon graduation, he opened his own architectural practice in Los Angeles.  Throughout his career, which spanned five decades, he never relinquished his goal of producing pre-fabricated homes for the masses.

Koenig was equally passionate about teaching.  He began his distinguished career at University of Southern California (USC) in 1964 as a member of the architecture faculty.  While at the university, he served 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.  More than 100 undergraduate research project reports were produced under his direction.  From 1971-1978, Koenig directed the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation Planning Program, sponsored by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he worked on with his students, designing prefabricated homes for the reservation located near Lake Havasu in San Bernardino Country, California.  

Koenig’s work has had a tremendous impact on contemporary architects worldwide.   He was elected to the College of Fellows of the AIA 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 more than 1,000 journals and periodicals, as well as more than 70 books.  Koenig died in 2004. 

The Koenig archive enhances the GRI’s architectural holdings in its Research Library, which contains one of the world’s largest collections devoted to art and architecture.  Getty experts are in the process of cataloging the Koenig archive, making its contents accessible to scholars and researchers.

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Beth Brett
Getty Communications Department

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The Getty Research Institute is an operating program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and its history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library - housed in the 201,000-square-foot Research Institute building designed by Richard Meier - is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world. The general library collections (secondary sources) include almost 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library's special collections include rare books, artists' journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.