Julius Shulman: 10/10/10

This Sunday, October 10, on the day that would have been architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s 100th birthday, the MAK Center for Art & Architecture at the Schindler House will hold its annual AIA tour of notable modern Los Angeles houses—this year at residences all shot by Shulman. The tour will include visits to Richard Neutra’s Kun and Lovell Health houses, Rudolph Schindler’s Gold House, Carl Louis Maston’s Hillside House, Pierre Koenig’s Gantert House and Shulman’s own house, on which he personally collaborated with architect Raphael Soriano and which is currently on the market. Shulman’s photos of each of the six houses on the tour are to follow. The Soriano house in particular is worth a visit for many reasons, a pressing one being that fact that it is not guaranteed to be forever available to the Shulman fan who wishes to sneak a peek, as it might have once been.

Built between 1947 and 1950, the Shulman house was the result of a collaboration between the photographer and architect Raphael Soriano, and served as Shulman’s home for more than half his life. Perched on a hill in Laurel Canyon on Woodrow Wilson Drive,
Built between 1947 and 1950, the Shulman house was the result of a collaboration between the photographer and architect Raphael Soriano, and served as Shulman’s home for more than half his life. Perched on a hill in Laurel Canyon on Woodrow Wilson Drive, the house was designated a Los Angeles Cultural Heritage monument in 1987. The one-story, exposed-steel-frame structure is defined by its central “spine” and surrounded by gardens that Shulman left in a somewhat wild state.

Several years ago in fact, I ventured to the home to pick up some portraits of Shulman for an L.A.-based architecture and design magazine for which I worked as an editor. Shulman ignored the newfangled practice of emailing jpegs and such, so the only way I was going to be able to publish the portraits was to pick up the prints and scan them in, the old-fashioned way. “The garden is a bit overgrown,” Shulman warned me on the phone before giving me a quick quote for my blurb on him, adding, “Put that in your little notebook.” He gave me directions and told me he’d be in his studio, adjacent to the house, for the next few hours.

Completed in 1929, Neutra’s Lovell Health house was the first steel-frame residence in the U.S., and was built using prefab elements (the home’s framing went up in two days). Shulman shot the home, which Neutra included in the 1932 Museum of Modern Art Mo
Completed in 1929, Neutra’s Lovell Health house was the first steel-frame residence in the U.S., and was built using prefab elements (the home’s framing went up in two days). Shulman shot the home, which Neutra included in the 1932 Museum of Modern Art Modern Architecture exhibition, on three occasions. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)

At the end of the curved, slightly steep driveway, hidden among the indeed overgrown palms and bushes, I found the humble entrance, tucked beneath the low-slung roofline. Shulman greeted me at the door—a slight, friendly man with a wisp of gray hair and thick, square glasses—and invited me into his studio, filled with file cabinets brimming with slides of his incredible career’s work. He walked gingerly with a cane, wore a small Band-Aid right across his nose and flirted with me. He possessed an incredible memory for exactly what was contained in each drawer, pulling out a few slides to show me; I could not help but pause and consider how unique it was to be suddenly standing among probably the most important collection of modern architectural slides and photographs in existence, with the man who helped catapult modernism into the mainstream milieu.
Rudolph Schindler, with whom Shulman closely collaborated for many years, built the Gold House in Studio City in 1945. Shulman did not shy away from revealing the realistic aspects of architecture (unfinished or bare landscaping; the imperfect driveway),
Rudolph Schindler, with whom Shulman closely collaborated for many years, built the Gold House in Studio City in 1945. Shulman did not shy away from revealing the realistic aspects of architecture (unfinished or bare landscaping; the imperfect driveway), opting to focus on an interplay between the strict geometries inherent in modern homes, and the constant interplay between light and shadows. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)

Disillusioned with postmodernism, Shulman had attempted to retire in the 1980s. But he was soon back to work, and spent much of the last decade of his life collaborating with the German-born photographer Juergen Nogai, who will celebrate Shulman’s 100th by publishing, through Kehrer Verlag Julius Shulman: The Last Decade, comprised of works from their joint archive, many of which have not yet been published.
Having fallen into great disrepair and almost subjected to the wrecking ball until Shulman’s original photographs were found on the property and used for a historically accurate renovation, Carl Louis Maston’s 1962 Hillside House still survives. The home
Having fallen into great disrepair and almost subjected to the wrecking ball until Shulman’s original photographs were found on the property and used for a historically accurate renovation, Carl Louis Maston’s 1962 Hillside House still survives. The home is surrounded by earth and set into a 45-degree slope. The sundeck above the driveway shields the master bedroom from the street. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)

Southern California’s Woodbury University, home to the Julius Shulman Institute—which focuses on Shulman’s enduring involvement in the issues of modernism and dedicated, said Shulman, “to the potentials of brilliance” of young photographers—will host IMAGE.ARCHITECTURE.NOW, a symposium and photography exhibition on Saturday, October 9. The event, which includes a panel of contemporary architects and photographers, will be led by architect Neil Denari and historian Kazys Varnelis, and emceed by Frances Anderton, host of DnA on KCRW, who has said Shulman’s “seductive black-and-white photographs defined California mid-century modernism.” The University’s symposium and exhibition will be followed by 10-10-10, a celebration of Julius Shulman on October 10 at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, emceed by Benedikt Taschen and including a live auction of Shulman’s photographs.
Pierre Koenig’s Gantert House was finished in 1981 and photographed by Shulman in 1986, around the time he attempted to retire. Situated above the Hollywood Hills on a lot originally deemed too steep to build on, the steel-and-glass case study–style house
Pierre Koenig’s Gantert House was finished in 1981 and photographed by Shulman in 1986, around the time he attempted to retire. Situated above the Hollywood Hills on a lot originally deemed too steep to build on, the steel-and-glass case study–style house has 180-degree views. This is the last completed project by the architect. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)

May 10-10-10 serve as a reminder to all fans of modernism that, as Shulman once remarked, “Modern architecture is not just an empty glass box. It has more to offer.”

Shulman’s 1936 photographs of Richard Neutra’s Kun house launched his career. Brought to the house by one of the architect’s assistants, Shulman, then merely a photography and architecture buff, brought along his Kodak Vest Pocket 127-format camera and sh
Shulman’s 1936 photographs of Richard Neutra’s Kun house launched his career. Brought to the house by one of the architect’s assistants, Shulman, then merely a photography and architecture buff, brought along his Kodak Vest Pocket 127-format camera and shot the home while it was still under construction. Upon seeing the photos, Neutra said that they “revealed the essence of my design” and asked Shulman to photograph more of his houses. “That day I became a photographer,” Shulman said. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10)

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