In-Laws Home/Shilpa does a Julius

  • September 13, 2016
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In- Laws Home/Shilpa does a Julius

I do not  know too many other photographers who shot like that; but Julius Shulman did. He passed away at the amazing age of 99, in 2009.

But in the years that he worked he made famous the work of Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig and Eero Saarinen,  in works built between 1945-1966.

He shot with an incredible sense of space, a sharp eye and most importantly peppered his pictures with real people using the spaces.During the Second World War  it seems that the offices of Arts & Architecture  in the US, were home to endless discussions about  new ideas in residential design and they launched what was called the “Case Study House Programme‘.

Ralph Rapson, John Rex, Richard Neutra, Charles Eames  J.R. Davidson, Whitney Smith, Thornton Abell, William Wurster and Sumner Spaulding (with John Rex) designed the first eight houses in the program.

The program announcement stated that each “house must be capable of duplication and in no sense be an individual ‘performance’… It is important that the best material available be used in the best possible way in order to arrive at a ‘good’ solution of each problem, which in the overall program will be general enough to be of practical assistance to the average American in search of a home in which he can afford to live.”

The announcement went on to say , “…We of course assume that the shape and form of post war living is of primary importance to a great many Americans, and that…the house[s]… will be conceived within the spirit of our times, using as far as is practicable, many war-born techniques and materials best suited to the expression of man’s life in the modern world.”

Many houses were built.

Stahl House, the 22nd in this series, built by Peter Koenig in  1960 was the one that made Julius Shulman  even more famous.

It shows a cantilevered edge of a steel and glass living room, with two ladies in the corner in conversation; the whole frame overlooking the lit up city.

It is and was an elegant and poetic frame.


But in general , its rare to see architectural photographs with people. Most infact seem to shun them. The pictures are usually bare, almost stripped of life, sometimes even stripped of furniture, or any vestiges of signs that may suggest that human life is likely to occupy these spaces. At other times, they have a figure that seems to be a paranormal creature,  that is traversing through the space in a blur.

But for the longest time we have not seen architectural photographers shoot spaces with those folks for whom they were designed for !This is a strange ,phenomena to say the least. ( and we are equally guilty of it )

A house we completed for Smrutis parents seemed to demand that we at least try and see what would happen if we shot it differently from the way its normally done.

Shilpa Gavane, that young and extremely enthusiastic photographer was game, and she made many trips at different times of the day over several weeks , and shot the just finished home, with Smruti and her family in it.



exteriors-1A large “gulmohar” tree will grow over time, the “ashoka” will make a screen, and frame the entrance of exposed bricks that leads to the house and also the generous cake studio above. In picture Smruti and her parents Hemuben and Vinodbhai.


reshoot-15The house has terrazo floors; mostly in white, grey and black; and opens to the court and garden at all times. In picture Hemuben and Shilpa’s colleague Nimisha

Nimisha looks down at Shilpa from the wooden bridge that connects to a terrace court.

reshoot-12Shilpa gazing into the court from the first floor corridor, that has a segmental brick vault as a roof.


reshoot-5Hemuben and Vinodbhai in the inner court; sitting at the edge of a water rill.

reshoot-3-bwYamini, Smrutis sister- in- law and the baker par excellence looks down from her cake studio balcony.




reshoot-23Court narratives with shadows and bricks.


reshoot-20Staircase to cake studio and terrace.

cake-studio-11Yamini in her element with a helper; makes the most delicious cakes in town.

reshoot-11Smruti in her niece’s bedroom.


reshoot-18Vinodbhai strolls in and around the court that leads to the garden.



reshoot-30The garden grows slowly ; but already brings some delight.

z-details-2Detail  of balcony and grill.

The results we felt were warm, human and more importantly became a nice portrait collection of a family.

And dare we say, that if there was a Case Studies House Programme , now, this house may just make the cut. Its basic, simple, utilitarian, well built and has shades of poetry rendering its parts.

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