Las Vegas vs The Landscape: Photographer Michael Light Exposes the Terraforming of the American Dream

“Barcelona” Homes and the Edge of Lake Mead Recreation Area, Lake , Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © Michael Light, Lake /Black Mountain

“Nestled into the desert landscape that defines ’s visage,
Ascaya feels as if it were shaped by the elements.
[...]
Where stone rises up to meet the sky, there is a place called Ascaya.”
- The Ascaya promotional website

Not quite, according to Michael Light’s soon-to-be released book, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain. Covering the advance of suburban Nevada into the desert, this two-part book looks at Lake Las Vegas, a then-abandoned victim of the 2008 real estate crash which has since emerged from the other side of bankruptcy, and nearby Ascaya, a high end housing estate that is still in the process of being carved into Black Mountain. Light’s photography doesn’t so much question the developers’ summary as it does, say, blast it, scar it, terrace it and then build a large housing development on the remains. Featuring beautifully composed aerial shots of the construction sites and golf courses covering the desert, the book is a clear condemnation of the destructive and unsustainable development in Nevada. Much more than that, though, Light is highlighting a wider philosophy behind developments like Ascaya and Lake Las Vegas that fundamentally fail to connect American society with the American landscape in a non-destructive way.

LA’s Iconic Case Study Houses (Finally!) Make National Register

Case Study House #22, (playboy), 1960 Los Angeles, CA / , architect © Julius Shulman

Ten of Los Angeles’ Case Study Houses have been deemed historically significant and worthy of being included on US’s . Despite the Los Angeles Conservancy’s belief that all of them deserve “equal preservation protections,” the 11th home was not included due to “owner objection.”

The Case Study Houses spawned from a post-WWII residential experiment, presented by the Arts & Architecture magazine in 1945, which introduced modern movement ideas for affordable and efficient housing. Designs by the likes of Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen and others, redefined the modern home and, with the help of Julius Shulman, placed Los Angeles as an epicenter for mid-century modernism.

The 11 homes included on the register are:

AD Classics: Stahl House / Pierre Koenig


© James P Miller

The Case Study House Program produced some of the most iconic architectural projects of the 20th Century, but none more iconic than or as famous as the Stahl House, also known as Case Study House #22 by Pierre Koenig.  The modern residence overlooks from the Hollywood Hills. It was completed in 1959 for Buck Stahl and his family. Buck Stahl had envisioned a modernist and steel constructed house that offered panoramic views of when he originally purchased the land for the house in 1954 for $13,500.  Stahl had originally begun to excavate and take on the duties of architect and contractor; it was not until 1957 when Stahl hired Pierre Koenig to take over the design of the family’s residence.

Julius Shulman (1910-2009)

Case Study House #22, (playboy), 1960 Los Angeles, CA / Pierre Koenig, architect   © Julius Schulman
Case Study House #22, (playboy), 1960 , CA / Pierre Koenig, architect © 

Case Study Houses was a residential experiment sponsored by the Arts & Architecture magazine, introducing the modern movement ideas for affordable and efficient housing during the post-war years in the US.

The result? Amazing houses by Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig and Eero Saarinen, built between 1945-1966 mostly in LA.

Most of you already know about this… mostly due to the incredible photos that registered this houses, reflecting more than just pure architecture, a lifestyle. And the man (genius) behind the lens was Julius Shulman, who passed away yesterday July 16th, 2009.

A selection of his photos after the break.