Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Joseph Eichler / Ernest Braun - creating the image of modern housing

I have known about Eichler houses for quite some time. A structural engineer that I knew, lived in one in Palo Alto. Many years later, I met a talented writer who suggested that some of her favorite houses were Eichlers. It caused me to renew my interest in the Eichlers as a model of how to design and build modern tract housing....

Joseph Eichler,

Ernest Braun,

During Braun's 14 years as a photographer for Eichler Homes, Inc., his photographic canvas typified not only the homes' architectural features of expansive walls of glass and their sharp, clean lines of post-and-beam ceilings; but it also portrayed the lifestyles of the homes' inhabitants. Images of families doing practical everyday activities -- like cooking in the kitchen or even frolicking in the backyard over a game of badminton.

But who is Ernie Braun? How did he bring his images to life? And how did he achieve such astounding results during those one-and-a-half decades of Eichler photo sessions?

The son of Maurice Braun, one of California's greatest Impressionist painters, Ernie, 80, is still very much in love with shooting and teaching photography. The key to photography, he says, is capturing "what you want to say" about a subject. "Then if you are versatile, and know how to use the equipment, it's just like a message that you write -- it emits kind of a graphic image," he told us recently from his San Anselmo home and studio, perched high on a hillside overlooking a lush Marin valley.

"In the non-human world, everything is designed from a practical point of view -- the leaves on a plant, the fruit," Braun explained. "And that relates to the Eichler homes in the sense that their whole design was functional and artistic," having that same kind of well-designed symmetry.

"When I was doing a photo shoot for Joe Eichler," Braun remembered, a dreamy look on his face as if traveling back in time, "I'd visit the house we'd be shooting, before I would actually photograph it, to get an idea of the best time of day for certain shots, the models that would be needed, and the props."

- from Eichler Network

Joseph Eichler built over 11,000 homes during his lifetime (most of which were in California). He created plans for these homes by hiring young architectural firms who designed one-story modern homes. Ernie Braun, a young photographer was asked to photograph the early houses for the Eichler advertising. These are some of his brilliant shots:


Ernest Braun still does photography -

Check his website:

. . .

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