The Organic and Futuristic Designs of Architect John Lautner
Written by Kelly Weimert on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 at 11:05am.
John Lautner is widely considered to be among the most important 20th-century architects in the United States. Lautner was born and raised in Marquette, Michigan, the natural surroundings of which greatly influenced his distinct architectural style. The future architect became immersed in architecture from a young age, helping his father build a chalet at just 12 years old.
Despite his early interest in architecture, Lautner earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Michigan University. However, after reading the autobiography of Frank Lloyd Wright, Lautner decided to pursue an architecture education, applying to Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship in Wisconsin.
Lautner was one of Wright’s first Taliesin Fellows and particularly took to Wright’s “organic architecture” philosophy — an architectural approach that focuses on creating harmony between buildings and nature. The fondness Lautner had for Wright’s style worked both ways; in fact, according to famous architecture photographer Julius Shulman, Wright believed Lautner to be the “next best architect on Earth.” The pair went on to collaborate on a number of beautiful buildings.
Lautner moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s where he designed many significant structures with his unique point of view. The sunny Southern California climate (coupled with Wright’s influences) inspired Lautner to use organic materials, like exposed wood and stone, and large panes of glass to create harmony with the surrounding environment. A keen engineer, Lautner also created striking angles and silhouettes using concrete, resulting in unique forms that were equally organic and futuristic.
And while Lautner created several prominent buildings, he’s best-known for the private Southern California residences he designed. To help you get a feel for Lautner’s exceptional style, we highlighted a few of his iconic residences below.
Lautner designed Chemosphere in the Hollywood Hills in 1960. The one-story octagon features 2,200 square feet of living space and is perched on a five-foot concrete pole nearly 30 feet above the ground. The home is a stunning example of Lautner’s ability to create homes that were simultaneously organic and futuristic.
Considered by many to be a mid-century modern masterpiece, Silvertop took nearly 20 years to construct due to Lautner’s undying commitment to applying fine craftsmanship to every detail. The house is best-known for its curving walls, which include floor-to-ceiling glass windows that wrap around the living and dining rooms, blurring the line between the indoors and outdoors.
Lautner designed the Elrod House for Arthur Elrod in 1968. Lautner pioneered the use of concrete in residential structures, and the sunburst concrete canopy of the Elrod House, complete with glass-and-aluminum sliding doors, is a prime example of his innovative concrete techniques. The Palm Springs house is likely Lautner’s most famous work thanks to its appearance in the Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.
Built in 1962, Lautner created the Garcia House for critically-acclaimed composer Russell Garcia. Also known as the “Rainbow House” thanks to its colorful stained-glass windows, the home features an arched roof and two distinct parts that allowed Garcia to practice music on one side of the house without disturbing folks in the other. This home is another one of Lautner’s designs featured in a movie, making an appearance in Lethal Weapon 2.
Not far from the aforementioned Elrod House, the Hope Residence was built for Dolores and Bob Hope in 1973. The 17,500-square-foot home is among the largest of Lautner’s designs. It's comprised of concrete and features a sweeping domed roof that Lautner modeled off of a volcano, creating a large hole in the roof’s center to offer sky views and plenty of natural light.
Image credit: lamodern.com
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