John Lautner, visionary architect and artist, honored in Los Angeles

Architecture & Design

The John Lautner Foundation and the Los Angeles Conservancy co-convened a marvelous panel discussion comprised of passionate professionals who have purchased and/or restored modern homes designed by architect John Lautner (1911-1994).

The L.A.-based architect would have turned 100 this past July.

A discussion, led by Conservancy president Linda Dishman, gathered steam when panelists offered views on why Lautner matters. These are people who have delved into the architect’s thinking, his blue prints and his buildings at a granular level. Asked to select a favorite Lautner project, it proved a real Sophie’s Choice.

It is the spirit of each house. You have to be inside of those those spaces in order to be aware how it effects you. This is something so powerful; it’s the feeling of the space as protagonist; the way he brings nature into the space. 

Each of the homes is my favorite. Each is a specific response to space. You cannot compare them.

Helena Arahuete, Principal, Lautner Associates, discussing the Harvey Residence (1951)
Lautner was a genius. [Richard] Neutra had a style, and there was a canon of forms and rules of composition. He made fantastic homes. But it’s a stylistic approach. Lautner was working in a conceptual way. It came from his understanding of space, the site, his materials and his client. It is not a stylistic, rather it is a conceptual approach to architecture. 

My favorite home changes all the time. The Pearlman mountain cabin, the way it draws the trees into the house; the Walstrom house, a beautifully built small house. you move around and see how complex the space and his thinking is.

Frank Escher, board member, The John Lautner Foundation and Principal, Escher GuneWardena Architecture, discussing the Malin Residence (Chemosphere) (1960)
He had a unique vision for each and every project. If you thumb through a book of Lautner’s work, every house is so dissimilar. The Arango House in Acapulco is my favorite. Mark Haddawy, owner, Harpel Residence (1956)
At first, I felt that, similar to Frank Lloyd Wright [Lautner was a protegee of FLW], there was a hearth and a room for photos. And everything else [was secondary] . Lately, I spent time with Lautner and I began to understand the complexity. 

The Stevens home, where I live [is my favorite]. I wake up; I don’t giggle anymore, but over my coffee, you’ll catch me smiling. He’s a genius. I snuck up upon the Turner home (Aspen, CO), I started to cry.  He’s a great architect.

Michael LaFetra, Conservancy board member and owner/past owner of several Lautner homes, discussing the Rawlins Residence (1980)
Southern California has one of the best collections of residential modern architecture in the world. All the rest are coming from Bauhaus or European tradition. Lautner is coming from Los Angeles. This space. [His work] speaks to L.A geography. 

I love the Stevens home, Michael’s house in the Colony. There’s a purity, a clarity, it’s so strong. The way it’s situated with the ocean, the mountains, it’s a masterpiece.

Ron Radziner, FAIA, Design Principal, Marmol Radziner, discussing the Garcia Residence (1962)

The panel then commented on whether L.A. still forms a cauldron for creativity as in Lautner’s era.

Ron: As a city to practice architecture in, there is still an openness in patrons of this city.
Frank: I agree. L.A. is always been a laboratory of experimentation. Some of the best art schools in the country are here. The art market is perhaps more in New York City.
Mark: The diversity and openness is one of the reasons Lautner was willing to stay in L.A. after publicly announcing he was ready to destroy the city because it was so ugly.

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