Flowers from John Lautner

Samuel’s Florist, 2017 photo: Adriene Biondo

In October 2017 our friend the architectural historian Alan Hess, author of The Architecture of John Lautner, felt a frisson comparable to how ladies feel when receiving a big unexpected flower bouquet.

The Architecture of John Lautner, author Alan Hess

Ding dong, Alan’s architectural preservationist sidekick/friend, Adriene Biondo, was reporting from the streets of Burbank, California.

Adriene, a bloodhound, an aesthete, and long time connoisseur/advocate for mid-century modern design and architecture, happened upon an amazing discovery.

It turns out that a humble and charming small business in Burbank many of us have driven by for ages had a very famous creator. But let’s let Alan and Adriene tell the story.

Please send me flowers — but from the olden days

Writes Alan: It’s a wonderful world where there are unknown John Lautner buildings still waiting to be discovered. Thanks to Adriene Biondo, indefatigable preservationist, we now know of a 1955 flower shop he designed in Burbank. I’ve driven past it many times and admired its great neon sign (Adriene is claiming it for the Museum of Neon Art.)

According to Adriene, “On Friday I learned that the owner of Samuel’s Florist had mentioned that the little flower shop was actually designed by ‘a famous architect.’ So I drove over to the Building Dept. and pulled the original building permit to see who it might be…..dated 12/9/55 and signed ‘John Lautner, 1818 El Cerrito Pl., State Lic.# C-1509.’ “

chemosphere, artchitect john lautner

“How ’bout that! John Lautner, world renowned architect who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin and designed the Desert Hot Springs Motel (1947), Googies coffee shop on Sunset (1949), the Chemosphere (1960), Sheats-Goldstein residence (1960-63), the Elrod House (1968) …also designed Samuel’s Florist in Burbank (1955)! It pays to research!”

Alas, now two years after this joyous discovery, in 2019, the crushing and inevitable outcome. John Lautner’s flower shop, although surviving its colorful, perfumed contents, is going the way of all natural and organic objects when bereft of loving care — and that is, into oblivion. In this case, Samuels will soon meet the wrecking ball. This dear structure is about to be torn down. Demolition signage just posted …

photo: adriene biondo

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