gb Architect John Lautner, «the dialogue with the borrowed landscape», part 1. english text

The “borrowed landscape”

This translation from Spanish (original text) to English is not professional. I have done it with Google, so there will be linguistic errors that I ask you to know how to hide. Many times I have been asked to read my texts in English, and that is why I decided to do it. In addition to your patience, if you see something that I can correct, and wish to notify me of it, I will be happy to do so. In the meantime, with its lights and shadows, here are the lines that I have written. Hugo A. Kliczkowski Juritz

John Lautner, his architecture in dialogue with the “borrowed landscape”.

John Edward Lautner Jr (Marquette 1911 – 1994 Los Angeles).

He grew up in a rural area of ​​the United States trapped by nature, surrounded by lakes and forests, on the shores of Lake Michigan, undoubtedly a reference in the design of his houses, always in communion with the environment.

His father was a university professor of German origin, a scholar, and his mother was a painter from an Irish family. “I have never been able to be either completely free like an Irishman or disciplined like a German”, he said in one of his most extensive interviews in 1986. (6)

Perhaps in that ambivalence lies the secret of his genius.

Lautner received a scholarship at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Talliesin School to train in architecture for six years in the 1930s, coinciding with great artists and architects such as Euine Fay Jones (1921 – 2004) (3), Santiago Martínez Delgado (4) and Paolo Soleri. (5)

While in Taliesin he participated in two projects in Los Angeles (including the Sturges House), and collaborated as director of the works of the “Wingspread” residence ” that Wright designed for SC Johnson.

Wingspread House

The house is in the middle of a large area of ​​land of 12 hectares, it attracts with its horizontal lines and the use of natural wood.

The name Winspread comes from the four wings of the house that extend from the central hall. It was the home of the Johnson family in the 1950s, it was later donated to the Johnson Foundation where it functions as a conference center, it is located eight kilometers from Racine in Wisconsin.

Over the past 50 years, Wingspread was the birthplace of several organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Criminal Court, and National Public Radio. In 1989 it was declared a National Historic Site.

Lautner defined himself as half a “completely free Irish savage” by his mother and half as a “completely squared German” by his father.

His father John Edward Lautner, emigrated from Germany in 1870 and was self-taught. As an adult he graduated from the University of Michigan. He spent eleven years in Europe between the universities of Paris, Göttingen and Leipzig; When he returned to the United States he lived in Marquette (Michigan), working as a teacher and teaching classes in “anthropology, philosophy, ethics, French and German”.

His father met his future wife, Vida Cathleen (née Gallagher), a student 20 years his junior. She was an interior designer and painter. (6)

The Lautners were very interested in art and architecture; in 1918, their Marquette house «Keepsake», designed by Joy Wheeler Dow, was featured in The American Architect magazine.

A crucial early influence on Lautner’s life was the construction of the family’s summer cabin, “Midgaard,” located on a rock platform on a remote promontory on the shore of Lake Superior. (7)

The Lautners designed and built the log cabin themselves and their mother designed and painted all the interior details, based on her study of Norse houses, in 2013 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1929, he studied philosophy, ethics, physics, literature, drawing, art, and architectural history at the Northern State Teachers College. He played piano and wind instruments. He never had a formal education in architecture, until he entered Wright’s Taliesin (in Spring Green, Wisconsin).

He lived in Boston, New York, and Chicago, enjoying these stays during his father’s sabbatical years.

Under Wright’s tutelage

He always adored Frank Lloyd Wright, he admired him.

When he considered his own path, he decided that “I was going to work from my own philosophy; since that is what Wright wanted the apprentices to do, he stated, my plan to be an architect is to work from scratch and from my philosophical ideas”.

About the process of his work he said “…I always start from scratch with the sketches and try to get a complete idea. I collect all the client’s information: what they like and what they don’t, the idiosyncrasies of physical things, etc.; and I absorb all the requirements. So, in addition to consolidating that knowledge, I try to create a totally new idea that can solve that particular problem. It may take me a short time or several months. Sometimes I need so much time to assimilate the situation and assume my role that it is actually a contribution in itself.”

From 1933 to 1939 he worked and studied with Wright in studios in Wisconsin and Arizona where Wright had created a school for the training of architects. He avoided Taliesin’s drawing room, preferring the daily tasks of «carpenter, plumber, farmer, cook, and dishwasher».

Taliesin East School taught him more than just drawing, he learned to work in stonemasonry and carpentry, and to live as a team.

Years later in an interview for UCLA (University of California), (6) he told Marlene Laskey “There were no classes, no rules or laws of any kind, except not to be late for breakfast“. Nobody taught anything. «Physical work and manual learning were essential“.

His teacher Wright had instilled in him the teachings that Lautner mentions.

Lautner refers to Casa Arango, in Acapulco “I knew exactly the environments they required. They had bought that land that overlooked the bay and had asked me to design a mountain house. When I went to explore the area I sat on the ground and, after a while, I discovered some higher areas on the slope that extended directly towards the main room. So I was able to conceive everything as a global idea. I would make an open terrace, without obstacles that could spoil the panorama, with a strip of water around it as a transition element that integrates the house with the bay. Then I could imagine something like a slope that disappeared into the sky, out of sight. “It would be a free space, suspended visually and psychologically between the sky and the sea”.

Lautner progressed rapidly under Wright’s mentorship.

When he married MaryBud in 1934, he was preparing the design details of a Wright house in Los Angeles for Alice Millard, working at the Playhouse and Studios in Taliesin, in 1936, he was assigned to what became a project that lasted two years supervising the Deertrack House, designed by Wright in Marquette for Mrs. Abby Roberts. The mother of Mary Faustine Roberts (MaryBud), who would be his wife. Years later his eldest daughter Carol would live there.

In 1937, he agreed to supervise the construction of the Johnson family residence «Wingspread» near Racine, Wisconsin (his personal favorite among the Wright projects he worked on), and traveled with Wright to supervise the photography of the Malcolm Willey House in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this project was a very important source for their own homes.

He was also deeply involved in the construction of the drawing room at Taliesin West, which influenced the design of his Mauer House (1946), collected photographs of Wright’s work for a 1938 special issue of Architectural Forum, and then returned briefly to Taliesin , to help assemble models and materials for a 1940 Museum of Modern Art exhibition.

He remained with Wright for six years until he moved to Los Angeles in 1940 to take up the profession independently.

“…I am aware of not wanting to be classified, but rather to continue growing and changing without interruption, to develop real basic ideas that enrich life itself and, furthermore, a timeless enjoyment of spaces. This is what I call “real architecture.” Without beginning or end…»

He told Wright that while he pursued an independent career, he remained «ready to do whatever you or your Fellowship (team) needed».

They worked together on about eleven Los Angeles projects over the next five years. In March 1938 he moved to Los Angeles to take charge of two of Wright’s works, mainly the Sturges House (1939) and decided to stay, cut the umbilical cord and try his luck in a huge city that at first horrified him.

“The first time I drove down Santa Monica Boulevard it seemed so ugly that I became physically ill. I was like that for a year. After having spent my life in the nature of Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin… It was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen, I have tried with my work to create oases of beauty despite being in Los Angeles».

Their first child, Karol, was born in May. (8)

Lautner’s first independent project was a low-cost $2,500 one-bedroom frame house for the Springer family.

In September 1938, Wright contacted him, so Lautner supervised a series of projects in Los Angeles, the Green, Lowe, Bell and Mauer houses.

During this period, Lautner worked with Wright on the designs for the Sturges House in Brentwood Heights, California and the Jester House, which was not built.

Lautner also oversaw the construction of the Sturges House for Wright, but during construction he encountered serious design, cost, and construction problems that culminated in the threat of legal action by the owners, forcing Wright to bring in students from Taliesin to complete repairs.

When the Mauers fired Wright for not turning in working drawings on time they decided to hire Lautner.

Wright gave the Bell House commission to Lautner which was quickly completed and cemented his previous success for his house, earning him widespread recognition and praise: the University of Chicago requested plans and drawings to use as a teaching tool.

Lautner was a research architect who experimented throughout his professional practice with form and structure; with the spatial relationship between architecture, natural environment and its materialization.

It was published in numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, three pages in the June 1942 issue of Arts and Architecture. It was declared «the model house for California living» in the May 1944 issue of House and Garden, in California Designs, in the Architectural Forum, and in The Californian.

Relevant was the exhibition at the Hammer Museum (9) in 2008 “Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner” and Getty-Hammer.

Then he performs in Glasgow, Scotland.

Likewise, the symposium “Against Reason: John Lautner and Postwar Architecture” generated an avalanche of publicity and interest in Lautner’s life and work.

Such as the catalog of the 1991 Viennese exhibition “John Lautner: Architect: Los Angeles”, with text by Lautner and edited by Frank Escher and the website of the John Lautner Foundation.

His first solo project was his own home in Los Angeles, the 1939 Lautner House.

Her article published in the June-July issue of California Arts & Architecture is about her.

Henry-Russell Hitchcock wrote in Home Beautiful that it was “the best house in the United States by an architect under thirty”.

In 1943, he worked for the Structon Company, on wartime military construction and engineering projects.

In 1944, Lautner worked with architects Samuel Reisbord and Whitney R. Smith before becoming a design associate at Douglas Honnold.

Douglas Honnold used his architect’s license, since Lautner did not have his until 1952.

Honnold had started in the 1930s as an interior decorator, working as an art director and film set designer at Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Lautner collaborated with Honnold on several projects, including the Coffee Dan’s restaurants on Vine St., Hollywood and on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, and a redevelopment of the Beverly Hills Athletic Club (since demolished), as well as two solo projects, Mauer House and the Eisele guest house.

Significant was the article «Three Western Homes» in the March issue of House & Garden, which included plans of the Bell Residence and four photos by Julius Shulman. (10)

These photos marked the beginning of a lifelong partnership between architect and photographer; Over the next fifty years, Shulman recorded some 75 assignments on various Lautner projects (for him and other clients) and his photos of Lautner architecture have appeared in at least 275 articles.

In 1945, Lautner became a partner in the studio, and left two years later after falling in love with his partner’s wife, Elizabeth Gilman.

Despite that detail, Honnold and Lautner remained lifelong friends.

Following his divorce from his first wife in 1947, John and Elizabeth married in 1948. He moved to the Honnold residence at 1818 El Cerrito Place, where he had his studio.

MaryBud returned to Marquette with her four children, Karol (1938-2015), Mary Beecher (1944), Judith Munroe (1946), and Michael John (1942-2005).

He was married to Elizabeth until her death in 1978 after many years suffering from a chronic illness.

In 1982 he married Francesca Hernández, Elizabeth’s caregiver.

Lautner’s output that year included the Tower Motors Lincoln-Mercury showroom in Glendale and the Sheats «L’Horizon» apartments,

He embarked on a number of major design projects, including Carling Residence, Desert Hot Springs Motel, Gantvoort Residence and Henry’s Restaurant in Glendale.

In the late ’40s and early ’50s

Her work appears regularly in popular and professional publications, including Architectural Record, Arts & Architecture, House & Garden, Ladies’ Home Journal and Los Angeles Times, RIBA, Avery, World Cat, WilsonWeb, Art Index among others.


He created Dahlstrom Residence, Googie’s Coffee House and UPA Studios in Burbank.


He was part of a group exhibition of sixteen California architects at Scripps College in Claremont, California


His work was included in Harris and Bonenberg’s influential A Guide to Contemporary Architecture in Southern California (Watling 1951).


Obtains his architect license. House and Home published the article «Googie Architecture» by Douglas Haskell, including two photographs by Shulman of the Los Angeles restaurant, accompanied by an article on the Foster and Carling houses and the L’Horizon apartments.


He is named Olympic Architect for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Architect Duncan Nicholson, who worked in his studio for five years in the early 1990s, wrote, Lautner was an architect’s architect, he did not wear a bow tie or pretend to be something he was not. He always seemed straightforward, although if you were working for him, you better know what you were doing, because you would pay dearly if you didn’t”.

Lautner spoke of his clients this way “My clients are all individuals with quite a bit of personality; If not, they would not come”.

Many of those clients were related to the world of entertainment, such as Bob Hope, Anne BaxterWright’s granddaughter – and John Hodiak, others were musicians such as George Carling, Miles Davis and Russ Garcia, or artists such as Helen Sheats, interior designers such as Arthur Elrod, and, above all, engineers and technicians, such as Leonard Malin and Kenneth Reiner, the latter worked in the innovative aerospace industry, and provided solutions to some of its buildings, so that without them they would not have been as they are.


«The Architecture of John Lautner» is published by the Rizzoli publishing house, by Alan Hess and Alan Weintraub.


An exhibition is held in 2008 at the Hammer Museum curated by architect Frank Escher and architectural historian Nicholas Olsberg.

Lautner is not only remembered for the development of the Geogie style, but for the style of the so-called “Atomic Age”, a period from 1940 to 1963 when Western society was immersed in concerns about the Cold War.

Architecture, industrial design, commercial design (including advertising), interior design, and fine art were influenced by themes of atomic science, as well as the Space Age. Atomic Age design became popular and recognizable, with the use of atomic motifs and space age symbols. From that time are the Leonard Malin House, the Paul Sheats House, the Garcia House or the Rainbow House.

John Lautner designed more than 200 architectural projects during his career, but many large building designs were never realized. In the architectural press, his current work has been dominated by his domestic commissions; Although he designed numerous commercial buildings, including Googie’s, Coffee Dan’s and Henry’s restaurants, Beachwood Market, Desert Hot Springs Motel and the Lincoln Mercury Showroom in Glendale, several of these buildings have sadly been demolished.

With exceptions such as the Arango Residence in Acapulco, the Turner House in Aspen, Colorado, the Harpel House #2 in Anchorage, Alaska, the Ernest Lautner House in Pensacola, Florida, almost all of Lautner’s existing buildings are in California, mainly in Los Angeles and surroundings.

Lautner’s final years were marred by declining health and loss of mobility.



AV. Living Architecture. Frank Escher, 12/31/2010. John Lautner 1911-1994


John Lautner infinite space. Collection directed by Murray Grigor. Texts by Architect Jorge Gorostiza. Original title “A Infinite Space. The Architecture of John Lautner (USA, 2008-92)”. Arquia Collection / Documentary 36.


Thorncrown Chapel

American architect and designer Euine Fay Jones was an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright.

He is the only one of Wright’s disciples to have received the AIA Gold Medal (1990), the highest honor awarded by the American Institute of Architects.

He rose to international prominence as an architectural educator during his 35 years of teaching at the University of Arkansas School of Architecture.


The Colombian muralist, painter, illustrator and publicist Santiago Martínez Delgado (Bogotá 1906 – 1954 Cajicá) was a representative of the Art Deco style.

He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Chicago, United States, and was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin.

He received, among others, the Logan Medal of Arts, the National Hall of Artists of Colombia and the Order of Boyacá Cross for his work on the mural in the Elliptical Hall of the National Capitol, considered one of the most significant murals in Colombia.



Interview with Lautner by Laskey in 1986.

In 1986, Marlene Laskey interviewed John Lautner for the Oral History Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

His six and a half hour interview was published by UCLA under the title “Responsibility, Infinity, Nature”.

It is available through the Internet Archive, an online library for researchers, historians and academics. The library maintains copies of the book in several different formats. It can be read online or downloaded.

Internet ArchiveResponsabilidad, infinito, naturaleza historia oral transcripción: Lautner, John, 1911- entrevistado: descarga gratuita, préstamo y transmisión: Internet Archive


Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes in North America. Among freshwater lakes, it is the largest in the world by surface area and the third largest by volume. It is shared by Canada and the US, and flows into Lake Huron through the St. Mary River.


“John Lautner. Architect». By Alicia Paz González Riquelme and Eduardo Basurto Salazar Department of Methods and Systems. Metropolitan Autonomous University. Mexico.


The Hammer Museum is an art museum and cultural center, part of the University of California, Los Angeles. Founded in 1990 by industrial entrepreneur Armand Hammer to house his personal art collection, the museum has since expanded its reach to become «the most modern and culturally relevant institution in the city.»

Critically acclaimed by the museum are presentations by emerging contemporary artists, many of them historically overlooked. It hosts more than 300 programs year-round, from conferences, symposiums and readings to concerts and film screenings.


Julius Shulman was born in Brooklyn, and grew up on a farm in Connecticut. He moved to Los Angeles to begin his studies, but never finished them. His mentor was Richard Neutra, who upon seeing the photos he took of the Kun Residence, commissioned him to immortalize his projects. “Actually I’m just a salesman, I sell architecture».

When John Entenza, director of the magazine Arts and Architecture, launched his Case Study program in 1945, Julius transformed projects by Eames, Neutra or Soriano into Icons.

“Shulman’s Stahl House snapshot is one of those images that summarizes an entire city” wrote the New York Times critic of the time (referring to Case Study 22, designed by Pierre Koenig from 1959).

Case Study # 21 (1958) de Pierre Koenig

«When I started working I realized that very few of my colleagues captured people in their work, but I thought that if I was going to photograph architecture I wanted to show it being functional».

«My images always tell a story, perhaps because there are people in them».

He lived in a house designed by Raphael Soriano in the Hollywood Hills. In 2015, the Californian studio LOHA restored it respecting its original design.

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2 comentarios en «gb Architect John Lautner, «the dialogue with the borrowed landscape», part 1. english text»

  1. It was Lake Michigan. Lago Maggiore is in Italy. Otherwise abode article. I grew up in the Mauer house and our son David is embarking on restoration.

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