gb Architect John Lautner, “the dialogue with the borrowed landscape”, part 3 and final. english text

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 Kliczkowsk

Architect John Lautner, the dialogue with the borrowed landscape, part 3 and final.

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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 Kliczkowski

Lautner a missing link between Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry.

It is possible to account for John Lautner’s place in 20th century North American architecture by referring to two anecdotes: Frank Lloyd Wright believed that his famous student was—after Wright himself, of course—the best architect in the world, for his part, Frank Gehry, when he was a student, honored John Lautner as a God.

Lautner can be considered the missing link between both architects.

Lautner’s ideas about space, structure and the relationship between the two can be illustrated with two paradigmatic buildings: the Pearlman Cabin and the Arango house.

The modest cabin is a small wooden construction, circular in shape, two-thirds of its perimeter are blind walls; The remaining third is occupied by a faceted glass enclosure.

The roof, whose central part is flat and circular, folds towards the wall and the back of the building, twisting until it reaches the wide opening located in the front of the building, in this area the roof rests on a row of logs…that work at the same time as support for the roof and as window carpentry. These trunks echo the trees that populate the environment, uniting the small interior space with the open and wild context that surrounds it. The space of the architecture thus extends to that “borrowed landscape” formed by the trunks and the panorama of the nearby forest, captured through the windows of the house… (1)

The Pearlman Cottage is a famous example of organic architecture. Despite being small and cheaply built, it is considered one of John Lautner’s best works.

Within the canon of modernist architecture, the iconic ‘Chemosphere’, or Marlin House, is almost a cliché.

The design of John Lautner’s 1960 house, so impactful that the Encyclopedia Britannica called it «The most modern house built in the world», was as much an exercise in fanciful as it was practical thinking. The land was given to Leonard Malin by his father-in-law as a wedding gift. Its slope is 45 degrees, building a conventional structure on the land would have been too expensive.

Lautner proposed a design for a house of around 200 m2 that was raised above the slope, supported on a concrete column and, despite warnings that it would fall at the slightest movement, the house has survived earthquakes and landslides for more than 60 years.

The Marlin House was designated a Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument in 2004.

Currently the editor Benedikt Taschen lives there.

It is admired as much for the ingenuity of its solution to the problem of the place and for its unique octagonal design, as for its excellent resolution.

The building is located in the San Fernando Valley of the Hollywood Hills, next to Mulholland Drive, which is a street in the east of the Santa Monica Mountains.

It appears in numerous films, songs and novels.

David Lynch, who wrote and directed a film by the name of Mulholland Drive, has said “you can feel the history of Hollywood in it”.

Jack Nicholson lived in it.

It is a one-story octagon with around 200 m2 of living space.

This innovative design was Lautner’s solution to a site that, with a 45-degree slope, was thought to be virtually unbuildable.

Thanks to a concrete pedestal, almost 6 meters in diameter, buried underground and that supports the column, the house has survived earthquakes and heavy rains.

You reach the house by funicular.

The Chemosphere is divided in two by a central exposed brick wall with a fireplace, surrounded by discreet seating. The original decoration was done by John H. Smith, the first African American admitted to the National Society of Interior Designers.

Works by John Lautner

– 1957. Paul Zahn House, Los Angeles.

– 1957. Carl and Agnes Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild.

– 1957. Ernest S. Lautner “Round House”, Pensacola.

– 1957. Henry’s Restaurant, Pomona.

– 1957. Pearlman Mountain Cabin Pavilion, Idyllwild-Pine Cove.

– 1958. Hatherall House, Shadow Hills.

– 1958. George Hatherell House, Shadow Hill.

– 1958. Iwerks House, Sherman Oaks.

– 1960. Midtown School, Los Angeles.

– 1960. Concannon House, Beverly Hills.

– 1958/60. Leonard J. Malin Residence, “Chemosphere”, West Hollywood.

The Leonard Malin House, known as Chemosphere, is located at 7776 Torreyson Drive.

Supported by a single pillar, it leaves the landscape intact, by not excavating the rock.

It is accessed by a cable car from the lower garage, or via a bridge from the side of the hill, where the upper structure “almost” touches the ground.

The perimeter edge houses the cabinets, shelves and a sofa.

The interior cover is made of wood.

The inclination of the windows prevents the reflection of light.

Like the Pearlman House built three years earlier, the combination of very thin glass with larger structural elements contributes to the glazing being barely noticeable.

– 1960/1. Goldstein House, Beverly Hills.

– 1961. Peter Tolstoy House, Rancho Cucamonga.

– 1962. Paul Sheats House, Beverly Hills.

Paul Sheats House

– 1961. Marco Wolff Residence, West Hollywood.

Wolff House

– 1958/62. Russ García House, “Arco Iris”, West Hollywood.

 Russ García House

In 1962, he designed the Russ Garcia House for jazz musician Russ García.

It is located at 7436 Dr Mulholland, West Hollywood.

Covered with a wooden vault and built with a steel structure, the residence «floats» above the hills with the support of two V-shaped steel supports. The structure is divided into two spaces of different use: one half contains the open living room with sofas built for this purpose, with the private spaces (bedrooms) being located in the other half. In the central, open entrance, there is the staircase.

Lautner described it as “arches of laminated wood designed to blend into the hills” taking the same shape as the curves of the terrain.

– 1962/76. Silvertop House, Los Angeles.

Silvertop House

– 1963. Reiner Residence, “Silvertop”, Los Angeles.

– 1963. Sheats-Goldstein Residence, Los Angeles.

Sheats-Goldstein Residence

It was built between 1961/63 in Beverly Hills for Helen and Paul Sheats and in 1972 it was renovated for James Goldstein.

It is one of Lautner’s best-known works, it was conceived from the inside out, it is located on a sandstone ledge on the hillside, it is like a cave-dwelling that is open to views and nature.

Lautner also designed the interiors (carpentry, lighting, carpets, and furniture). It has 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and a living room open to the terrace.

Made of reinforced concrete in situ, steel and wood.

The living room’s coffered ceiling was pierced by 750 tiny glass skylights.

The underfloor heating with copper tubes also heats the pool.

Exterior paths lead to the guest bedrooms and the master bedroom. Lautner opened these spaces, taking advantage of the mild climate of Southern California.

History of the Chemisphere

Aerospace engineer Leonard Malin wanted to have a house, and his father-in-law made it possible by giving him a lot.

But the cost of building the Chemisepher was 140.000 (1.4 million in 2022), and the young man only had 30.000.

He was assisted by 2 companies, the Southern California Gas Company and the Chem Seal Corporation, which provided the experimental coatings and resins to assemble the house.

The name is inspired by them, to the annoyance of Lautner who called it the Chapiteau house.

Cuando Malin junto 80.000 dólares en efectivo, la familia pudo realizar su sueño de vivir con sus cuatro hijos alli.

Pero en 1982, la crisis en la industria aeroespacial y el alto costo de mantenimiento los obligaron a venderla en 1972.

En 1976, no le fue demasiado bien al Dr. Richard Kuhn, fue asesinado a puñaladas durante un robo por parte de su amante y otro hombre. A ellos tampoco les fue bien, fueron declarados culpables y condenados a cadena perpetua.

En 1997, el interior estaba deteriorado, durante más de 10 años había sido alquilado y utilizado para fiestas dando un mal resultado, los acabados interiores habían sufrido modificaciones importantes y anacrónicas. Debido a su diseño único, resultó ser una venta difícil y permaneció en el mercado durante la mayor parte de su tiempo como propiedad de alquiler. 

Benedikt Taschen

Desde 1998 la Chemosphere de Lautner es la casa en Los Ángeles de Benedikt Taschen (1961), director de la editorial alemana Taschen , quien ha hecho restaurar la casa.

No puedo dejar de mencionar mi relación con Benedikt y su equipo, entre ellos Ludwig Konemann y Annete Dickman, durante 10 años he distribuido en exclusiva sus libros en España.

When Malin raised $80,000 in cash, the family was able to realize their dream of living there with their four children.

But in 1972, the crisis in the aerospace industry and the high cost of maintenance forced them to sell it.

In 1976, things didn’t go too well for Dr. Richard Kuhn, he was stabbed to death during a robbery by his lover and another man. They didn’t do well either, they were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1997, the interior was deteriorated, for more than 10 years it had been rented and used for parties with poor results, the interior finishes had undergone important and anachronistic modifications. Due to its unique design, it proved to be a difficult sell and remained on the market for most of its time as a rental property.

Benedikt Taschen

Since 1998, Lautner’s Chemosphere has been the Los Angeles home of Benedikt Taschen (1961), director of the German publishing house Taschen, who has had the house restored.

I cannot fail to mention my relationship with Benedikt and his team, including Ludwig Konemann and Annete Dickman, for 10 years I have exclusively distributed his books in Spain.

Taschen Publishing

Taschen Publishing House

My relationship began at a fair in London back in the 1990s, and I remember that Annette, his secretary, called me to tell me that “Mr. Taschen wanted to meet me” ,since we had made the agreement, with Ludwig, but not with him.

They invited me to travel to Cologne to dinner at the publishing house at 53 Hohenzollernring, All included.

Annette met me at the airport with Benedikt’s car, a huge Mercedes Benz, to take me to a splendid hotel near the publishing house in Cologne.

That night (which would later be repeated many times on my trips to the Frankfurt book fair) was attended by its cook Konrad, who explained to us what he was preparing for that night.

At the Taschen stands, whether at the Frankfurt Messe, the Book Expo or any other, there was always a team led by their Konrad, who prepared delicacies, so that their customers, being happy and above all satisfied, would stay at the stand to continue buying. . Many of them went to their appointments with other editors and then came back… to eat.

The residence has a relatively high maintenance cost.

The recent restoration, by Frank Escher – Gune – Wardena Architecture, won an award from the Los Angeles Conservancy. As I have already mentioned, Frank Escher together with the architectural historian Nicholas Olsberg, curated the exhibition at the Hammer Museum in 2008. (9)

In January 2023, the Taschen publishing house publishes the book “LAUTNER” by Barbara-Ann Campbell-Lange and Peter Gössel.

Preservation architect Frank Escher wrote the first book about Lautner a few years after moving to Los Angeles in 1988, and oversees the John Lautner Archives.

During the restoration, the architects added details that were not available 40 years earlier, since such technology did not exist.

The gas company board was replaced with a randomly cut one. slate, which in 1960 could not be cut thin enough, despite Lautner’s desire for such a finish.

The architects also replaced the original windows with thick frames with frameless glass.

The owners commissioned a pastiche rug from German painter Albert Oehlen (Krefeld 1954) and a hanging lamp made of folded Plexiglas strips from Jorge Pardo (Havana 1963), an artist who explores the intersection of painting, design, sculpture and art. contemporary architecture of Los Angeles.

The Taschen family planned to commission Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to build a large new guesthouse at the base of Chemosphere on the site once owned by Leonard Malin’s in-laws.

The new house was intended to house an art collection and a library and provide enough rooms for the family’s four children.

The project was canceled over fears that the annex would visually compete with the main house.

The Chemosphere was declared a Historical-Cultural Monument of Los Angeles in 2004.

It was included in a list of the top 10 Los Angeles houses of all time in a Los Angeles Times expert poll in December 2008.

The house is part of a retrospective of Lautner’s work that was shown at the Hammer Museum (9) in Los Angeles between August and October 2008.

Works by John Lautner

– 1964. Reiner-Burchill House, Los Angeles.

Reiner-Burchill House

– 1966. Willis Harpel II House, Anchorage, Alaska.

Willis Harpel II House
Elrod House

– 1968. Elrod House, Palm Springs.

– 1968. Stevens House, Malibu Bay Colony.

– 1965/68. Wayne Zimmerman House, Studio City.

– 1966. Marina View Heights Headquarters Building, San Juan Capistrano.

– 1968. Dan Stevens House, Malibu.

Dan Stevens House

– 1968. Arthur Elrod House, Palm Springs.

– 1968. Marco Wolff Mountain Cabin “Windsong”, Banning.

Marco Wolff Mountain Cabin “Windsong”

– 1969. Douglas Walstrom House, Los Angeles.

– 1971. Gary Familian House, Beverly Hills.

– 1972. Stephen Bosustow Cabin, Lake Almanor.

Stephen Bosustow Cabin

– 1970/72. Garwood House, Malibu.

Garwood House

– 1973. William Jordan House, Laguna Beach.

William Jordan House

– 1973. Jerónimo Arango House “Marbrisa”, Acapulco.

Jerónimo Arango House “Marbrisa”

Locate the living space on the upper level. The terrace does not have a railing, it has a moat with water, optically uniting the foreground of the house with the distant sea. It has 2,300 m2.

– 1973/79. Bob Hope Residence. Palm Springs.

Bob Hope Residence

– 1974. Tlstoy House, Alta Loma.

Tlstoy House

– 1975. Beyer House, Malibu.

– 1978. Robert Rawlins House, Newport Beach.

– 1978. Jordan House, Laguna Beach.

Jordan House

– 1979. Crippled Children’s Society, Woodland Hills.

– 1979. Gilbert Segel House, Malibu.

– 1979. IAC Shepherd Community Center, Los Angeles.

IAC Shepherd Community Center

– 1980. Rawlins House, Newport Beach.

Rawlins House

– 1980. House in Carbon Beach. Malibu. For Courteney Cox and David Arquette.

Gilbert Segel House

– 1982. Allan Turner House, Aspen.

– 1982. Alden Schwimmer House, Beverly Hills.

– 1983. Stanley Beyer House, Malibu.

Stanley Beyer House
Krause House

– 1983. Krause House, Malibu.

– 1989. Sheats Residence, Los Angeles, California (renovation).

– 1990. Levy House “Concrete Castle”, Malibu.

– 1992. Shearing House, Coronado.

About the documentary

En 1990, Aluminum Films produced “The Spirit in Architecture” directed by Bette Jane Cohen. With interviews with Lautner, filmed for the documentary.

In 2009, Googie Company released the feature-length documentary “Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner”, directed by Murray Grigor. Features extensive contemporary and archival images of many of Lautner’s key buildings (most of which are not open to the public), excerpts from Lautner’s 1986 oral history recordings, interviews with family, his colleagues and clients .

Lautner archivist Frank Escher, long-time Lautner fan.

Frank Gehry says «John represented the inquiring mind. As a child we saw him as a renegade, at least I did. «He was a maverick, a loner». In the documentary there is a moving reunion of the three surviving directors who built the Chemosphere: Lautner’s assistant Guy Zebert, original owner Leonard Malin and builder John de la Vaux who was 95 years old at the time of filming.

“Infinite Space” is a documentary narrated in a conventional way, with a series of interviews with people related to Lautner, sometimes they do not contribute much to the analysis of his work, such as Frank Gehry, a regular in documentaries on architecture, who appears more for who he is rather than for what he says, or like Sean Connery.

Lautner’s private life is barely mentioned in the documentary.

At the end of the 1940s, Lautner began to receive many commissions and his family life suffered. His daughter Karol says, “My father wanted to be a creative architect. When he arrived, my mother tried to please him as much as she could, but when the fourth child arrived, it was impossible for her. My mother was very in love with my father. It was very bad when they got divorced. I don’t think he ever got over it.»

Grigor has stated that the owners shared with us the insights they had on the adventure of living in the ever-changing light of Lautner’s magical spaces.


-The building was first used in a dramatic film as a futuristic residence in «The Duplicate Man», a 1964 episode of the ABC television show The Outer Limits, based on a science fiction story by American author Clifford D. Simak.

-Body Double from 1984, directed by Brian De Palma.

-Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

-In 1996, the Chimosphere was depicted as Troy McClure’s (played by Phil Hartman) fictional Springfield hilltop mansion in the television series The Simpsons.

-Charlie’s Angels 2000.

-Disney’s 2015 Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney.

Films in other of their homes

In the 60s, 70s and 80s he built the homes of many Hollywood stars such as Courteney Cox and Bob Hope.

Movies such as James Bond’s Diamonds Forever, Charlie’s Angels, and The Big Lebowsky were filmed.

John Lautner

He was very tall, drew poorly and hated routine: the most cinematic of all his colleagues.

Many considered him an iconoclast, and he received diverse and contradictory criticism, such as that he seemed to contribute with his designs to the Atomic Age or glamor or Hollywood Kitsch.

Lautner had a fascination with inventing new forms and structures such as at Googie Coffee Shop on Sunset Boulevard or the Malin House in Hollywood.

The 1949 Googie’s diner was located at 8100 Sunset Blvd. It was demolished in 1988/9.

The Cafe became a popular meeting place for celebrities such as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen among others. Its design goes back to the design of Cofee Dan’s.

Coffee Dan’s

Coffee Dan’s was designed by Douglas Honnold, born in Montreal, studied at Berkeley and Cornell.

He married Elizabeth Gillman.

He was famous and worked for the stars and glamor of Hollywood. In 1934, Samuel Goldwyn Sr. asked him to create a home for the movie mogul, his wife Francis and their family. The six-bedroom house included tennis courts, a theater and a splendid garden and is today the home of Taylor Swift.

It is said that the house was occasionally used as collateral to finance films such as “Wuthering Heights.”

John Lautner and Douglas Honnold became business partners in 1945, the partnership lasted 2 years.

Collaborating on projects such as the iconic hangouts ‘Coffee Dan’s’ and, although they went their separate ways for various reasons, (not least of which was that Douglas’ wife married John), this did not stop them from remaining friends.

Honnold collaborated with John Lautner on several projects including the Embassy Shop, George Vernon Russell and Arthur W Hawes. In addition to designing the Hollywood Reporter building for William Wilkerson, the Beverly Hills Athletic Club, the Anderson House in Bel Air and the 1983 Edward Albert Tink Adams House with Architect John Leon Rix in Silver Lake.

Douglas died in 1974, as we have said his wife married John Lautner.

Otro Douglas, en este caso Douglas Haskall, crítico de la revista “House and Home”, dijo que Googie «trajo la arquitectura moderna de las montañas». La mayoría miraba el estilo caprichoso Googie, con mucho más cariño.

Deseaba humanizar los espacios, y crear una variedad de “poesía orgánica”, que, para evita una aproximación al diseño de Wright, prefirió llamarlas “arquitectura real o viva”.

Another Douglas, in this case Douglas Haskall, critic for House and Home magazine, said that Googie «brought modern architecture from the mountains». Most looked upon the whimsical Googie style, with much more affection.

He wanted to humanize spaces, and create a variety of “organic poetry,” which, to avoid an approach to Wright’s design, he preferred to call “real or living architecture”.

Ann Philbin, desde 1999, directora del Museo Hammer de Los Angeles prologó el libro que acompaño la muestra escribiendo que “Se trataba de un programa profundo y serio…”

Luego de su muerte acaecida en 1994, sus diseños han interesado e influenciado en la arquitectura, como reconocen los arquitectos Frank Gehry o Zaha Hadid.

Elrod House

1968. Casa Elrod, Palm Spring.

Ann Philbin, since 1999, director of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, prefaced the book that accompanied the exhibition by writing that “It was a deep and serious program…”

After his death in 1994, his designs have interested and influenced architecture, as recognized by architects Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid.

1968. Elrod House, Palm.

1937 at Taliesin East, Wright and his scholarship students including John Lautner.



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


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».

The museum’s critically acclaimed 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.

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Arq. Hugo Alberto Kliczkowski Juritz

Rolando Epstein dice:

12 octubre, 2023 a las 11:53 am Editar

Gracias Hugo. Impresionante trabajo!!

hugoklico dice:

16 octubre, 2023 a las 3:12 am Editar

gracias Roly

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