Monday, December 6, 2010

John Lautner, Mid-Century Architect

John Lautner was one of this country's best architects, however, he is little known by the general public. His work is worth exploring as modern architecture of the mid-twentieth century enjoys a resurgence in popularity. 
1. Lautner's Chemosphere house, featured in many movies.
It used to be a truism that in bad economic times traditional architecture becomes popular because it is safe and comfortable. Conversely, contemporary - or modern - architecture was considered a risk during times of uncertainty. This has turned out to be a tired cliche. Times are not great, but forward-thinking architecture is far from dead and is no longer considered economically risky. Perhaps it has been around long enough that modern/contemporary design has itself become comfortable and familiar.  
2. The iconic Goldstein residence in Palm Springs.
Mid-century modern is a well-defined, but broad, category. It covers everything from the classic California ranch house to Frank Lloyd Wright usonian designs to the free-form swirls of Bruce Goff. It is the modern architecture of the 1940s through the 1960s. [Note: We will have to have a separate discussion on the difference between "modern" and "contemporary." The terms are often used interchangeably. Is there a distinction?]  John Lautner was a hero of the era, inspiring many architects who followed, including myself. There are several good books available on Lautner. The Hammer museum in Los Angeles staged an extensive retrospective of his work last year. If you haven't met John Lautner's architecture, enjoy this short clip from the documentary Infinite Space:

Photo Credits:
1. ikkoskinen.
2. Arch.james.


  1. The Sheats / Goldstein Residence is in Beverly Hills.

  2. Although it certainly looks like it would be capable of flying to Palm Springs.