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My trip to Los Angeles was to meet up with a group of students and their leaders from the Netherlands (Amsterdam), from a special design school, who came to California to visit as many Lautner buildings as possible in about ten days. The two leaders of the pack did an extraordinary job of finding Lautner buildings, contacting owners, arranging to visit, and scheduling their visit. They saw almost 60 buildings in those days, which has to be some sort of record. When they were unable to gain permission (or reach the owner) to enter, still they drove by, took pictures, saw what they could, and sometimes were able to find someone on-site who would let them in.

I joined them for just a day and a half. One of the places we saw during my time was a small jewel on Mulholland Drive, designed in 1946, the year of my birth, and built in 1948. The owner has been working furiously to bring it back to its original glory. It sat for over 50 years essentially hiding in wait while its previous owner did other things. Fortunately, that owner loved the building. He bought up land around it to protect its views, which have to be the most spectacular views in that city. He didn't do much to maintain the house but neither did he destroy it. And now his nephew, its current owner, is lovingly bringing it back and is delighted to share it with others.

This present owner offered it to me and my sister Karol to stay any time we like. I immediately took him up on his offer, and stayed there Saturday night. What a pleasure! Here are a few photos that just hint at it.

Approaching the entrance

"Rear" of house - bedroom end. Pool house is at right of pool.

View through living room slanted windows to patio and beyond.

The house is about 1,000 s.f. and contains one bedroom. An additional bedroom is attached to the garage. That room will include its own bathroom and is separate from the main house. So this "guest house" has a "guest bedroom" of its own. It is not clear to me what the guest house was to be a guest house for - no main house was built or planned.

I hope to share more of this house and others over time.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
I'm having a great time looking at all these buildings. I love "weird" houses (like that sphere one--so funky). My wife is an architect and it's a shame all the stuff he works on is so boring (compared to the sphere house, most things would be).

Is that the first of your father's buildings you've stayed in?

So cool *goes back to the link for more oogling*.
May. 7th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
No, fortunately for me. I stayed in the Desert Hot Springs motel several times and spent a week in the Elrod house in Palm Springs. I also lived in my father's first house, one he designed for his own family, when I was very little.

I don't think of these works as either weird or funky. There is a reason for every design decision made - and that reason has little to do with how the building might look to people outside. What sets Lautner buildings apart is that while they typically include many innovative elements, structural and otherwise (for example, he used a pre-stressed concrete roof on a residence when this technique was just starting to be used commercially - and designed a cantilevered driveway that climbs up the side of a hill), at heart they are warm and inviting and "alive". They change constantly with the changes in the day and when one moves around in them. THere is no real describing this effect. Pictures do a poor job of explaining a constantly-three-dimensional experience.

I hope to get more and better pix online. At least they help!
May. 7th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean funky/weird in a bad way. It's just fun to see a structure that's highly functional and visually interesting. It's even more interesting knowing that the "visually interesting" wasn't the driving force.

*They change constantly with the changes in the day and when one moves around in them.* I know what you're saying. Designing the structure in such a way as to maximize the natural light (so taking in to effect that the light is different at different times of the day, etc) and things like that. Fascinating. And using new techniques/materials (or existing ones in new ways) just tickles the imagination. There are so many materials out there that I never even realized existed, like flooring made from recycled tires and insulation made from recycled denim.
May. 7th, 2007 08:02 pm (UTC)
I knew you weren't denigrating anything by using those terms. I just didn't think they really apply. My father's works all take advantage of teh light, the wind, anything natural that is available. They are also not set in any time and place. Some call his work "midcentury" but that's inaccurate. He was growing and changing all of his life, and working until his death in 1994. There is nothing "midcentury" about the last house he designed.

He drew inspiration from odd places. He was what they call a "lateral thinker", taking from one place and bringing to another. He was not a logical person at all, couldn't really get logic in fact (I am great at logic). And he liked his buildings to be solid, permanent. Some call them "overdesigned" in the engineering sense. I don't. Most of his clients are thrilled at how well the buildings withstand major upsets, like earthquakes.

ANyway! More later! I have so many pictures!!
May. 7th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)
That is very cool... All of it. I love that those students got to be with you. That must have been something for them. And I love the restoration and that you got to stay there. Very very cool.
May. 7th, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)
The group was something special. I traveled with them in one of their vans all day Saturday and it was one time I wish I were more outgoing. I did have a few conversations but not as much as I would have were I more "forward". I learned about their school and about how one of the group leaders met his American wife (she wants to move back to the US sometime; a complication for them). While I was in the van they spoke Dutch to each other, English to me. I can pick out words in German and Spanish and French but Dutch mostly escapes me. A word here and there. So I didn't try to get what they were saying and I missed all of the jokes, of course!

Quite a group. Very likeable, polite, enthusiastic. I was especially impressed by their driving ability. It isn't everyone who can land in the world of LA freeways and navigate as if they'd lived there all their lives. One time one of the students did one hell of a tricky move, trying to turn left on Franklin, a nightmare of a street in Hollywood, and actually succeeded. His calm courage was impressive.

The owner of this house is a kick! A delight to talk to, funny and gregarious. We found so many happy, enthusiastic home owners. It was really gratifying.
May. 7th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
I cannot imagine. My father sold underwear. He launched the 'nothing goes right when your underwear's tight' campaign for Hanes and later was one of the first to implement cotton crotches in pantyhose but somehow it's not quite the same :)
May. 7th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
No, not quite the same. But he was right about the tight underwear. And cotten crotches are lovely. So he probably had more of an impact on a larger number of people than my father did.
May. 7th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
That is amazing!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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