The Architecture of John Lautner

The Architecture of John Lautner

The Architecture of John Lautner

The Architecture of John Lautner

Synopsis

"John Lautner's sixty years in architecture comprise one of the great unexamined careers of the twentieth century. Rooted in a personal design philosophy that is the imaginative extension of the organic architectural theories of Frank Lloyd Wright (he was one of Wright's first apprentices), his exuberant designs and broad spectrum of approaches epitomize the landscape of southern California - from the fifties techno-optimism of the drive-in, freeway, and Cadillac tail fin to the structural innovation of opulent hilltop houses overlooking the ocean. Despite the extraordinary technical achievements of his concrete roofs, steel cantilevers, and double curves, dynamic engineering is never the main point of his work. The push-button glass walls and retracting roofs, however innovative, always serve to create humane spaces that allow occupants to commune with nature and themselves."--BOOK JACKET.

Excerpt

It is time for John Lautner to be more widely known. Five years after his death he remains a puzzling yet intriguing figure. To some architects he is a cult hero. To others he is a curious commodity known for a few sensational residential structures in Los Angeles. To others he is part of the ambivalent legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. Little is on the record about his life or general career. the purpose of this book is to present an overview of that career in photographs and words, to show its diversity, and to allow the professional and lay person to see and understand his architecture. of about sixty houses built throughout his fifty-five year career (not including additions), Alan Weintraub and I feature forty in this book. the dates given for buildings are those of completion; where a project took several years, both starting and completion dates are given. We selected these houses to represent an accurate cross section of Lautner's work. the primary focus is on the residential work for which he is primarily known, but Lautner's career cannot be understood without due attention to his substantial commercial work and its impact as well--a task made more difficult because virtually all of his early roadside buildings have been demolished.

Before his death Lautner completed a book, John Lautner, Architect, edited by Frank Escher, which he saw as his personal statement of his architecture; he had worked on it for more than a decade. Our book expands on that with an architectural biography and a discussion of his ideas. Yet there is even more information remaining to be explored in his archives, in unbuilt projects, in detailed technical analyses of his structures, spaces, and plans. It is time to show how his work relates to that of other architects of his times. Lautner himself might well have objected to this; he did not see himself as part of history in the usual sense.

As a child in Los Angeles I remember press reports of Silvertop and its wondrous push-button futurism, as if Monsanto's House of the Future had escaped from Disneyland and joined Los Angeles' ultramodern landscape of drive-ins and freeways and new cars. Later as a ucla architecture student I learned of Lautner's iconoclastic reputation, of his brazenly confident forms, of his bold course beyond the mainstream. I found this reputation daunting when I first interviewed him in 1983 for a Fine Homebuilding article. But I was won over to Lautner the architect when, in the course of the interview, I asked him where he got his initial idea for a design. "It's a real sweat," he answered. "Sometimes I don't know." As an architect myself I was utterly charmed by his answer. His buildings and his persona may have seemed Promethean, but he was completely human. He had no formula or bombast to rely on for design. For each building he was willing to put it all out on the line, to start anew, to put himself in that uncertain and vulnerable place to see where his ideas lead.

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