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The Midcentury Architecture of California Modernist John Lautner

By Dwell @dwell
John Lautner Chemosphere modern architecture restoration

Lautner's magnum opus, the Chemosphere was once called "the most modern home built in the world" by the Encyclopædia Britannica. After decades of neglect, the octagon home's interior finishes, guesthouse, and furniture underwent a historically sensitive restoration a few years ago. 

From A. Quincy Jones to Joseph Eichler, the California modernists are among the most celebrated figures in design, but few have crossed over into the public imagination like John Lautner. The Michigan-born architect, who passed away in 1994 at 83, etched his glass-and-concrete mark into the southern California landscape over the course of a career that spanned more than half a century. Today his work continues to inspire and challenge a new generation of architects. 

As an early apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, Lautner demonstrated his considerable ability while overseeing the construction of Wright's well-known Wingspread residence in Wisconsin and designing the Drafting Room at Teliesin West. The two architects remained close throughout their lives. 

Upon exiting the program in 1938, Lautner set up his own practice in Los Angeles. His sharply angular, surprisingly functional approach is evident in such homes as the Silvertop, the Levy residence, and, of course, the Chemosphere, his film-and-television famous flying saucer perched high in the Hollywood Hills. 

Lautner remained actively involved in large-scale projects until his death in 1994. 

Helena Arahuete, who began collaborating with Lautner on the Arango Residence in Acapulco in 1971, served as Project Architect on many of his later works, eventually rising to the position of Chief Architect at his office. Arahuete will be on hand at Dwell on Design in Los Angeles to discuss how she continued his vision on many projects. 


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