The architecture of John Lautner

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Rizzoli, 1999 - Architecture - 276 pages
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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.

Lautner's career began at Wright's Taliesin in 1933 and continued after his arrival in Los Angeles in 1938. The book traces the unfolding of his protean conceptions up to his death in 1994. During the forties and fifties, he established his own architecture office and designed several small and medium-sized houses of unusual daring and freedom. His eye-popping designs for roadside coffee ships-the celebrated Googie's, with jazzy roof lines and Kaleidoscopic geometry-and California houses sporting hexagonal roofs, free-floating walls, and indoor-outdoor pools, are among these. In the sixties, the now-iconic Chemosphere, Elrod, and Silvertop houses were built. Extravagance and the refinement of his bold expressions mark the buildings of the final phase, the seventies to nineties. For these houses Lautner's athletic use of concrete reaches its zenith. The sweep of the curves and play between site and structure create dizzingly fantastic forms that are indicative of both the core and the frontiers of the twentieth-century American psyche. This volume, with its authorative text by Alan Hess and full-color and black-and-white photography by Alan Weintraub, splendidly captures the breathtaking interior spaces and extraordinary vistas that characterize the work of an architect who is increasingly seen as one of the great American masters of the twentieth century.

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Lautner house Silver Lake 1940
Schaffer house Glendale 1949
Payne addition San Dimas 1953

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About the author (1999)

Alan Weintraub is a widely published architectural photographer whose most recent book is Lloyd Wright: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.

Alan Hess, an architect and architecture critic of the San Jose Mercury News, is the author of Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture, Viva Las Vegas: After-Hours Architecture and the Alan Weintraub Hyperwest: American Residential Architecture on the Edge.

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