Press release from the John Lautner Foundation:
The same day that the city of Beverly Hills begins celebrating its world-famous zip code – 90210 – demolition begins on a significant John Lautner house: the 1951 Shusett residence just above Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills 90210. Months of discussions between The John Lautner Foundation, preservationist Michael LaFetra, a possible buyer, and the owners of the Shusett house failed.
John Lautner is considered internationally to be one of America’s most important architects of the 20th century. He was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (who referred to him as the ‘second-best architect in the world’) and his work foreshadowed the expressionism of architects like Frank Gehry (who referred to Lautner as ‘a God’).
After a series of interesting, but small houses built in the 1940s, the Shusett house, where the public spaces are arranged in a crescent around an enormous, now 130 year old Canary Pine, is one of the first two major commissions in Lautner’s career (the second is the Harvey House in the Hollywood Hills). Both houses, over the course of several decades, underwent significant alterations and suffered neglect. The Harvey House was in extremely poor condition when it was purchased by the current owners, actress Kelly Lynch and writer Mitch Glazer, who rescued the house by undertaking an exemplary restoration.
The John Lautner Foundation was informed last April that a demolition permit for the Shusett house was being processed by the city of Beverly Hills. Since then, the Los Angeles Conservancy and The John Lautner Foundation have been in contact with the owners of the Shusett house, Mr. and Mrs. Enrique and Katalin Mannheim, who owned the house for 23 years, to discuss the possibilities of restoring or selling the house. Mr. LaFetra, the interested buyer, was in direct contact with the Mannheims. Once the demolition permit was issued last Friday, the city of Beverly Hills facilitated a meeting at the house between the owners and The John Lautner Foundation to discuss moving the house. Mr. LaFetra, again, was in direct negotiations with the Mannheims, but sadly, this last minute effort did not produce a viable agreement.
The city of Beverly Hills has no historic preservation laws (such as the Mills Act, which allows owners of historic and designated properties to receive tax credits for restoration expenses), or landmark ordinances which, in cases like this, would allow the necessary time to explore alternatives to demolition.
For questions please contact:
Frank Escher (author and former Administrator of the John Lautner Archive): (323) 665 9100
Christopher Carr (Vice-president, The John Lautner Foundation): (323) 462 2225
Karol Lautner Peterson (president, The John Lautner Foundation): (906) 869 6357
Or John English (director, The John Lautner Foundation and preservation law expert): (323) 807 1154