Category Archives: The John Lautner Foundation

Information about the John Lautner Foundation

Films featuring Lautner buildings to screen in July

The Hammer Museum, in cooperation with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, will present four films that feature Lautner buildings in July, and will jointly host a sneak preview of the new feature documentary on Lautner (by Murray Grigor) in September. According to the Hammer:

All Hammer public programs are free. Tickets are required, and are available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first come, first served basis. Members receive priority seating, subject to availability. Reservations not accepted, RSVP’s not required.

The films:

Lautner Exhibition Related Screenings

Diamonds are Forever
John Lautner’s homes have been the dynamic backdrop for dozens of Hollywood films, television shows, and music videos. The Hammer screens four of these films over an intensive Lautner-inspired weekend.

Diamonds are Forever

Less Than Zero
John Lautner’s homes have been the dynamic backdrop for dozens of Hollywood films, television shows, and music videos. The Hammer screens four of these films over an intensive Lautner-inspired weekend.

Less Than Zero

The Big Lebowski
John Lautner’s homes have been the dynamic backdrop for dozens of Hollywood films, television shows, and music videos. The Hammer screens four of these films over an intensive Lautner-inspired weekend.

The Big Lebowski

Body Double
John Lautner’s homes have been the dynamic backdrop for dozens of Hollywood films, television shows, and music videos. The Hammer screens four of these films over an intensive Lautner-inspired weekend.

Body Double

Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner
This sneak preview of a new documentary feature film traces the lifelong quest of visionary genius John Lautner to create “architecture that has no beginning and no end.” It is the story of brilliance and of a complicated life—and the most sensual architecture of the 20th century. Renowned architectural filmmaker Murray Grigor explores Lautner’s dramatic spaces as Lautner himself provides the commentary, speaking with insight and wit in recordings culled from archival sources. Includes comments from Frank Gehry, original clients, owners and builders, Frank Escher, and Julius Shulman.
Murray Grigor–writer/director, Anna Thomas + Sara Sackner–producers.

Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner

See the Hammer Museum website for updated information.

New documentary on Lautner to screen in September

A sneak preview of the new documentary, Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner, by renowned filmmaker Murray Grigor, will screen at the Billy Wilder Theater in the Hammer museum in Los Angeles on September 18, 2008, at 7 p.m.

This screening is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. For more information, please visit the Hammer website:

Following this preview, the film is expected to screen in various film festivals.

A new website with a video preview of the film will be offered by the filmmaker in a couple of weeks. When more information is available we will post it on this website.

Panel discussion on Lautner and others in July

Opening photo of Chemosphere by Murray Grigor

The Hammer Museum is co-presenting a panel discussion on John Lautner and others on July 15 at 7 pm. According to the Hammer website:

Panel Discussion
Building Character

A lively panel will discuss high profile Modernist monuments that ultimately become protagonists when used as locations in feature films. Some highlighted architecture will include John Lautner’s “Chemosphere”, which played a starring role in Body Double, Neutra’s Lovell House, featured in L.A. Confidential, and the Marin Country Courthouse, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is a central location in Gattaca. Co-presented with the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design.

Hammer and Mak Center join to offer tours of Lautner buildings

John Lautner in Segel residence; Photo by Carla Larissa Fallberg
John Lautner with Joanne Segel in Segel Residence; photo by Carla Larissa Fallberg

As part of the celebration of Between Earth and Heaven, the exhibit on John Lautner that opens at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on July 13, the Hammer is working with the Mak Center for Art and Architecture to offer tours of Lautner buildings. Two dates are now confirmed: July 27 and September 14. Only members of the museum (at the “Contributor” level and above) are permitted to purchase tickets, which go on sale June 16. More information on the tours will be available on the Hammer website ( on June 6 and on the MAK Center website ( Space is limited.

Update: see News category for updated information on these tours.

Archive preservation proceeds painstakingly

As reported in previous newsletters, the Foundation is pleased to report that the Getty Research Institute has accepted the John Lautner archive and is in the process of preserving and cataloging the materials. Members of the John Lautner Foundation Board of Directors toured a part of the Getty Research Institute last April, to get an idea of the preservation process.

Albrecht Gumlich shows the record for one item.
Albrecht Gumlich, head of the Lautner conservation effort, shows Frank Escher and Karol Lautner Peterson the record created for each item in the archive.

Karol Lautner Peterson, Christopher Carr, Frank Escher, and Judith Lautner met with Wim DeWit, head of Special Collections and Visual Resources, who then introduced the board members to Albrecht Gumlich,  who is overseeing the preservation effort.  Gumlich described and showed the group several of the methods in use for different types of materials and different challenges .

Conservation worker describes use of special paper
Conservation worker describes use of special paper for repairing tears and reinforcing corners.

The Getty Special Collections section includes specialists in many different aspects of preservation. Some work on original plans, some on models, others on photographs. The primary goal is to stabilize the material, which often means no more than eradicating insects and then preserving in special covers and cabinets in climate-controlled vaults. In the case of the Lautner models, decisions have to be made about how to repair damage and whether or not to replace faded color elements.  When portions of a model are missing any replacement parts must be removable without affecting the original materials. Preservation appears to be an art as well as a science in this respect.

Gumlich displays the type box models are stored in
Gumlich displays the type box created for model preservation.

Gumlich works on Segel model
Gumlich describes the decisions that had to be made in the preservation of the Segel residence model.

Because of the detailed work that is being done on the extensive Lautner collection, it will be several months before the collection is available for research by the general public. When it is available, the Foundation as well as the Getty will announce it.

Models proceed apace

The models for the upcoming exhibit at the Hammer are being manufactured by Design Models of California, Inc, in El Segundo, California. The models will be built at the scale of 1″ = 1′, which is sixteen times as large as a typical (1/4″ = 1′) working architectural model. The large size allows a viewer to see into the model and more easily visualize the effect the building has on people inside. The large models were in various stages of completion when visited by the board in April.

Chad Takenaka explains aspects of the chemosphere to Chris Carr
Chad Takenaka displays the model of the chemosphere (Malin residence).

As with the restoration of models at the Getty Institute, the crew at Design Models had to make decisions along the way when constructing the large-scale models. Many copies of plans (as well as consultations with the co-curators) were used to help with these decisions.

Some of the many plans used by the model makers
Some of the many plans used in the construction of the models.

Elrod residence Looking up at the Elrod residence ceiling
The Elrod Residence. Photo on right shows view of ceiling from inside.

Arango residence
A portion of the Mar Brisa residence in process.

One additional benefit to the use of several large models all at the same scale is that visitors will be able to compare sizes of homes easily.


Members of the Foundation are entitled to printed copies of the newsletter as well as various discounts and invitations to special events. Because of an agreement with the Hammer, the Foundation has been unable to offer special events during the time the exhibit is under development. After the exhibit opens, however, the Foundation will be able to offer an event, and intends to do so. Details will be in a future newsletter.

Get on the mailing list

When you sign up for the Foundation mailing list, you will receive email newsletters and occasionally letters from the Board of Directors. Mailing list membership is through the same process as regular membership, but it is free and there are no extra benefits.

To add your name to the mailing list, click on the link below and follow the instructions. Choose “Mailing list” for the type of membership. When it asks how you will pay choose “check” – even though it’s free the registration process requires that you choose a payment method.

Artez Academy of Architecture expedition

Desert Hot Springs Motel
Students and leaders of the Architecture Academy from The Netherlands accomplished a remarkable feat this last spring. Their goal was to visit every Lautner building in southern California. The Foundation board of directors loved the idea, but to protect the privacy of Lautner building owners, did not provide addresses or contact information for most of these buildings. The Arnhem group was the most determined and hardest-working we have seen, and very nearly accomplished its goal.

But let’s start at the beginning. Jan-Richard Kikkert, one of the organizers, starts the story in this issue of the newsletter (edited slightly for clarity). The remainder will be told in one or two additional newsletters.

Artez Academy of Architecture Lautner 2007 expedition.
By Jan-Richard Kikkert with Tycho Saariste
Artez Academy of Architecture, Arnhem, the Netherlands

Part 1: Preparation

It all started in a high-speed train on our way home from Germany.

Ko Jacobs of the Artez Academy of Architecture of Arnhem had asked me to organize a trip for the students in 2007. The Academy considers architectural expeditions crucial in the development of an architect. In addition to the excursion the whole school makes at the end of the academic year to a location somewhere in Europe, smaller groups of students from specific years make their own tours. I was asked to put together one of these smaller trips.

With a bit of evaluation, I came up with the format of the perfect trip: not too many participants and focused on one architect whose works are located within a reasonable distance to each other.

Beyer ResidenceA few months later, my wife and I found ourselves being shown by Jim Goldstein around his house, garden and his James Turrell pavilion. My curiosity about Lautner’s work had been triggered by John Lautner’s (edited by Escher) book years before, but I found that the house was so much better than the gorgeous pictures already promised. At that moment I knew what I wanted to do for the excursion: to visit all remaining Lautner buildings.

Sheats-Goldstein Residence

This is where the work began. Just a handful of projects are mentioned in the architectural guidebook for Los Angeles. The official sources such as the foundation were protective of the names and addresses. Then a friend gave me a copy of Barbara-Ann Campbell-Lange’s book on Lautner. In the back was a reproduction of the map of LA on which Lautner indicated his built work until a certain date. With the help of Google-Earth and the plans in Lautner’s book it was possible to start locating most of the works. At that point, I told everybody in the field about my mission. Lots of friends wanted to join a Lautner expedition, all of them intoxicated with Lautner’s work through Escher’s book. One was Tycho Saariste, practicing Architect and son of one of my most inspiring teachers. He had seen Silvertop and the Chemosphere as a student and told me he just had to join me, no matter what.

Working with Tycho was excellent. We inspired each other not to give up until we found every last Lautner building that still existed, stretching the patience of our wives. Using all possibilities that the Internet provides and with the help of all the people who were willing to share what they knew about Lautner, it took us about a year of research to find all addresses with most of the current owners. Our definite list is a combination of all the lists that are available in various sources, completed with the help of Martin Daoust, Canadian Lautner connoisseur pur sang.

Crippled Children's SocietyThe next step was to convince all the homeowners to receive us. We sent 84 letters of request that included a reply form with return envelope and a letter of recommendation from the foundation. We received eight yes and three no replies. It took four weeks of intensive phone calls during the narrow window between LA and NL time to talk to everybody, confirm we would come and try to persuade the peoplewhot were still not sure they would like to receive us. The yeses came from proud homeowners with houses in pristine condition, happy to share them with us, from happy homeowners who never had a request for a visit before and homeowners who understand the importance for students (and their teachers) to experience striking examples. The nos came from homeowners who never allow visits (in one case, not even the architect was allowed to visit once the house was finished), from embarrassed homeowners with a house in a desperate need of renovation and from homeowners who were renovating and did not want to receive us for liability reasons.A third group was the people who had not responded to our letters and whose phone number or e-mail addresses were unknown to us. (Once in LA, at the Deutsch residence we found our
own unopened letter laying on the doorstep of a beautiful restored house.) To contact the last group we phoned their neighbors to pass on our request. In the end we scheduled 43 appointments, complete with 22 outdoor drive-bys.

Jordan ResidenceWe also wanted to involve a circle of people around Lautner, such as his daughters, Frank Escher and Helena Arahuete. In this way we could get first-hand inside information and exchange thoughts and observations to enhance the experience of the visits.

The generosity of Ko Jacobs, the director of the Arnhem Academy, made it possible for all of us to travel to Southern California for ten days, cruising around in two red Dodge Caravans from 08:00 AM until sunset. All of the houses were much better than anyone could have had imagined. For Europeans with a media-controlled, preconceived idea about US citizens, we found that the way we were accommodated by the homeowners was unbelievably kind and welcoming.

It was just perfect.

More details and photos to follow in future installment(s).