As noted in the last email newsletter, the Getty Museum Special Collections has accepted the John Lautner Archive. The Getty has begun work on the items needed for the Hammer exhibit (also see the previous newsletter for details), in accordance with an agreement with the Hammer, and has begun the fumigation, cataloging and preservation needed to preserve the remaining materials. During this time the archive will not be available. Do not contact the Getty to request materials until we announce that the collection is available again.
Some of John Lautner’s buildings are known throughout the world. Others have somehow slipped to back burners, lying in wait to be rediscovered. Such a house is the treasure known as the Eisele Guest House. And here, briefly, is its story.
Back in 1946, John Lautner designed a “guest house” for client Arthur Eisele. The small (a little over 1,000 s.f. including a separate “guest bedroom” attached to the separated garage) house was set on a large lot in the Hollywood hills, off Mulholland Drive, that had spectacular views of the city. The house was not visible from the street or from nearby streets, making it very private and virtually unnoticed. Arthur built the wood and brick house for his mother, Hazel, who moved in as soon as it was complete, in 1948. When Arthur later fell upon hard times, he was forced to sell the house. Hazel was so in love with the house by that time that she hoped its new owners would appreciate its special qualities as much as she did (a note to this effect is still in existence).
In 1956 Arthur sold the house to Lloyd Rigler, who had secured his fortune by selling Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer (in partnership with his long-time friend Lawrence E. Deutsch). After Rigler sold the business in 1974 he became a major supporter of the arts and a founding donor to the Los Angeles Music Center. He bought the house because he liked it, but he never lived in it and he didn’t rent it out or have visitors there. He protected the amazing views by buying up surrounding lots and not building on any of them.
Over the years Lloyd and his nephew Jamie visited the house from time to time. The house suffered a kind of benign neglect, aging gracefully in spite of a lack of maintenance. In the early 2000s Lloyd considered restoring the house and even went so far as to hire designers to draw up plans. Ultimately he did not want to pursue what the firm proposed and he cancelled the contract. The house continued to sit, unoccupied, unvisited, appreciated only by a few.
In the early 1990s, when John Lautner worked with Frank Escher on his monograph, he told Escher that the guest house was “not important”. Photographs and drawings of it did not need to be in his book. By that time he had moved from one project to the next, always answering the question, “what’s your favorite house?” with “the next one”. The guest house was small, not dramatic, not “flying concrete”, and such was Lautner’s view of himself that he himself did not recognize its jewel-like beauty.
And so the house sat. Until just recently. Lloyd Rigler died in 2003, leaving his estate to the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation. The house was in a living trust and transferred automatically to his nephew, James (“Jamie”) Rigler.
Jamie, who is gregarious and outspoken, has taken on the job of restoring the house to its initial glory. He has lovingly replaced sliding glass windows, repaired minor damage, replaced a trellis between the house and the garage, and installed new landscaping. He has removed items that were stored there and furnished the house with furniture that could have been sold during the time the house was built. He has even restocked the pool house with little bottles of coke. Most importantly, though, he has opened its doors to visitors.
We expect a significant increase in interest in Lautner’s works after this exhibit opens, and are working to accommodate that interest by increasing the size of our web space and adding more material to it. Many of you have been asking for more pictures for a long time. If you maintain a site that focuses on Lautner, we’d love to add a link to our site. Let us know. If you have royalty-free photographs that you’d love to see on our site, send them along!
Some of you may have noticed that we now use regonline to process memberships. This service allows us to maintain a database of members that is always up to date and that can be used easily for mailings to members. There are benefits for members as well: you can choose how you want to pay and you can choose whether to renew your membership automatically or simply get a reminder when it’s due.
Those of you who have memberships through Paypal will gradually be shifted over to regonline. If you see a notice of your “new membership”, therefore, in your inbox, don’t be alarmed. It only means that it has been moved over to the new system.
The innovative new cable and satellite tv network, current tv, is headed by former Vice President Al Gore and managed by young, experienced, and enthusiastic producers. David Neuman, President of Programming, is a Lautner fan, having lived in the Sheats apartments when he was going to school. The experience left an impression that he could not shake, and when presented with the challenge of creating a completely new type of studio for the network, he looked toward Lautner’s “chemosphere”.
After many meetings with foundation board members Chris Carr, Frank Escher, and Duncan Nicholson, the network and foundation agreed on the terms of a contract for the use of the chemosphere design as a studio space. In return for a yearly fee to the foundation, the network gained the rights to use the plans to build a studio modeled after this famous residence.
Foundation board members felt that the design would not be compromised by this unique use if it were re-created as an exact duplicate. Thus Carr, Nicholson and Escher oversaw the set onstruction, to assure that the representation was worthy of the name. The majority of the set is constructed of authentic materials. One exception is the floor – the original material, slate, could not be used because it would not form a smooth surface for camera dollies. Amazingly, the set was constructed in just over two weeks!
Other terms of the agreement include the mentioning of the set and its architect on air from time to time and the foundation’s right to use the space for occasional functions when it is not needed by the network.
The relationship between the two entities is called a “partnership” by current tv (see http://www.current.tv/partners/), but it isn’t a legal partnership, simply a friendly arrangement that works for us both.
|Is it real? Lighting of the photographic screen in the background can be varied to simulate different times of day.|
Advisors and other foundation supporters enjoy a meal overlooking Burbank…
But wait…it isn’t Burbank. It’s a large curved screen. The photographs used to create this screen were taken from close to the actual chemosphere.
Eric Lloyd Wright talks with Karol Lautner Peterson while Ramone Munoz and Steve Zeitzew converse in the background.
Your membership in the Foundation gives you certain privileges. More than that, though, it gives the Foundation the means to present educational events, to assist students and others in learning about Lautner’s work, to help preserve Lautner’s work and to assist owners in maintaining and remodeling Lautner buildings.
Memberships are now processed through our account with regonline.com. The registration process gives you the option to renew automatically (or not, in which case you will be sent a reminder about a month before your membership expires), and when the Foundation hosts future events, members in the regonline system will automatically be given a discount for the event.
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|The Foundation was formed
While we seek grants and other support from government and educational institutions, this type funding is for specific projects and can rarely be used for the regular expenses of the Foundation. For mailing and other clerical costs, for the expenses involved in hosting an event, for preservation activities, we must rely on limited archive fees, gifts, and memberships. See this article for a description of how the Foundation operates.
Bachelor residence, Malibu
photo by Bette Cohen
The Foundation is now accepting members. Please look at the Foundation Support page for options. We need your support, in any amount.
Projects include continuing development of this website, which will contain copies of selections from the archives, an international directory of projects, a calendar of events and exhibitions related to John Lautner, and access to available publications. Publication projects on various aspects of Lautner’s work will be supported by the foundation.
The organization will serve as a respository of resources for Lautner home owners and will provide support, when possible, in the preservation and maintenance of Lautner buildings.
“We have some ambitious goals for the foundation,” says Escher, “and we are looking to the charitable community for support.” In addition to possible funders, the foundation is interested in hearing from scholars, historians, and Lautner admirers and homeowners.
The archive contains
- approximately 12,000 drawings
- thousands of slides, photographs, video and film documents
- job and client files
- about 20 models
The foundation will be creating and maintaining bibliographical and periodical materials, including professional and personal correspondence, transcripts of lectures, interviews, and awards. Materials from the archive are currently not available for exhibitions, publications, and educational events. See the archive page for details.
The primary objectives of the foundation are:
- To further the understanding of John Lautner’s architecture and his principles.
- To maintain and operate the professional and personal archives of John Lautner. (This goal is met by agreement with the Getty Center)
- To provide a center for scholars, architects, and visitors interested in the work of John Lautner, and to establish ongoing communication for all individuals interested in the architecture of John Lautner.
- To make available material from the archives of John Lautner for exhibitions, publications, educational events such as, but not limited to, lectures, seminars, and workshops. (Materials will soon be available from the Getty Special Collections, by special agreement with the Foundation)
- To serve as a respository of resources for Lautner homeowners, and, where possible, to provide support in the preservation and maintenance of Lautner buildings.
- To obtain funding to support these goals.