Schlagwort-Archive: john lautner

John Lautner, Garcia House, 1962, Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles

Garcia House

The day we visited the Garcia House was fully dedicated to John Lautner. In the morning, we had an exciting tour with Roberta, the breezy and cheerful assistant of James Goldstein, owner of the Sheats-Goldstein Residence in Beverly Crest, a neighbourhood of Beverly Hills. Everybody was overwhelmed with the house’s architecture and the strange self-fashioning of its owner, who had just left the property in his white Roll’s Royce the minute we gathered in front of the dwelling.
Even though the Sheats-Goldstein Residence was hard to top, we decided to stick to our agenda. Chemosphere was supposed to be the next stop.



The Chemosphere stands on the San Fernando Valley side of the Hollywood Hills. This urbanized valley north of the Los Angeles basin is defined by the mountains of the Transverse Ranges. Most parts of the San Fernando Valley belong to the city of Los Angeles, although there are a few other incorporated cities like Burbank or Calabasas within its area.

On our way to the Chemosphere we drove along the 34 kilometers long and mostly two-lane Mulholland Drive, connecting the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills. We turned off Mulholland Drive as it crossed Laurel Canyon Boulevard, following our route to John Lautners most popular dwelling.

After having arrived we realized that the space shuttle-like house was barely visible from below. The house is not located directly at the street, since a driveway leads to the funicular of the Chemosphere. Unfortunately, prospering trees were blocking our views. We tried to spot the Chemosphere from different points along the streets, but in the end either trees, houses or natural mounds were blocking our view. We got a glimpse of the upper part of the house and the struts connecting the ‘flat’ part of the house with the concrete steel; the steel itself and the funicular were not visible. Simply put, we were a little bit disappointed after the impressive impact we had in the morning at the Sheats-Goldstein Residence.

Obviously, some famous actors were living in the neighbourhood, since more than one ‘celebrity-spotting’-tourist bus crossed our way as some people of our group were siting along the street. The tourists in the busses were clearly wondering why there were people sitting on the ground – something very unusual in Los Angeles.  To cap it all off we were sent off by an armed guard when we tried to turn our cars.

Garcia House

After our stop at Chemosphere we decided not to follow the “celebrity-spotting”-tourist busses but to cruise along Mulholland Drive to our last planned John Lautner stop – the Garcia House.
On our way to the eye-shaped house we learned that the Mulholland Drive was as serpentine and bumpy as described in the books and movies like David Lynchs ‘Mulholland Drive’, yet very picturesque.

The Garcia house was hard to find. Since our group was split into three it was not easy to stick together all the time. We tried to communicate via messenger, but in the end not all the cars made it to the Garcia House at the same time. Our car first tried to spot the house from the street above, but the sight was blocked. We decided to turn around and try it again from below –  successfully.

Garcia House

The eye-shaped building sitting on V-shaped beams 18 meters above the ground presented itself literally in full bloom. The flowers and plants around were blossoming and framed the house beautifully. The photos we had seen in our course had been taken from a distant point, capturing the house at eye level. The house was somehow sitting enthroned above the little valley. On the spot, we only had the chance to view the dwelling from beyond. Parts of the beams were covered, again, by trees and plants; but nonetheless it was easier to get an impression about the structure and the shape than at Chemosphere. In the photographs the narrow beams connoted a feeling of fragility. In real life, the house seemed to be well anchored; an impact that was enhanced by the framing trees.

We had a little discussion about the house’s condition and about whether the flashy coloured glass windows, being responsible for the name “rainbow house” were still in their original position.

It occurred to us that the street we were parking in was in vast change. Almost every other house was in or under construction. The Garcia house seemed to be the oldest yet most unimpaired house in the neighbourhood. With a clear conscience, knowing that the house was well taken care of by its new owners, we left the side road and continued our sunset ride on Mulholland Drive. After a quick stop on a platform with a panorama view over the Valley we decided spontaneously to end the day with a beautiful sunset in Malibu, where we had a little glance at one last Lautner house, the Segel Beach house.

Elena Schmidt

sunset on Mulholland Drive

All pictures are taken by the author.



John Lautner, Silvertop, 1957, 2138 Micheltorena St; Richard Neutra, Neutra Colony, 1948-1961, Silver Lake Blvd, Neutra Place, Earl St; Rudolf M. Schindler, Droste House, 1940, 2025 Kenilworth Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Upon our arrival at Silver Lake, right after we had parked our cars in front of Neutra’s Van Der Leeuw (VDL) house, we wandered across a lawned recreational area right by the reservoirs shore. To our surprise the water level appeared to be extremely low. We later learned from one of the residents that due to an effort by the municipality the lake was emptied. The home owners of Silver Lake neighbourhood had successfully fought the city on the resolution. The reservoir is now planned to be refilled by summertime in 2017. This is only possible thanks to the end of a seven-year long drought in California.

After observing many runners, picnickers, young families with toddlers roaming about the lake’s pathways we started out on our own adventure around their neighbourhood. Walking along Silver Lake Boulevard we turned unto Glendale Boulevard heading toward Neutra’s former office building. By the large sign up front, today, it appears to house the Neutra Institute Museum of Silver Lake.

Neutra Institute, Museum of Silver Lake, photo by the author

From street level just one storey is visible but as we wondered down the driveway along side the building it revealed two levels on the back. In Neutra fashion it is a flat top roof house dominated by rectangular forms. Long, horizontal window strips as well as sun shields decorate the sides and the back. The building was poorly maintained.

As our group continued on Glendale Boulevard we then turned on to Earl Street. Walking downhill Neutra Place came up on our left side. The cul-de-sac revealed several homes designed between the years of 1948 and 1961. Returning to Earl Street we then continued to discover the second part of the Neutra Colony on Silver Lake Boulevard.

Overall, the homes seemed well taken care of, appeared to provide every owner with individual housing design and secluded living space. In conversation, most of us concluded the houses to be similar to each other in the overall design theme. Nonetheless every home featured a different structural set up. Placement of stairways, doors and window fronts helped differentiate.

Neutra Colony on Silver Lake Boulevard, photo by the author

After a quick lunch break our group decided to meander through the West side of Silver Lake hoping to catch a closer glimpse of John Lautner’s Silvertop (1957) as well as Rudolf M. Schindler’s Droste House (1940). As we ascended Kenilworth Avenue the Droste House made an appearance as the road took a turn. Gazing at the architectural sight from street level suddenly the very friendly couple owning and living in the home opened the door and welcomed us in. Excited, we followed their invitation. As they guided us through their well cared for home our group marvelled at the many details Schindler added to the design: invisible storage space, air circulation strategy, window placements et al. All of us were very appreciative of the family’s openness to share about their experience of living in and owning a Schindler designed home.

Droste House living room, photo by the author

Upon our drive leaving the neighbourhood we managed to view Lautner’s Silvertop from the distance. The shiny, curved structure clearly stood out among all the homes on Silver Lake’s West Side.

Strolling through Silver Lake left me with a furthered understanding of the neighbourhoods quality. Neutra’s, Schindler’s, Lautner’s, among many other renown architects’, homes are situated within Los Angeles’ urban context and their individual design is powerful because of it. Having previous to our visit only viewed photos and read about Silver Lake this experience led me to comprehend its and the architects‘ home architecture.

Talitha Breidenstein

John Lautner, Segel House, Malibu, 1979

Segel House by John Lautner

John Lautners Segel House is situated directly on the beach in Malibu.

Segel House, View from the beach

The entrance of the privately owned home is on the Pacific Coast Highway making it difficult to view the house, due to constant traffic on the road.

Through a public beach access visitors can view the back of the house, which opens onto the ocean. The stretch of beach onto which the house looks has only been open to the public for a short time.
Segel House

The length of the house is hidden from view by trees and the homes on neighboring properties. The size of the house, which is placed diagonally on the lot, is only imaginable when viewing it from above.

John Lautner’s Segel House seems to mimic the waves of the ocean it looks upon. The curved form of the roof and the mirrored windows literally reflect the oceans movements. The windows open large views of the beach and ocean, but do not allow gazes from the outside to enter the private living area of the home.

View of the ocean from the Segel House

Seeing the building in person it appears much larger than in photographs. The curved form seems very organic. The beach is on a level lower than the house.

Segel House

The house is not open to tours from the public which makes a visit to the site a rather frustrating endeavor.

Visiting the house did not give me a much better understanding of the building as all that was visible was the same view one sees in photographs.

Despite not seeing much of the building, photographing it during our sunset visit was satisfying as the different materials of the building reacted to the light in interesting ways. The glass front reflected the light, while the wood seemed to glow and the concrete and metal seemed immune to the warmth of the sunset. Do to the low level of the beach as compared to the level of the house it is quite difficult to get a picture of the entire building.


John Lautner, Chemosphere / Malin Residence, 1960, LA

After we visited the highlight of our trip the Sheats-Goldstein Residence, we went on our way to visit another famous building of Lautner The Chemosphere. It reminded us of a flying saucer and was visible to the naked eye from afar and we could see it from the Mulholland Drive. We parked our vehicles on the lower level of the Torreyson Drive and walked up to have a better view of The Chemosphere. Unfortunately we did not get a reply from the owner Benedict Taschen to visit the inside of the house, so we could only view it from the outside.

The in 1960 built dwelling still distinguished itself from the surrounding dwellings. It seems like it sits enthroned with complete peace and amenity above Los Angeles. On one side we were lucky that everything was green on the other side the lush green vegetation obstructed the view of the pillar and the view of the platform, which is located under the octagonal ground plan, as well as of the small cable car that leads to the entrance of the building.

Despite the exclusive architecture of the building it blends into it‘s environment. Through the previous visit to the Sheats-Goldstein Residence I became a fuller understanding of Lautners architecture and his genius, which until then i only knew from theory. Because of that I could visualise the inner space even so I could only see it from afar.

It seems to me that Lautner dwellings integrate their surroundings but still distinguished them from the outer space through the materials that he used. He created structures in which he materialises space and room and makes it noticeable for the inhabitants. In other words it is what is „Between“ what Lautner manifests in his architecture: that being between inside and outside that harmonise at the same time, the connection between heaven and earth and the play of opaque and translucent architecture. So is the Chemosphere an imposing building not bound by time and which exists without comparison.



Mona El Amir

John Lautner, Garcia House, 1962, Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles

Garcia House

“Standing on a site, I seek its particular and unique expression with all the senses … until the natural setting, the character of the owners, and the design harmoniously become a single idea.” – John Lautner

It must have been a similar situation when John Lautner got the commission to build the Garcia House. A scenic road like the Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles offers barely spacious and ground-level lots. For the Garcia House Lautner had to cope with a site that was probably not much more than an area expiring into a canyon – hence, not very bearing. But Lautner had already created some outstanding and gravity-defying residences such as the Chemosphere House. Since a real construction site was not given he again decided to build a stilt house. In this case, he created an eye-shaped building sitting on V-shaped beams 18 meters above the ground.

The residence was originally designed in 1962 for composer and musician Russell Garcia and his wife Gina. In 2002, after decades of unconscious and inappropriate modifications by several owners, the new proprietors Bill Damaschke and John McIllwee invested a considerable sum on an extensive renovation supervised by Marmol Radziner, a design and interior firm specialized on mid-century houses. They succeeded in both preserving the unique character of the house and updating it technically.

The Garcia House stands out due to its special form. The parabolic roof over solitary placed colored stained glass windows led to the colloquial name ‚Rainbow House‘. It fits perfectly into the neighbourhood since the Mulholland Drive features numerous exceptional residences.

Garcia House

Lautner had the intention to create a space in which it is necessary and common to alternate between indoors and outdoors. Below the arch the sphere splits into two parts that are interconnected by a sweeping outdoor spiral staircase in the middle which leads from the street into the living area downstairs. Glass walls shut both sides of the house, whereby a view through the house onto the street and over Los Angeles is commanded. Obviously a house like this widely open to the outdoors can only exist in a clement climate like that of Southern California.

The architect believed that a building should arouse a transcendental understanding of ambience. For Lautner, it had to enter a dialogue with the site, especially with the nature. The ‚Rainbow house‘ is a unique work and can easily be identified from far away by the unmistakable lines of its arched roof. The house sits on spider leg stilts, being uplifted 18 meters above the canyon beyond. Lautner advanced the idea to play with the dialectic of fragility and technology in one building. The stilts need to be stable enough to carry the weight of the house. Since those beams are reduced to a minimum diameter they need to be high tech and of the best material. Being uplifted the house offers spectacular views. Lautner plays with the eye motive in two different ways. On the one hand the eye shape is in full view from the other side of the hill, on the other hand the resident of the Garcia House can see everything as well, being somehow invisible at the same time due to his position above the ground.

Despite the impressiveness of the setup it is a modest-sized home being characterized by a great practicality of everyday living with a glimmer of luxury, regarding the spectacular view and the recently built swimming pool, inspired by Lautner’s original, yet unbuilt, design.

The eye shape of the house echoes in the swimming pool. Hereby the architect created a formal unity between the house and the pool, even though some decades lay in between the two projects.

Elena Schmidt


All pictures are taken by the author.


Olsberg, Nicholas: Between Earth and Heaven. The Architecture of John Lautner, New York 2008.