It was no secret that John Lautner was appalled by LA's appearance. He once commented that he wondered how anyone could have created such a dreadful environment. Yet, through his unrecognized, albeit maturing career Lautner made LA home. And he made it an impressionable 'home' for the fortunate clients to have commissioned his work to design their domestic retreats. It has been more recently that his life's achievements have come to light in the eyes of the architecture community however, few architects even today, can measure in spatial experience, what Lautner was able to accomplish in his time- sans computational tools.
It was early 2000 when I visited the only Lautner residence I have ever seen. It is is perhaps one of the most memorable architectural experiences of my life, having the rare opportunity to step foot inside of his Sheats-Goldstein Residence in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. Our small group was invited on that bright Los Angeles afternoon, with late day sun casting deep shadows. I remember clearly upon arrival, the house had no distinctive point of entry- it appeared camouflaged within the heavily forested hillside. Unlike so much architecture, predisposed to what that first image represents in style or form. Lautner's residence, on the other hand, was about succumbing to the dense landscape of the steeply sloped hillside- the facade, a series of low, interrupted walls defining the entry, was nearly invisible in a disguise to make environment the forefront spectacle.
It is interesting to recall such experiences from distant years. In part because the mental reconstruction is inaccurate to a large extent, slanted to a personal bias and honed to what the senses reveal in ones memory. I re-create my visit in words, searching for description of loosely connected spaces- each segmented room experientially independent from the previous in generously specific attempts to connect indoor living with the outdoor forests and distant city skyline. And so it was, the house that pulled you into its folded entry, disguised in obscurity, appearing determined in its interior-exterior play. Was it inside or outside that we crossed into the vaulted living area? Affixed with permanent furniture- a space appearing of a futuristic tomorrow, ironically conceived in years past with it's vast concrete ceiling capturing sky and directing shadows. Infinity floor, looking to city skyline, I wandered to the edge of Lautner's LA.