Film Culture’s Obsession With the Architecture of John Lautner
One should not move to Los Angeles ambivalent about living in a near-perpetual state of revision. I’ve lived in the city for eight years, enough time to love it deeply, and in adopting the Angeleno constitution I’ve come to embrace an abiding concern with appearances. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, that the city is superficial. But Los Angeles—with its sylvan, scruffy hills of shrubs and chaparral, its flexibly employed subcultures, the mishmash of mini-cities and architectural styles resting comfortably above fault lines—is both a city to watch and a city that watches you back as you traverse it. The mountains and valleys draw you in, the topographic secrets and security gates keep you hunting—especially if you have a taste for architecture (and you will build one here if you don’t). Soon enough you find yourself methodically exploring the sprawl in search of what’s deemed architecturally significant, making a personal study of each home’s provenance along the way: So-and-so owns this one; Movie A was made there; a Manson-family murder happened around the corner; this space-age thing could house the Jetsons.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I found myself energized by the city’s aesthetic extremes and, upon watching Brian de Palma’s Body Double, quickly sought out John Lautner’s Chemosphere house, arguably the film’s most pivotal character: an octagonal pod-like home with a 360° view, thrust above the ...