This summer, from July 13 through October 12, the Hammer Museum presents Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner, an extensive retrospective on the Southern California architect. Spanning over 50 years and including 50 designs from 300 projects, this show is replete with two large gallery spaces exhibiting projected videos, photography, large-scale models, quick sketches, full exterior views, immaculately detailed construction drawings, studies, floor plans, roof plans, presentation drawings, and more.
Executed with great sophistication and imagination, the exhibition takes the viewer in and around the design of each home. The curators display projected videos alongside each large-scale model and large photographs on opposing walls to highlight the expansive views as you peer through the windows and open spaces of the models.
Practically doing away with supporting walls, Lautner utilizes cylindrical forms, suspending roofs, trusses, rock formations and even large poles, like in the case of Southern Californian home, Chemosphere (1960), which is balanced atop a pole on a 45 degree slope. With flowing stream-like waterways and extraordinary negative spaces outlining and framing miraculous views, the jutting geometric lines and curving cylindrical shapes seamlessly conflate built structure with natural environment; some designs even use rock formations inside and out as supporting structures for the hillside and home.
All in all, the exhibition fully demonstrates Lautner’s vision, as guest curators Nicholas Olsberg and Frank Escher describe, “Believing that a building should awaken a transcendental understanding of the environment through conversation with its setting, [Lautner] sought an architecture in which the sublime becomes familiar and the familiar becomes sublime.”
Jenia & Brianna Gorton
(Images from top to bottom: John Lautner, Marbrisa, Acapulco, 1973, photograph by Sara Sackner; John Lautner, Elrod Residence, Palm Springs, 1968, photograph by Joshua White; John Lautner, Chemosphere, Los Angeles, 1960, photograph by Joshua White)