Palm Springs+Lautner= Light Space Shapes


Light, Space, and Shapes.  These are some of the reasons I go to Palm Springs.  The color of the light is warmer there, especially as the morning rays turn the mountains from grey brown to a shimmering coral.  Streamlined mid century homes next to Spanish style haciendas are nestled in the canyons with grounded cactus and towering palms creating a living sculpture garden.

So it seemed fitting to be coming to Palm Springs to be a docent at the recently opened Hotel Lautner, designed by architect John Lautner in 1947. Lautner was master of Light, Shape and Space.

I don’t want to slight him since I have tremendous respect, but I don’t have room to give you his history as a premier Los Angeles architect.   There are books written about him and he was the subject at a show at the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood 2008.   To get an idea of the man and the architect and to get a better scope of him and his accomplishments check out The Lautner Foundation, and I also suggest the DVD Infinite Space  This quote from Lautner sums it up pretty well:  The purpose of architecture is to create timeless, free, joyous spaces for all activities in life.

ImageHere is a brief bio
John Lautner was an early disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright but with a vision very much his own, learning architecture in the 1930s with FLW at Taliesin in Wisconsin.  Lautner was born in Michigan but built homes throughout Southern California and because of his innovative design of the Googie Coffee Shop in Hollywood he became known as the father of Googie architecture that sprung up throughout the Southland in the 1950s and 60s.   His houses have been used in such films as Diamonds are Forever, A Single Man, and the Big Lebowski.  One of his more famous homes is the Chemosphere/Malin, house that is the spaceship-like home built on a concrete pole rising from the hillside near Laurel Canyon and Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. His houses are living breathing things, built for people to live and thrive in, to create in, “architecture that has no beginning and no end.” 

He designed buildings from the inside out.  They are meant to be experienced on a human level, which is why I jumped at an opportunity to be in one, actually play host – it was too delicious to ignore. To truly understand a Lautner building you have to go inside.

The Hotel was the beginning of a grand planned community started back in 1947 just north of Palm Springs in Palm Desert by movie producer Lucien Hubbard. Hubbard was awarded the first-ever Best Picture Oscar for his 1929 film, Wings.   He had 600 acres and a vision for desert oasis comprising recreation facilities, retail stores and single family homes. 

Four interlocking buildings were built before the project came to a halt.  It was neglected for years, much of the surrounding acreage sold off, and then was turned into apartments.  Then an attempt to run it as hotel for a few years in the 2000s.   When the owner died, Tracy Beckman and and Ryan Trowbridge bought it and poured their hearts, souls and a fair amount of concrete into it.  They opened it late last year as Hotel Lautner.  This tour was organized by the Lautner  Foundation and took place during Modernism Week in Palm Springs.  

Here are a few photos of my room, yes I’ve staked a claim on it.   Pictures can’t communicate the way you feel when you walk in. There is a calmness to the space.  You feel low to the ground, part of the earth, but there is soft light streaming in; a heavy concrete ceiling but walls of glass.  You feel safe and sheltered, but not hemmed in.  The best part of the day was watching the reactions of the people as they walked in, it would have made a great video.  His architecture hits you on an emotional level.   It is a great play of space, shapes and light – the raw materials of John Lautner.

Patio in my room at Hotel Lautner

The Chemosphere House


Photos courtesy Hotel Lautner:


2 comments on “Palm Springs+Lautner= Light Space Shapes

  1. I’ve been thinking and writing about the colour palettes of different places so this post resonated with me. The hotel looks absolutely amazing. Thanks for introducing me to the design of Lautner. It’s beautiful.

    • Terry August says:

      I am all about color and palettes, so that completely resonates with me. Look forward to checking out your blog

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