Sunday, July 24, 2011
Normally we’d be in San Diego this weekend, fighting the hordes at Comic-Con, but weren’t able to get tickets this year (boo hoo!). So instead, Tim, Karen and I took the MAK Center tour of four significant mid-century houses designed by John Lautner, the renowned American architect who left a profound, and often controversial, mark on the Los Angeles landscape. His homes, which usually incorporate lots of wood, concrete, and spectacular views of the surrounding environment, are distinctly dramatic. This weekend’s tour was just one of many events celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday. Lautner died in 1994.
The first—and most famous—residence we toured was the Sheats/Goldstein house, an enormous low-lying edifice that sits above Benedict Canyon. Owned by multimillionaire James Goldstein, the house is located atop a steep and winding road, which we traversed aboard a short schoolbus (not recommended!). Although I thought the architecture was cold and uninviting (too much concrete), the home’s gardens were magnificent: lush greenery that does a very good job of protecting the owner’s privacy.
Our next stop, the Schwimmer house, was much more friendly with its curved wood beams and semicircular design. The grounds weren’t anywhere near as lush as the previous home, but the views of the city were amazing. I am not a big fan of hilltop living, especially in L.A. where fires and earthquakes are a common enough occurrence; yet I can definitely see how someone might be seduced by such a phenomenal vista.
We had seen the Harpel house (tour stop #3) before, but were still blown-away by its unparalleled 180-degree panorama of Burbank and the Hollywood Hills. (If you click on the very first photo above and look directly to the right of the antennas on top of Mount Lee, you can barely see the back of the H in the Hollywood sign!) The Harpel house is also known for being right below the Chemosphere, arguably Lautner’s most notorious creation. Built on a pedestal, the Chemosphere looks like an eight-sided flying saucer (which you can see floating above the Harpel house in the photo below.) We may have all been there to see the Harpel house; but I can guarantee that everyone on the tour was secretly lusting for a chance to see the Chemosphere instead.
Our last stop was the Jacobsen house, a cozy two-bedroom postwar residence built above what’s now the Hollywood freeway. Although the entire structure is suspended from just three steel truss columns, I have to say I felt the most comfortable here, perhaps because it was the most modest—and, therefore, most liveable—of the four homes.
Since all tourists need sustenance, we headed straight to Mozza (scene of our infamous porkfest back in February) from the Jacobsen house. Luckily, we found seats at the pizza bar and watched as the cooks assembled a never-ending assortment of wood-baked pizzas. If you’re not hungry when you walk in, you most certainly will be after seeing several pizzas being made here. Our lips were smacking! Boy, was I glad we hadn’t gone to Comic-Con.
P.S. With all my excitement over the houses, I forgot to mention that comic actor Will Farrell was also on the Lautner tour. I guess he couldn't get tickets to Comic-Con either!