Related Archival Materials
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: John Lautner papers
Date (inclusive): 1929-2002
Lautner, John, 1911-1994
958.1 linear feet
(211 boxes, 711 flatfiles, 139 rolls)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
The John Lautner papers contain the comprehensive archive of this Southern California architect who became famous for such
innovative structures as Chemosphere (the Malin House) and Silvertop (the Reiner House). Comprised of about 10,000 drawings,
photographs and slides, and 17 models, plus Lautner's office and correspondence files, the archive is an important resource
for the study of Southern California modernism in all its diverse aspects. The drawings detailing the structural engineering
that enabled Lautner to create his sculpturally innovative houses will be of particular interest to historians of architecture
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Born in Marquette, Michigan in 1911, John Lautner grew up in a world of ideas and art, the first child of parents who believed
that a person is formed by the physical and intellectual environment in which he is raised. The young Lautner was immersed
in a carefully crafted set of balancing influences: an academic father and an artistic and mystical mother; the wild, elemental
landscape of the Upper Peninsula and extended visits to the urban worlds of New York City and Boston. By Lautner's account,
one of the most formative influences of his youth was the family's cabin on the wild shore of Lake Superior, Midgaard. Here,
each summer from 1923-1928, Lautner helped his father construct the building designed by his mother. This first exposure to
architecture set him on his path, the merging of the natural and the fabricated, of landscape and enclosed space.
In 1929 Lautner enrolled in a liberal arts program at his father's school, Northern State Teacher's College (later Northern
Michigan University). When he graduated in 1933, his mother, having read about the Taliesin Fellowship, contacted Frank Lloyd
Wright and Lautner was accepted into the program. The impediments of a lack of funds and a recent engagement to Mary Roberts
were overcome when Wright agreed to accept both Lautner and his fiancee, and Abby Roberts,the fiancee's mother, agreed to
finance both young people.
Lautner spent six years with Wright at Taliesin in Wisconsin and at Taliesin West in Arizona. Over the years of his apprenticeship,
Lautner's innate design talent stood out from that of his peers and he progressed to the point of supervising construction
for Wright's buildings including Deertrack (1936) for Abby Roberts in Marquette, Michigan and Wingspread (1937) in Racine,
Wisconsin for Herbert Johnson of Johnson Wax, as well as taking part in the Broadacre City project.
Lautner gradually began separating himself from the master, but he would continue his association with Wright for a further
five years. By spring of 1938, Lautner had left Taliesin for Los Angeles. In this early phase of his career, Lautner began
to establish a small independent practice, while also serving as Wright's on-site representative for several projects. Lautner's
first independent project, a house for his family in Silverlake, was completed in the summer of 1939. During World War II,
from 1942-1944, Lautner worked for the Structon Company on war-related construction projects. This experience expanded Lautner's
engineering and construction skills, as well as his exposure to new materials. At the end of the war in 1945, Lautner joined
the firm of Douglas Honnold as a design associate, but also continued his independent practice. By summer of 1947, Lautner
ended his association with Honnold and entered the mature stage of his work.
While no two Lautner structures are alike, certain hallmarks of his personal style appear consistently across most of his
projects. He characteristically developed innovative floor plans and skillfully manipulated fluid planes of concrete and glass
to maximize vistas and create engaging relationships with natural surroundings. Lautner also integrated technology in his
designs in order to give inhabitants greater control over light, sound, and space. Lautner's design ingenuity and technical
mastery are most apparent in his treatment of the roof plane. Triangular coffers, undulating, rainbow-like curves, and cantilevered
diagonal trusses crown his one-of-a-kind residences. Although recognized primarily for his eclectic private residences, Lautner
might also be described as the father of the populist commercial architecture movement of Southern California. In 1949, he
built Googie's Coffee House at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, which gave its name to a style of
eye-catching architecture, evocative of the new Space-Age speed and optimism of the period.
Lautner's work won many architectural awards and was featured in exhibitions, a book, and a documentary film, as well as being
more widely disseminated through use as film locations and through the photographs of Julius Shulman. Yet, Lautner always
felt that he did not receive the publicity he deserved and he did not have the skill or the patience required to market himself.
Sadly, the broad appreciation Lautner desired came only after his death in October 1994.
Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of the unreformatted audiotape. Boxes 211-217*, Flat file folders
695**-700** and Roll 138** are sealed pending review. Contact the repository for information regarding access to the architectural
John Lautner papers, 1929-2002, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2007.M.13.
Gift of The John Lautner Foundation in 2007.
Laura Schroffel processed and inventoried the documentation and photographic sections of the archive under the supervision
of Ann Harrison. The drawings were processed and inventoried by Ann Harrison with the assistance of Suzanne Noruschat and
Laura Dominguez. Ann Harrison derived the notes from curatorial reports. In 2013, Jennifer Kishi processed an addition to
Related Archival Materials
The model of the Haagen Beach House was acquired separately, Accession no. 2010.M.30.
Scope and Content of Collection
The John Lautner papers contain the complete archive of this Southern California architect who became famous for such innovative
structures as Chemosphere (the Malin House) and Silvertop (the Reiner House). The archive is an important resource for the
study of Southern California modernism in all its diverse aspects. The drawings detailing the structural engineering that
enabled Lautner to create his sculpturally innovative houses will be of particular interest to historians of architecture
Materials relating to John Lautner's individual architectural projects comprise Series I, the core of the archive. Included
in this series are approximately 10,000 architectural drawings, numerous photographs and slides of projects, client files
and correspondence and a small number of architectural models. They represent circa 300 projects, residential and commercial,
both built and unbuilt, spanning the entire range of Lautner's career, from photographs of his earliest design for a temporary
shelter at Taliesin West in 1937 to the drawings for projects he was working on at the time of his death in 1994. Also included
are some later materials from the continuation of those projects by his successors.
Series II, a small series of professional papers, completes the archive. These professional papers include general correspondence,
honors and awards, documentation of exhibitions, and publications.
This archive is arranged in two series:
.Series I. Project records, 1937-2002
Series II. Other professional papers, 1929-1994
Subjects - Topics
Architecture, Modern--20th century--California, Southern
Architecture--California--Los Angeles--20th century
Modern movement (Architecture)--California
Subjects - Places
Los Angeles (Calif.)--Buildings, structures, etc.--20th century
Genres and Forms of Material
Architectural drawings--United States--20th century
Gelatin silver prints--United States--20th century
Photographic prints--California--20th century
Slides (photographs)--20th century