Tag Archives: John Lautner

Living Beside the Pool

 Taking the Plunge

It’s a compelling dream to live poolside – especially during the hot, waning days of summer. So let’s dive in! Think of the Alhambra in Spain with its

shallow pools and long water courses — though maybe no diving there (photo courtesy Viva-Spain). Here are some examples of more recent houses — if not palaces — with seamless indoor-outdoor poolscapes.

It was natural for the swimming pool to become an emblem of the suburban dream in sunny Southern California, with its culture of experimentation and cinematic glamor, but architects took it a step farther in the 1950s and 1960s, when they incorporated it into the house and treated it as a room in its own right (naturally the air could get a little thick). Los Angeles-based ranch house popularizer Cliff May, for example, made the pool part of the living

room in some houses, like this one in Rolling Hills from 1963. (That planter by the pool was important — you wouldn’t want your LazyBoy to roll into the drink during cocktails by the fire.) In a house May designed for Tucson the

pool is shaded by an extended gable made of ocotillo branches and has a stone table/island at the center — it’s a marvelous shimmering and shady mirage of a desert isle made real (both photos by Rochelle Kramer, courtesy RanchoStyle).

Los Angeles architect John Lautner turned the pool into abstract architectural sculpture, especially in his great Sheats-Goldstein house on a steep hillside, of 1963, where the pool resembles a solid block of glass inserted flush with the

patio, which is itself an extension of the living room under its concrete roof-riff on the triangle (photo by ARTJOCKS courtesy James Goldstein). This remarkable design is all about contrasting solids and voids, enclosure and exposure, and geometric shape expanding into space toward Downtown LA.

(photo courtesy Arcspace). Originally only a curtain of air separated inside from outside, but this was later replaced with glass. The pool also functions as a sort of aquarium for swimmers because windows look into it from the master suite on the lower level.

Today, architects around the world have put pools everywhere, even on the

roof, as this famous house in Paris by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) of 1991 shows (photo courtesy OMA). A recent design by the inventive

Singapore firm of Guz Architects keeps the pool on the ground but lifts the house over it in a dramatic acrobatic gesture. The structure floats while the pool supports — a wonderful reversal of roles.

Italian architect Lorenzo Spano, who is part of our Exclusive Studio, has

developed this idea in his Plan 473-2, shown here, where the bedroom floor

is above the pool. The living-dining-kitchen is at pool level. Part of the hallway

floor is glass, so you can see through to the swimmers below. Perhaps Lorenzo was thinking of the Blue Grotto on Capri! Swimming pools just seem to encourage “freestyle” home design.

Round House Ruminations

Wheels Within Wheels

To me summer vacation means changing the daily routine and seeing new things, or old things in new ways, so here are some unusual home designs to act as springboards for the imagination.

For example, round or almost round houses – i.e. octagons, like the McElroy house in San Francisco of 1861, shown above (photo courtesy Wikipedia) — have always had a special allure. In the 19th century, health writer Orson Squire Fowler popularized the form in his book The Octagon House: A Lifestyle for All. Octagons were sometimes called “health houses” because of the way each angled room maximized natural light and ventilation.

Variations on the octagon have interested architects and designers ever since —  well, actually since Greece and Rome, not to mention the Middle East, if you consider all those round temples and domed mosques. Among the most famous examples is the 12-sided House of Tomorrow by architects George Fred Keck and William Keck at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition in 1933, built of steel, aluminum, and glass. Here’s the conceptual sketch for it (courtesy projetoblog).

Note the airplane easing out of the ground floor hangar (every home should have one) on the left, while the automobile pulls away on the right, and Mom is left alone with the daughter in the center.

Here it is as built (though this view was taken after it was bought by a developer and moved to a residential subdivision overlooking Lake Michigan) where the handy hangar was replaced with living quarters (sigh…). As a popular exhibit at the world’s fair it promoted a romantic machine-age future as if to say: “Look, you can live in an airport control tower!” (Photo courtesy Wikimapia.) Sounds fun to me. It’s not so very far, conceptually, from Los Angeles architect John Lautner’s Chemosphere, of 1960, shown below, though most people compare the latter to a flying saucer tethered to the ground.

The faceted geometry is still there but now everything is flattening out and lifting off into space (photo courtesy the John Lautner Foundation). John Portman’s spinning cocktail lounges atop Hyatt hotels, and of course Seattle’s Space Needle, were not far behind.

Spin an octagon fast enough and you get a cylinder, like the round house for the Medici family in Ticino, Switzerland of 1980-82 by Italian modernist architect Mario Botta.

It’s called la Rotunda — which is also the informal name for the Pantheon in Rome, not a bad precedent (photo courtesy Maro Botto Architetto). The idea here, according Botta, was to create a design that was visually distinct from surrounding houses while making a strong visual connection to the distant landscape through the geometric window fissures in the monolithic round tower form. It’s a very evocative design: a drum that’s both closed and connected at the same time.

We have various round designs in our inventory, such as Plan 64-165.

It’s actually sixteen-sided — a doubled octagon; part of our Unique and Unusual Plans Collection. The one story pavilion (connecting to a round pool), contains the living-dining area and kitchen in one half; bedroom, bath, and laundry/utility space in the other.

It would make an elegant guest house or in-law unit as well as a pool pavilion. To me it’s a perfect vehicle — and a wheel, no less — for rolling into a late summer daydream about home, which is another way of saying that I’ll be on vacation for a week. Please keep the porch light on for me.