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Why Do Movie Villains Live in Houses Designed By John Lautner?

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Writing in the Virginia Quarterly Review, local Adam Baer wonders why the wonderful architecture of John Lautner is so often used in movies "as the homes of solitary men, most of them ne'er-do-wells." (With photos by Curbed LA's own Elizabeth Daniels, by the way.) Lautner's style is often called "organic modernism"--his houses feel a lot warmer than your average Richard Neutra or Rudolph Schindler: "Whether it's the sculptural concrete, the walls of glass, or the surprising angles of steel and wood, the elements of Lautner's homes appeal immediately to the human spirit." But Lautner houses have been home to Bond villains in Diamonds Are Forever (the Elrod House), the baddies in Lethal Weapon 2 (Garcia House), a matricidal schemer in Body Double (the Chemosphere), the nasty pornographer Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski (the Sheats-Goldstein), and even to a Bret Easton Ellis protagonist: shudder! (Silvertop in Less Than Zero). (See below for Curbed's montage of Lautner houses in the movies.)

But as Baer writes, Lautner houses "evoke nothing nefarious; if anything, they project an exuberance for life, a dialogue with nature. Quite simply, they encourage imagination." So how do they end up playing so evil? He suggests: "That filmmakers used them to stage the homes of wrongdoers or sociopaths who exercise the animalistic part of themselves is just one expression of the honesty that these homes beg us to acknowledge ... These characters are often set alone in these spaces—alone to consider their tiny places in the universe—and that they often crave control could be the filmmaker's last laugh, a sign that they comprehend the big ideas posited by Lautner's architecture. The movie character may think that he's living large, but in fact he's a microbe in the larger sphere (perhaps more comfortable among the stars and trees than other among humans), and that's one of the things that a Lautner space is about: inviting man to consider scale." (And then there's also the fact that they just fucking look great.)

John Lautner on Film from curbed los angeles on Vimeo.

· If You Were Cool, Rich, or Bad Enough to Live Here, You'd Be Home [VQR]
· John Lautner Houses in the Movies: James Bond to Big Lebowski [Curbed LA]


2138 Micheltorena St., Los Angeles, CA

Schaffer Residence

527 Whiting Woods Rd., Glendale, CA

Elrod House

2175 Southridge Dr., Palm Springs, CA