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A John Lautner house: needs plenty of water, does best in bright sun

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 04, 2012 03:07 AM
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by Edward Lifson ( last modified Dec 23, 2010



After Jim Goldstein bought the Sheats Residence in 1972, he hired John Lautner to renovate it and to adapt this single-family house for a family to his purposes.  Both men hailed from the Midwest: Lautner from Michigan, Goldstein from Wisconsin.  Jim Goldstein was happy to leave behind his native landscape.  He's glad to be in a warmer climate. He wishes L.A. were even warmer than it is.  So every week he fills his house with flowers flown in from Maui. 

Goldstein said John Lautner, who died in 1994, agreed with all the changes Goldstein wanted to make to the house, including the decision to tear down a second Lautner house next door, for new construction partly based on a Lautner design.  (Goldstein says Lautner thought the now-demolished house was not one of his best.)  The one thing he says Lautner did not agree with was Goldstein's landscape plans.  Goldstein wanted tropical.  
The koi pond, over which you cross to enter the house.
Lautner, no lover of L.A., wanted pine trees, like the ones he grew up with in Michigan.  Lautner recommended a landscape designer but he didn't do tropical.  He recommended another but he couldn't do tropical.  Goldstein found his own landscaper and the result is a Brazil-like micro-climate on the acres around his house.  Species from exotic lands around the world grow here, with the help of four full-time gardeners.  Imagine the water flow, here in arid L.A.  

I had just been to Disneyland, and couldn't help making the comparison.  No insult intended to Lautner and the Sheats-Goldstein house, which of course is a deeply philosophical work.  But here goes: both the house and Disneyland are products of eccentric genius.  Both feature highly artificial lush landscapes with water features, to inspire a happier, other-worldly, vacation-like mood.  Both are fully designed environments- down to the smallest details.  Both hold "Rosebudian" memories.  Walt Disney reclaimed aspects of the small town Main Street of his youth in Marceline, Missouri.  Lautner always reclaimed aspects of the family home he helped to build as a youth, named "Midgaard" by his mother, meaning "midway between earth and heaven."  

The master bedroom of the Sheats-Goldstein house.
At Disneyland you "fly" over London on the Peter Pan ride.  Here you "fly" over L.A. 

And Jim Goldstein installed something like a "ride"- with his James Turrell Skyspace.

Jim Goldstein in the Skyspace he and Turrell put together. 

Here's Jim Goldstein, seeming to levitate, in his otherworldy, orgasmatronic James Turrell Skyspace-  with LED lights and music.
How does a man get like this?  I don't mean levitating, I mean in love with Lautner.  Jim Goldstein said, "As a boy, growing up in Wisconsin, my best friend lived in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright."  The Adelman House. 

Sheats-Goldstein house is like the Adelman house too.  Both are of concrete, with wide overhangs.  (Adelman is one of Wright's "low-maintenance Usonian" houses.")  Both have interior furnishings by the architect.  And semi-covered exterior walkways.  The Sheats-Goldstein straddles a hill, the  Adelman house overlooks a ravine.  Both are sited to take maximum advantage of the natural light.  

The power of Wright.  (Me, from childhood on I spent a lot of time in and around Wright's works, and seriously so from the age of nine.  It hurts so good.)  

In 1935, John Lautner wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright: "If there is anything that I value in this world, it is my connection with you... I can hardly say or do anything without connecting it with you and your ideas."  




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