Sunday, October 05, 2008

Between Earth and Heaven

I hope anyone who reads my blog has had a chance to see the John Lautner exhibit(Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner) at The Hammer Museum in Westwood. If not you have next week to catch it! We made a trip today to check it out, this weekend is a free L.A. Museums weekend, so we spent the afternoon in the Westside, first having lunch at the Farmer's Market(at the rather pedestrian but tasty Johnny Rockets) which although I have been to the adjacent Grove shopping Center I had never taken the time to see this Los Angeles jewel! It has been a big tragedy for me and I am ashamed to have never given it a chance, I will have to return and hopefully get a post about it. At any rate the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt...which was the style at the time.

Lautner Exhibit: as you may know I had the pleasure of living in a(somewhat obscure but significant) Lautner for nearly two years, it was the house we came home to after our honeymoon, and the house we brought our son home to from the hospital so although we were forced to move suddenly and due to unpleasant circumstances it will always have a special place in our hearts. What a joy and suprise it was to see the original drawings of our "Honeymoon Cottage" on display in this wonderful exhibit. It is an austere presentation but the stunning highlight is sheet after sheet of original Lautner drawings. Lautner was not known for his drafting but I think that has been a harsh assesment, these drawings are fabulous in the way you see the design process , the are all pretty "rough", almost minimalist in there bare bones presentation, but the daring ideas leap from the page. These are not anteseptic presentation tools so much as a creative explosion, the content is the star not the medium. I thoroughly enjoyed them, I wish I could have got a folio of them, there are the usual photos, Lautner now 14 years after his death is well regarded and well published, but I was not expecting to see so many concept sketches, and vignettes.

I have drawn since as far back as I can remember, I discovered a Frank Lloyd Wright book in high school and by my second year in college I had been to Taliesin West in Phoenix and purchased "The Drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright", I poured over these studying them and largely basing my own drawing style on them, Lautner being an early apprentice actually learned at Wright's side, I had only his publications to guide me. As such throughout college I was nicknamed "Frank Lloyd Cueto or Frank Lloyd Neutra" I did not take them as the insults they were probably meant, because I didnt "copy" them but try to learn from them. My father taught me to draw in perspective when I was about 6, it was as signifiant to me as being taught how to read by mother; since that time I have been drawn to technical illustration and the great drawings by Wright, Neutra fed that during my college years. I love to draw, but care more about working out the idea and seeing it come through than I am with perfect lineweights and polished presentation, and so it was refreshing to see a seminal figure like Lautner display these qualities.

By most acounts Lautner was a shy man, who it was described entered a room not like his blustering mentor Frank Lloyd Wright but like a big friendly whale swimming around the occupants. At 6' 4" (my own height more or less occasionally I will claim 6'5") he was by most accounts a "giant of a man". I can certainly relate to that, and have admired his shyness, as I consider myself shy and have more than once rellied on my size to make an impression more than my personality. Of course people who know me well might disagree but that of course is after I get to know them. But more than his height being an indicator of his presence you can see the forceful bold strokes on the paper of a man with a heavy hand, cutting and slicing through the blank page with almost a Roarkian intensity leaving a completely new conception of space/shelter in it's place. Lautner stands on his own next to the master(FLLW) that in itself is no average achievement.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Under Construction in beautiful Palm Springs, California!

My design for a small pool pavillion is under construction. Here are a few snapshots of my first structure to be built in Palm Springs. The design has evolved somewhat from the preliminary sketches, the columns were paired and moved to the sides to make a central more prominent bay, instead of three equal bays in the sketches. The idea was to be sympathetic to the adjacent house but have a seperate identity as well. What was originally presented as an open pavillion now has more enclosure, a small utility room now terminates the west(Mountain) side, where a full length mirror is slated to be installed. It should be a fine folly in the classical modern tradition- see my October 25th post for more theoretical discourse.

I always get a thrill out of seeing something I draw get built- My ouevre is small, but increasing, I have designed far more buildings than have been built, what designer hasn't ?I love drawing, so sometimes I can be creatively satisfied through sketching alone, atleast there I am unencombered by gravity! But I must confess there is a real "Man in possesion of the Earth" feeling seeing something built from my imagination. I must also express gratitude to my clients in this case who shall remain anonymous, they have been a joy to work with and to bounce ideas off of. So if anyone is looking for a starving undiscovered talent to tap send me an comment!

Happy New Year !

Started the new year by heading for Vegas yet again. We left on New Year's Day beating all the crowds and stopping at Barstow Big Boy along the way. The Barstow Bob's Big Boy was formerly a Harvey House Restraunt, and is still in great shape. Although not an original it had plenty of Googie charm and enough of a retro vibe.

I often wonder if the latest flirtation with modernism in the mass culture is just a fad or the emergence of a new accepted past style, a sort of Mid-20th century modern revival taking it's place along accepted past styles like Craftsman, Victorian, Colonial, etc. I sure hope so.

While in Vegas we stayed at the beautiful Las Vegas Hilton, formerly the International Hotel, former performing home of both Liberace and Elvis Presley ! Anybody who knows me is aware that I am a major fan of both and so was glad to see some bit of classic Vegas intact. While there my Father, an original Trekkie from 1966, myself a "2nd generation" Trekkie, and my son a "3rd generation" Trekkie partook of the Star Trek Experience as often as we could. Loads of fun as usual, can't get enough of that Star Trek: The Next Generation Enterprise Bridge set, oh and the Transporter effect is awesome, you really feel like you are beamed aboard! While we were there they were celebrating the Tenth anniversary of the attraction. Three guest stars were on hand for the occasion. The first was Lawerence Montaigne who played Romulan Sub-Commander Decius, in The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror", he also played S'Tonn the Vulcan who stole the heart of T'Pring; Spock's fiance/"Wife" from The Original Series Episode "Amok Time". My appologies but i don't recall her name but the actress who played the lone female "Blue Shirt" casulty of the aging syndrome in The Original Series epispode "The Deadly Years" was second. From Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise Actress Susie Plakson, she played Vulcan Doctor Selar, and Klingon/Human Emissary Keh'Leyr mate of Lt. Worf and Mother to his only son Alexander, Q's wife from Voyager, and an Andorian from Enterprise. All three performers were extremely carming but at 20 bucks a head for a personalised item it was too pricey to get a souvenir from them.