Between Earth and Heaven Floats Work of John Lautner

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A few years ago, some jottings of the architect John Lautner (1911-94) were discovered, tucked away in a cupboard in his California vacation home since the late 1960s. One thought in the bunch nicely sums up Lautner’s ambition and sheds light on much of his output (including the Jetsonian “Chemosphere,” created in 1960 and pictured above): “The space age is progressing because it is right from scratch with no precedents,” wrote Lautner. “The idea ‘Go to the moon’…We should do this with Architecture.” And so, starting this Sunday and through October 12, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles offers up “Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner,” the first major exhibition survey of his work.

Curated by historian Nicholas Olsberg and architect Frank Escher (who, with partner Ravi GuneWardena, the Los Angeles Times on Sunday called “Lautner’s architectural heirs”), the show will feature newly crafted large-scale models, digital animations that reveal Lautner’s construction processes, and short films by documentary filmmaker Murray Grigor that convey the sensation of moving through the buildings and their sites. Also on view will be oodles of archival materials, including never-before-seen drawings (the best kind!), architectural renderings, study models, and construction photographs. Olsberg puts it best, “Lautner’s dwellings took on dramatically new and varied shapes, as he moved toward the central theme of his career—how to use architecture to sublimate the domestic, and to domesticate the sublime.” We like to think of him as the first architect to walk on the moon.