John Lautner (16 July 1911 - 24 October 1994) was an influential American architect whose work in Southern California combined progressive engineering with humane design and dramatic space-age flair.
Lautner was born in Marquette, Michigan and attended Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin Fellowship for six years in the 1930s as architectural training, with great artists and architects like E. Fay Jones, Paolo Soleri and Santiago Martinez Delgado, serving as construction manager on Wright's Johnson residence "Wingspread" and on two projects in Los Angeles (including the Sturges House). He stands among the most successful of Taliesin graduates.
The Chemosphere house has become a Los Angeles landmark that conveys both hope and folly. It was used in Brian De Palma's film Body Double, and also appears in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In 2000 German publisher Benedikt Taschen purchased and restored the house with architects Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena. A Chemosphere copy is used as the set for Current TV.
Although mostly known for residences, Lautner also contributed to the commercial genre of Googie. Googie was named in derogatory reference to Lautner's 1949 design for Googie's Coffee Shop (at the corner of Sunset Strip and Crescent Heights) in a 1952 magazine article by Yale University professor Douglas Haskell. The coffee shop itself was distinctive for its expansive glass walls, arresting form, and exuberant signage oriented to car traffic: an advertisement for itself. Other chains such as Tiny Naylor's, Ship's, Norm's and Clock's quickly imitated the look, which proves its commercial value.
Googie became part of the American postwar Zeitgeist, but was ridiculed by the architectural community of the 1950s as superficial and vulgar. Not until Robert Venturi's 1972 book "Learning from Las Vegas" did the architectural mainstream even come close to validating Lautner's logic. Lautner's reputation suffered as a result. Following some lean years in the 1950s and 1960s, he enjoyed something of a resurgence with his poured-concrete houses in the 1970s, notably the Bob Hope Residence and other houses in Palm Springs.