The Year of Lautner

2017 Modernism Week to shine spotlight on John Lautner.

Lydia Kremer Modernism

One of John Lautner's renowned local projects is the Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs.

For Modernism Week’s 12th annual festival, John Lautner will take his place among an esteemed list of architectural giants who, in years past, have been honored during the 11-day tribute to midcentury architecture in February.

Modernism Week opens Feb. 16, and the tributes for Lautner start Feb. 17. Activities span several days and will feature some events that are free to the public.

Lautner is considered one of the country’s most revered modernist architects. He produced two of his most celebrated projects in Palm Springs — the Bob Hope house and the Elrod estate, both situated in Southridge, a gated mountainside community with sweeping views of the desert below. The 1973 Hope residence was recently sold for a cool $13 million to investor Ron Burkle — the highest priced sale for a private home on record in Palm Springs.

Born in Michigan, Lautner developed an interest in architecture at an early age when his family constructed its custom lakeside summer home. The site his father chose for the cabin was a rocky section along Lake Superior situated on top of massive boulders. It’s no wonder Lautner would later be undaunted by building the Hope and Elrod homes on the steep land at Southridge.

“Lautner was inspired by nature in his designs — whether it was the shores of Lake Superior where he helped his father build their summer home or the rocky desert of Palm Springs, he always found nature to be the primary inspiration,” says Alan Hess, author of 19 books including The Architecture of John Lautner.

The desert landscape inspired John Lautner’s designs.

“The Hope house, for example, was for a mountainous site; in addition to being open to the climate [the structure] was really intended to be a part of the mountain,” Hess adds. “Likewise the Elrod House is literally buried in the ridgetop. He dug down into the mountains to expose the boulders and built the house around them. As far as concept, these are both Lautner masterpieces.”

Hess will open the Modernism Week Lautner programs with a talk: The Visionary John Lautner at 10 a.m., Feb. 17. Hess’ exhaustive research on Lautner’s architecture led to the designation of several landmark buildings in the National Register of Historic Places.

Another discussion follows, Elrod = Diamonds Are Forever by Adele Cygelman follows at 11:30 a.m., which pivots attention to the Elrod house. The home was the site for a renowned scene in the James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever. Built for the late interior designer Arthur Elrod, the estate is set on a rocky outcropping in Southridge, a private enclave in Palm Springs. Cygelman documented this and many other Lautner projects in her book, Palm Springs Modern.

Later that day, Modernism Week will honor Lautner with a Star Dedication on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars at 2 p.m. The master modernist will be enshrined in the firmament of Palm Springs’ architectural legacy on “architects row,” joining a stellar group of modernists whose influence have had a profound impact including Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, E. Stewart Williams, Donald Wexler, and others. Fittingly “architects row” is strategically located in front of the Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion on Palm Canyon Drive.

Sheets Goldstein Residence, 1961, Los Angeles.

A special screening of a film, The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner, a film by Bette Jane Cohen, will be presented at 4:30 p.m. at the Annenberg Theater. Cohen produced the film that premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1991 to commemorate the architect’s 80th birthday. The film contains rare Lautner interviews as well as several interviews with his associates and others. The screening of the film is being dedicated to the memory of Cohen, who passed away in October.

The Hotel Lautner, one of Lautner’s renowned local projects, will be featured with a variety of events including a lecture, a tour, and a preservation fundraising party. On Feb. 19, take a tour of the iconic Hotel Lautner at three different times — 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m., or 12:30 p.m. In the evening from 7–9 p.m. enjoy another opportunity to marvel at the restored hotel and join other like-minded modernists at a cocktail party fundraiser for the Save Iconic Architecture nonprofit, held at the Park and Ranch House adjacent to the Hotel Lautner.

The special programming dedicated to Lautner concludes Feb. 22 with another talk, Saving an Icon: The Restoration of Hotel Lautner at 3 p.m. by Tracy Beckmann, interior designer and owner of the Hotel Lautner. She will share stories about the journey she and Ryan Trowbridge experienced during their “labor of love” restoration and preservation of the Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs. This Palm Springs Preservation Foundation event is free of charge.

John Lautner Modernism Week Events

Feb. 17, 10 a.m.
Lecture: Visionary John Lautner
Lecturer: Alan Hess
Location: Annenberg Theater, 101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs
Tickets: $12

Feb. 17, 11:30 a.m.
Lecture: Elrod = Diamonds Are Forever
Lecturer: Adele Cygelman
Location: Annenberg Theater, 101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs
Tickets: $12

The Garcia House designed in the early 1960’s by John Lautner just northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Feb. 17, 2 p.m.
John Lautner Star Dedication
Location: 300 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Tickets: Free

Feb. 17, 4:30 p.m.
Film: The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner, a film by Bette Jane Cohen
Location: Annenberg Theater, 101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs
Tickets: $10

Feb. 19, 10 a.m.
Tour: The Iconic Hotel Lautner
Location: 67710 San Antonio St., Desert Hot Springs
Tickets: $50 (may be purchased at the door)

Feb. 19, 7 p.m.
Tour and fundraising cocktail party: Hotel Lautner — A Night for Preservation
Location: Provided with ticket purchase
Tickets: $125

Feb. 22, 3 p.m.
Lecture: Saving an Icon: The Restoration of Hotel Lautner
Lecturer: Tracy Beckmann
Location: Annenberg Theater, 101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs
Tickets: Free

Visit for the full Modernism Week schedule of events and to purchase tickets.

Lydia Kremer is a Palm Springs-based writer, publicist, and author of 100 Things to Do in Palm Springs Before You Die.

The Year of Lautner was last modified: December 13th, 2016 by Lydia Kremer