Saturday, July 23, 2011
American modernist architect, John Lautner, is often lauded as a brilliant futurist. His works are often described as “space-aged” and fantastical - and there can be no bigger fan than I. His most notable houses defy convention as they swoop, swing, and sway like playful sculptures in a Dali-esque fantasy. (Bob Hope joked that his Lautner-designed house in Palm Springs would attract space aliens.)
Instead of designing a house and plopping a roof on top like the lid on a box, he famously believed the roof should be “of the house, not on the house”. This is most evident in some his best-known houses where there are no walls, no roofs, only surfaces that rise out of the ground and curve overhead to create a protective canopy.
But there’s nothing particularly ‘futurist’ about this. In fact, Lautner is borrowing from one of the oldest building methods that ever existed. Long before balloon-frame construction was invented and perfected by early Scandinavians, homes were built Lautner’s way with no regard to ‘walls’ and ‘roofs’. Whether they be the igloos of the Inuits, the mud-huts of Northern Africa, the grass-huts of Central Asia, or the teepees of North America, homes were built Lautner-style under domes or curved-and-leaning planes. Perhaps these ancient builders were the true ‘futurists’.