Friday, August 20, 2010

John Lautner House Imperiled

AN EARLY and long overlooked Beverly Hills house by architect John Lautner -- celebrated by fans as an "organic modernist" -- may soon be history.

That's the situation a new story of mine, which runs in Saturday's LA Times, describes. 

The house, which has fallen into serious disrepair, has been owned for 23 years by a couple, originally from Chile, who have lost patience with the place. Preservationists and Lautner fans, such as Swiss-born, Silverlake-based architect Frank Escher, want to save the house, but laws and regulations don't seem to be on their side. 

The owners, the Mannheims, want to build a new house, and say the Lautner crowd have had decades to persuade them.

Here is the piece, in which architectural historian Crosby Doe says of the 1951 Shusett House:

"Lautner is like Picasso — every one is important. We've lost some wonderful architecture lately through shortsightedness. This is not the masterpiece that some of his other pieces are, but every Lautner house is worthy of restoration. Ultimately the owner has the property rights. If you want to burn your Picasso, you can."