John Lautner is among the most celebrated and notable architects of the twentieth century. An early protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, architecture critics have for decades praised Lautner’s works for inventively and effectively expanding the range of organic architecture. His projects exhibit stylish, imaginative and distinguished departures from the mundane and limited designs that proliferated during the latter half of the century. Instead of fitting neatly into a single category, Lautner’s work is essentially a style of its own, with each project uniquely suited to the site and the client for which it was designed. His oeuvre is incredibly diverse, yet each project bears distinctive elements that are unmistakably Lautner.
Mr. and Mrs. Rawlins commissioned their residence after visiting an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco in 1976 featuring Lautner’s work. Designing within the limitations of the Rawlins’ relatively small parcel, Lautner created an especially inventive and inspired residence, shaped from poured-in-place concrete, copper and glass – enduring materials he recognized as ideal for this waterfront setting. Carefully conceived spaces capture bay views. Warm tones and textures have been harmoniously blended in articulated concrete, wood and tile. The second floor master suite is suspended between, yet separated from, the exterior concrete walls. This creates a space between to accommodate a perimeter band of two story skylights along the walls in the living area. Exhibiting an extraordinary skill for understanding the mechanics of light, Lautner placed these skylights – as well as other natural light sources throughout the house – to subtly and indirectly illuminate the interiors, balancing and softening the light that streams through the harbor-facing walls of glass. The house is intentionally blind to its neighbors on its three non-view sides, effectively creating a series of private interior spaces at one with the harbor. The final product is both substantial and serene. Built by extraordinary tradesmen, Lautner was especially pleased with the completed residence, which he said was crafted with, “…virtually perfect execution”.
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