Lautner in the News

Lautner Pilgrimage

At Midgaard, John Lautner’s childhood cabin, with Karol Peterson in 2010

John Lautner has been in the news lately. First, one of his most famous houses, the Elrod in Palm Springs, is up for sale. Yesterday, Jim Goldstein announced he was donating his home, aka the Sheats-Goldstein House, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, meaning, hopefully, one of the architect’s buildings will finally be open to the public. This is significant, as one of the reasons Lautner has not always gotten his due for being the key transitional figure between the two Franks (Lloyd Wright and Gehry) is that his buildings are almost all private homes.

Perhaps just as significantly, eight of those houses — the John & Mary Lautner House, the Foster Carling House, the Schaffer House, the Harvey House, the Harpel (Hollywood) House, the Pearlman Mountain Cabin, the Elrod House, and the Walstrom House — have been submitted to the State Historic Resources Commission, in the hopes that they will be eventually nominated to the National Register. The multi-property application, prepared by students and faculty at Cal Poly, opens the way for preservation of additional Lautner properties.

Lautner Pilgrimage

The ceiling of Midgaard, painted by his mother, the artist Vida Lautner

On a much sadder note, I only recently discovered that Lautner’s oldest child, Karol Peterson, passed away last year. I met Karol several years ago when I visited her father’s family homes in Marquette, Michigan. We kayaked together on Lake Superior, and I instantly loved this tall, outspoken, warm-hearted woman. It was she who suggested that someone should write a biography of her father, a task I have been picking away at during the last couple of years. Last summer I spent an intensive week with Karol going through her father’s and family papers at Deertrack (John’s first commission) in Marquette. Karol was in and out of the hospital then, and I knew she was not doing well, but I guess I was in denial when she stopped returning my messages several months ago. She was a great steward of her father’s legacy and memory, and I will miss kayaking with her dearly.

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