Frank Lloyd Wright called him “the world’s second-best architect.”1 His spectacular homes have been the settings for commercials, Vogue fashion spreads, and dozens of movies. Most people have seen his astonishing work, but very few know his name. It’s John Lautner.

Lautner’s “Chemosphere,” built in 1960, looks like a flying saucer or the home of the Jetsons. It’s actually a 2,200-square-foot family home. The octagonal “saucer,” supported by eight steel beams, rests on a concrete post. The home was put together with epoxy—a material that Lautner was the first to use in home building.2

Elrod House, photo by Betsy Speicher

In Diamonds are Forever (1971), James Bond did battle with bikini-clad guards Bambi and Thumper in Lautner’s Elrod House (1968), a dramatic, circular concrete structure built into, around, and incorporating the jagged rocks of a Palm Springs cliff.3 Bond lost the fight and was thrown into the pool—an indoor-outdoor infinity pool—that Lautner invented and first used in the 1950s.4 . . .


1. Florence Anderton, “The Flying Saucer House Soars Again,” New York Times, March 15, 2001,

2. Anderton, “Flying Saucer House.”

3. Movieclips, “Diamonds Are Forever (6/7) Movie CLIP—Bambi and Thumper (1971) HD,” YouTube, November 6, 2015,

4. Paolo Benedetti, “The Very First Infinity Edge, Vanishing Edge, Perimeter Overflow, and Knife Edge Pools,” Watershapes, Watershapes Blog, January 17, 2010,

5. SCI-Arch Media Archive, “John Lautner (January 23, 1991),” YouTube, September 24, 2017,

6. Marlene L. Laskey, Responsibility, Infinity, Nature; John Lautner, 1986, Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, Oral History Program, University of California, Los Angeles, 7–8,

7. Laskey, Responsibility, 29.

8. Laskey, Responsibility, 33–34.

9. Laskey, Responsibility, 35.

10. Laskey, Responsibility, 36.

11. “John Edward Lautner, Jr., FAIA (1911–1994),” US Modernist, February 18, 2018).

12. Laskey, Responsibility, 60.

13. SCI-Arch Media Archive, “John Lautner (January 23, 1991).” .

14. Henry-Russell Hitchcock, “New Angles on a Slope,” House Beautiful, June 1941, 66–67.

15. Laskey, Responsibility, 68–69.

16. Laskey, Responsibility, 73.

17. Laskey, Responsibility, 74.

18. Elizabeth Honnold-Harris, “The High Impact Arrival & Influence of the Real Thing,” John Lautner Foundation Newsletter, October 2001,

19. Honnold-Harris, “High Impact.”

20. Laskey, Responsibility, 74.

21. “Douglas Honnold (architect),” Pacific Coast Architecture Database, February 18, 2018).

22. “John Edward Lautner (architect),” Pacific Coast Architecture Database, February 18, 2018).

23. Douglas Haskell, “Googie Architecture,” House & Home, February 1952,, 86–88.

24. Haskell, House & Home, 86.

25. Haskell, House & Home, 87–88.

26. Haskell, House & Home, 86.

27. Douglas Haskell, “John Lautner’s Houses Take All Hollywood as a Stage,” House & Home, February 1952,, 89–91.

28. Haskell, House & Home, 89.

29. Haskell, House & Home, 90.

30. Haskell, House & Home, 91.

31. Haskell, House & Home, 91.

32. Alan Hess, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1985), 62–63.

33. Elizabeth Honnold-Harris, letter to Mitch Glazer and Kelly Lynch,March 30, 2000, John Lautner Foundation,

34. “John Lautner, ‘Technologist’ Architect, Dies at 83,” New York Times,October 27, 1994,

35. “John Edward Lautner, Jr., FAIA (1911–1994),” US Modernist.

36. Elaine Woo, “Kenneth Reiner Dies at 95; Industrialist Built Landmark Silvertop Home,” Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2011,

37. Scott Timberg, “Landmark House: John Lautner’s Chemosphere,” Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2011,

38. Timberg, “Landmark House.”

39. Anderton, “Flying Saucer House.”

40. Laskey, Responsibility, 73.

41. Laskey, Responsibility, 193.

42. John Lautner Foundation, post to “John Lautner: The Real Thing” (closed Facebook group), Facebook, January 29, 2018, After de la Vaux retired, he began writing a book about the building of Chemosphere with the construction techniques he and Lautner had adapted from the way the Egyptians built the pyramids. The Nevada Appealnewspaper reported that de la Vaux was hard at work on his book at the age of 104. “If you are engaged or interested in something you will never let your mind go blank,” he told the reporter. See Taylor Pettaway, “104 Years Old and Still Engaged,” Nevada Appeal, July 5, 2016,

43. Laskey, Responsibility, 173.

44. Laskey, Responsibility, 176.

45. Laskey, Responsibility, 178.

46. Dave Weinstein, “Beyond Flash and Fantasy,” Eichler Network,

(accessed February 18, 2018).

47. John Lautner, “In his own words,” John Lautner Foundation, April 12, 2008,

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