John Lautner's Chemosphere: part Jetsons, part Bond and vintage L.A. Modern.
April 7, 2005 9:21 AM   Subscribe

The most modern home built in the world. "From the outside it looks like a spaceship you cannot enter. But if you go inside, it feels very cozy… very Zen and calming. Maybe because you are floating above the city, in the sky". John Lautner's Chemosphere residence is the product of a fortuitous union of architect, client, time and place. Leonard Malin was a young aerospace engineer in late-1950s L.A. whose father-in-law had just given him a plot north of Mulholland Drive, near Laurel Canyon. The only catch: at roughly 45 degrees, the slope was all but unbuildable. Lautner sketched a bold vertical line, a cross, and a curve above it. "Draw it up," he told his assistant. Now publisher Benedikt Taschen owns Chemosphere (NSFW), and after 20 years of neglect the house has been beautifully restored (.pdf) by Frank Escher.
posted by matteo (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
the "Benedikt Taschen owns Chemosphere"link is sort of NSFW, unless nude women are sfw for ya...
posted by HuronBob at 9:35 AM on April 7, 2005

Bob, read the post:

"Now publisher Benedikt Taschen owns Chemosphere (NSFW), and after 20 years of neglect... etc"
posted by matteo at 9:37 AM on April 7, 2005

Nice place.

Cultural reference - it was featured in the first Charlies Angels movie, where a naked Drew Barrymore got shot out the window...

So more nekkid ladies then.

Ahh, culture....
posted by Sk4n at 9:42 AM on April 7, 2005

Lovely post, thanks, matteo!
posted by carter at 9:52 AM on April 7, 2005

Wasn't that also the house in De Palma's "Body Double"?
posted by stinkycheese at 9:58 AM on April 7, 2005

It was actually a recreation in Charlie's Angels. I was surprised at myself for recognizing it from that context — normally such stuff doesn't stick with me — but the second I saw these images, I thought, "Hmmm... movie... female secret agents at a cocktail party...?!"
posted by Zurishaddai at 10:04 AM on April 7, 2005

It's the house of tomorrow, TODAY!

Does this remind any of you of the house Troy McClure lived in in the episode where he marries Patty/Selma?
posted by santiagogo at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2005

stinkycheese, Yes; and it looks like Lautner's provided us a number of movie settings. The same site says that the Charlie's Angels scene referenced by Sk4n was influenced by but not actually the Chemosphere.
posted by kimota at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2005, i could swear (nsfw) that I re-read your post before I made that comment.. I was even a bit surprised that you would miss that...

my apologies....
posted by HuronBob at 10:11 AM on April 7, 2005

I've seen this house on the Simpsons!

"Hi I'm Troy McClure, my acting gigs payed for this pool and my good-looks filled it with water."

Lisa: "I remember you from such movies as "The Greatest Story Ever Hula'd"
posted by Jikido at 10:12 AM on April 7, 2005

oops! santiagogo beat me....
posted by Jikido at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2005

I rather enjoyed the NSFW link. The house is cool too.

But I'm not sure its cool enough to go and live in LA for.
posted by fenriq at 10:15 AM on April 7, 2005

I can't make up my mind...self-indulgent eyesore or model for modern living?
posted by mania at 10:27 AM on April 7, 2005

So jealous. Would love to live somewhere like that.
posted by agregoli at 10:38 AM on April 7, 2005

Oh fenriq; if only you realized how awesome and better than anywhere else Los Angeles actually is... sigh.
posted by jonson at 10:40 AM on April 7, 2005

taschen's publications are some of my favorites to page through (the last one was actually "1000 favorite websites" -- supersweet). they're always on interesting subject matter and usually visually striking. it fits that he lives in this house.

i wonder why they don't bulldoze a driveway instead of using a cablecar (took me a while to figure out what funicular meant).
posted by carsonb at 11:21 AM on April 7, 2005

Great post. I was hoping to see the caged funicular - a term you'd think more likely to come up on that (also great) NSFW page.
on prev: I had to look it up also, carsonb .
posted by peacay at 11:55 AM on April 7, 2005

A modern cliffhanger
Hillside homes have evolved from stilt-built cabins to technological marvels. In them, we see L.A.'s sense that anything's possible.

(NSFW) A few years ago, I went to interview Benedikt Taschen. This involved going to his home, The Chemosphere. It was designed by John Lautner and looks something like a flying saucer perched atop a stem growing from the side of the Hollywood Hills. I rode a funicular to get there (NSFW)
posted by matteo at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2005 they're the houses I (would have) see(n) on the news during Californian rainstorms. Thx matteo.
posted by peacay at 12:17 PM on April 7, 2005

This reminds me of a house I first noticed as a seven-year-old in the backseat of the car, driving up into the mountains of Colorado along I-70. It's called The Sculptured House, and it looks like an alien spacecraft landed on the side of a mountain.
posted by salad spork at 12:48 PM on April 7, 2005

Sorry for coming late to the party. My uncle actually owned the Chemosphere house from around 1982 to 1997. The view is amazing, you have to take an inclinator (or about 200 stairs) to get from the parking garage up to the house, and there are two plexiglass plates in the floor near the edge where you can look down to the area immediately below the house.

The exterior shots in Charlie's Angels are of the house, but the interior was all on a soundstage. Body Double was largely filmed there, prior to my uncle's ownership.

It's very much an entertaining house, with only one (or two, if you forgo the den) bedroom.

Fun fact: One of the vertical wood wall planks in the living room is actually hinged and if you open it you can see through a 8x10" pane of one-way glass into the shower.
posted by kfury at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2005

cool! thanks.
posted by matteo at 1:25 PM on April 7, 2005

Cool links, matteo. I love sci-fi looking architecture.

And, kfury, thanks for the inside scoop. Those plexiglass floor plates sound like they would scare the crap out of me.
posted by unsweet at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2005

I bet the views from this thing are just extraordinary. The Sculpture house referenced above is amazingly cool too.
posted by dejah420 at 7:24 PM on April 9, 2005

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