Monday, March 4, 2013

A John Lautner MID-CENTURY masterpiece in my own backyard

Photo from
I live in Palm Desert which is one of the assortment of Coachella Valley cities that comprise the Palm Springs tourist area.

Photo from
The Coachella Valley is truly a living museum of mid-century archi-tecture and design.  Perhaps one of the most famous houses here, by one of the most famous and revered mid-century designers, John Lautner is Bob Hope's former Palm Springs house.

John Lautner photograph from 
This home has just gone up for sale $50million, which may be a price record for our area if it sells.  I'll be fascinated if they get that although it is an important Lautner commission and maybe it will command a good price.  Interesting to read on Daily Mail Online that Lautner distanced himself from the home and the Hope's in later years, because of the furnishings as well as Bob and Dolores Hope's interference in the design.
I've lived here in the Palm Springs region (with a brief excursion to San Diego) since the early 90's.  That was before the world rediscovered mid-century modern.  And Palm Springs had a renaissance.

Shades of Rome's Pantheon, no?  Perhaps Lautner's homage?

So very sculptural, before Gehry and Hadid.  The interesting architecture form seems to inform these contemporary architects?

The Hope house was always been a bit of a mystery since I've lived in the area.  I could see it from afar, but never up close.  I've always heard that the Hopes actually had another home in the desert where they actually stayed.  They also resided in Toluca Lake (an LA suburb).   Supposedly, they used the house in the earlier years for entertainment purposes.   In their later years, although they remained involved occasionally in society, they really probably weren't doing much private entertaining.

This house has always been an enigma.  You could always see it on the hill when you entered Palm Desert from the east.  It sat majestically about all other houses Palm Springs and it was quite large.  But I never saw how beautiful this Lautner work was.  I don't think we truly understand the scale of the house.  From a distance, it looks like a big UFO.  But I would imagine that when you're there the scale is quite impressive.

This house symbolizes so much grandeur of the desert.  It started back in the 20's and 30's (Garbo had a house near here) and the Hope's really symbolized the end of that era (Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Truman Capote, Jane Wyman, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby and a literal giant cast of Hollywood's greatest who resided here, full-or-part-time, from the 1920's-2000's).

These days, Bill Gates has a home here, as does a host of others.  I think following the mid-century modern renaissance here at the beginning of this century (2000-ish) that many stars, billionaires, and famous people have "rediscovered" a vacation home here, or have family members who lived here (Cher's mother lives here, Lily Tomlin either lives here or has a family member that does.....I date myself, I think with this whole blog.   Don't know about Kanye West or the Kardashians, or Beiber, or whoever young person is hot now!?)  I don't think the Desert ever went out of fashion.  It did go through some very stark generational changes.

Personally, I've kind of overstayed my welcome and overdone the desert.....I'm very ready to move on to a new place.  But the Coachella Valley is a beautiful place to live, especially the architecture (and oddly the "purple, turd-like mountains" para-phrasing Truman Capote).  You should all come here to visit. For the architecture.  For the weather (except in summer).  For the food and resorts, among so many other things.

Check out this article on Daily Mail (all photos are from the Daily Mail Online website:  click here)

The night sky from the Hope home in Palm Springs.  This is why "the Desert" has been the destination for presidents, movie stars, wealthy and influential since the 20's.

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