The Elrod House

Posted on May 6, 2010


Without doubt, John Lautner was one of the Twentieth Century’s most gifted architects.

Apprenticed to Frank Lloyd Wright in his early years, Lautner learned much from his mentor, as is evidenced by some of the architectural flourishes incorporated in many of his homes.

Lautner was passionate about the relationship between the natural environment and the structures he created, striving to create a harmonious balance and determined to humanise the spaces of the built world.

Possibly his most famous residence, The Elrod House, is a excellent example of this desire for a communication between the landscape and the home, and for there to be a sense of awe and drama in the design.

Built in 1968 for interior designer Arthur Elrod, The Elrod House was designed to shield the home from the intense desert sun. The massive domed roof is sliced into sections that have been raised out to accommodate skylights and provide indirect light. The roof rests on sweeping concrete walls, creating an open interior space that affords uninterupted views of the desert and Palm Springs.

The Elrod House is built on a difficult site, and when Lautner saw that the grading had exposed rock on twenty-three acre site, he directed the contractor to dig ten feet deeper, uncovering the massive rocks that would eventually  become an integral part of the interior itself.

From the road, the modest entrance conceals a soaring space, with zoned areas that interplay with the divide between the interior and exterior.

This house was made famous when it featured prominently in the James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever. The exposed rock of the desert floor encroaching into the living space along with the angular, vaulted ceiling made this seem like something straight out of production designer Ken Adam’s imagination, and was in perfect keeping with the James Bond design ethic of bold, dramatic environments.

Lautner is often a misunderstood architect and some critics mistake his desire to create a dramatic interplay between the environment and the spaces he created as nothing more than flamboyant artistic gestures. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Lautner’s homes may have become synonymous with playboy excesses and the Hollywood elite, but this is a mile away from Lautner’s commitment to creating harmonious and humanised living spaces.