AbilityFirst's Paul Weston Work Center
Period photo courtesy Helena Arahuete

AbilityFirst’s Paul Weston Work Center

We're thrilled to have a description of this innovative building contributed by none other than Lautner's project architect on the building, Helena Arahuete.

The Crippled Children’s Society Rehabilitation Center in Woodland Hills was designed by John Lautner, architect, FAIA and built by Paul Speer, general contractor, in 1979. Helena Arahuete was the project architect working for John Lautner, and Ben Noble, Paul Speer’s associate, was in charge of the construction.

John Lautner designed the building to suit the requirements of Mary Jane Moore, the director of the Woodland Hills Center. Mrs. Moore wanted to see everything in the Center from her office, without having to use cameras and a monitoring TV system.

The building had to include a speech and hearing department, a workshop, a multipurpose room, a recreation room, an indoor swimming pool, locker rooms, storage, mechanical room, garage, and parking areas. A summer swimming lake was proposed but never built. The Center had to be designed for growth, so it could be built in phases.

Mr. Lautner created a one-of-a-kind design. The director’s office was at the center of a circular, pie-shaped plan. The office was raised three feet higher than the main floor, and it had no interior partitions, so it would provide total visibility to all the wings radiating from this center.

Each of the wings contained one of the departments listed above. Each wing had glass on three sides, facing landscaped areas that separated the wings and provided views, shading, and natural light.

These garden-like penetrations continued in the form of pie-shaped skylights to the center of the building. The structure converged to a central column in the director’s office and continued in the form of steel tie-downs, forming an open landscaped trellis outside the office, completing the circular plan. The trellis was designed to be densely planted, to provide shading to the director’s office.

John Lautner created in this Center, as well as in all his work, an ideal, practical, and inspiring environment. This was the main purpose in his Real Architecture.

-- By Helena Arahuete, July 23, 2013

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