Malin Residence (Chemosphere)
Photo by Nick Neyland on Flickr

Malin Residence (Chemosphere)

If you had to choose one building to represent the most Modern of iconic Modern designs, you might well choose the Malin House (Chemosphere) in the Hollywood Hills. An octagon perched atop a twenty-nine-foot high, five-foot-wide concrete column like a flying saucer on a stick, the Chemosphere is recognizable even to those who know nothing else about mid-century architecture.

It was designed by groundbreaking architect John Lautner for Leonard Malin, a young aerospace engineer with a steeply sloping lot and $30,000 to spend on a house that would somehow perch upon it. Thanks to Lautner's ingenious design and sponsorships by companies like Chem Seal (who provided experimental coatings and was rewarded by the building's name), Malin got his wish. Malin and his wife raised four children in the house.

The one-story building is reached by a funicular and a concrete patio connects one side of it to the steep, lushly vegetated hillside. The bulk of the building hovers in an unlikely fashion above the hill, with windows on all sides to provide an astounding view of the San Fernando Valley. If you're looking for the Chemosphere, don't be disappointed if you can't spot it from its street address; pull over and look behind you and up!

Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Sheats Apartments

Completed in 1949, the building was designed by master architect John Lautner as eight units of student housing. Asymmetrically arranged shapes, from circular volumes to long, flat planes, step up the hill and around each other to form a strangely harmonious, abstractly futuristic, and truly organic-feeling whole.
Self Realization Fellowship
Photo by Tom Davies

Self Realization Fellowship

This Glendale church has a breathtaking conical roof supported by large curved beams of laminated wood, with a massive stained-glass window covering most of the front of the building.
Schaffer House
Photo by Tom Davies

Schaffer House

Constructed largely of redwood and glass supported by red brick and concrete, the Schaffer House by John Lautner feels like a newly pitched tent or a wood cabin that provides shelter and privacy without boxing out nature.