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!

Reynolds Buick
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Reynolds Buick

Designed by William Garwood, the dealership features concrete block façades dominated by the showroom, a protruding volume of floor-to-ceiling glass windows. An overhanging steel roof supported by exaggerated, almost Googie-style trusses shelters the whole building in style.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

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The house that launched architect Craig Ellwood's career and the first building he designed after establishing his own practice in 1949, described as one of three seminal postwar California houses.