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 by Laura Dominguez/L.A. Conservancy

Margaret and Harry Hay Residence

Designed by modernist Gregory Ain in the International Style, this residence formed the backdrop to gay rights activist Harry Hay's early efforts with the Mattachine Society.
Danziger Studio
Photo by Devri Richmond

Danziger Studio

Before the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Disney Concert Hall, a lesser-known Frank Gehry crafted a work--live-play paradise for graphic artist Lou Danziger on Melrose Avenue.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Bayfront Youth and Family Services

Recognized by an international design exhibition in 1961 not only as one of the eighteen best buildings in the United States, but as the top-designed commercial structure in the world.