John Lautner

Architect | 1911-1994
Photograph by Julius Shulman © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)

Years after Lautner apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright for several years, John Lautner's approach redefined residential architecture. Lautner designed three projects in San Diego but only one, the Shearing House, was completed.

Photograph by Julius Shulman © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)

John Lautner was one of the 20th century's most important contemporary American architects. His work was concerned “… with the relationship of the human being to space and of space to nature. "Shelter," he said, "is the most basic human need."

Mr. Lautner was born in 1911, one of two children, in Marquette, Michigan – where he graduated from both high school and college. “The northern woods and the deep blue of Lake Superior remained in his soul throughout his life, and he was to return time and time again to bask in what he considered a heaven on earth.”

After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Northern Michigan, Lautner became an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright for six years, joining the first group of Taliesin Fellows. In 1937 he supervised the construction of two of Mr. Wright's projects, and two years later established his own practice in Los Angeles.

Lautner’s “…first solo project was a house for his own family, which architectural critic Henry-Russell Hitchcock called "the best house by an architect under 30 in the United States." Later, Hitchcock remarked that "Lautner's work could stand comparison with that of his master." A comparison, incidentally, that Lautner himself would have been reluctant to make, given his lifelong devotion to Mr. Wright.

“With the U.S. thrust into World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor, during 1942 Whitney Smith traveled down to San Diego from Los Angeles to work under William Templeton Johnson and George J. Adams. Johnson and Adams were the “…architects in charge of planning 600 units of housing for aircraft and shipbuilders for the National Housing Agency. Smith described the housing projects in National City and Chula Vista as ‘drudgery,’ but he met architect John Lautner on the job, and they remained lifelong friends.” (Source: Outside in: The Architecture of Smith and Williams).

Lautner went on to design three projects in San Diego – Ballet School and Theater (1963), Lueck Residence (1971) and the Shearing Residence of 1991. Only the latter project would see completion.

Additional biographical materials can be found at

List of San Diego Projects

Ballet School and Theater (1963)

Lueck Residence (1971)

Shearing Residence (1991)
15 Green Turtle Road, Coronado Cays