LACMA Abides: John Lautner-Designed Residence Marks First Gift of Architecture to the Museum
Architecture buffs will likely know the Sheats-Goldstein Residence as John Lautner’s Beverly Hills space-age masterpiece. Others may recognize it as pornographer Jackie Treehorn’s pad in the 1998 Coen Brothers' film, The Big Lebowski. Beginning today, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will consider it an impending part of its collection.
LACMA today announced that the house’s owner, James Goldstein, has promised the estate and its contents—which include tropical gardens, an “entertainment complex,” a tennis court, works by Ed Ruscha and James Turrell, as well as a Rolls Royce—to the art museum, its first gift of architecture.
"Over the course of many meetings with [LACMA director] Michael Govan, I was very impressed with his appreciation for the history of the house and the role it has played in the cultural life of Los Angeles,” Goldstein said. “Hopefully, my gift will serve as a catalyst to encourage others to do the same to preserve and keep alive Los Angeles’s architectural gems for future generations.”
Lautner—a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice, known for Los Angeles-area homes including the Chemosphere and the Arango House in Acapulco [RECORD, May 1997]—completed the house for artist Helen Sheats and her husband in 1963.
Perched atop the Beverly Hills, the poured-in-place concrete structure features a dramatically sloped, prow-like roof, which shoots out from the hillside over Los Angeles. Miniature skylights, made from 750 drinking glasses, puncture the coffered concrete ceiling, creating the illusion of a light-dappled lagoon. Sliding glass walls open the master bedroom to the outdoors and paths connect bedrooms to the house. Lautner designed the interiors, the lighting, and the concrete furniture (including those orange leather sofas).
RECORD wrote of the architect in 1991: “Lautner is designing houses we all should live in, but few of us can understand or afford.”
The house’s eccentric owner, James Goldstein, manages to do both. The fashion-forward millionaire and self-described basketball “super fan” is said to have made his fortune in real estate. Goldstein purchased the property in 1972 and painstakingly restored it with Lautner. After Lautner’s death in 1994, Goldstein worked with a Lautner protégé to construct a three-story “entertainment complex” next door; the building includes Club James, which recently hosted a combined Valentine’s-Grammy nomination party for producer Mark Ronson and Jamie xx.
While the property (worth an estimated $40 million) will not be officially transferred to LACMA until the owner’s passing, the museum hopes to host events and exhibitions in the space in the near future.
Govan, the director, said, “Great architecture is as powerful an inspiration as any artwork, and LACMA is honored to care for, maintain, and preserve this house, as well as to enhance access to this great resource for architecture students, scholars, and the public.”
We will drink a White Russian to that.