But as usual, Lautner's daring leap beyond convention caused him problems. Many uncomprehending critics glommed onto this unconventional car-oriented design and turned the very name "Googie" into a definition for cheaply built commercial architecture. Lautner smarted over this for the rest of his career.
"Thorny with ideas" is how McCoy described Lautner's architecture. Few interpreted the fundamental if thorny urban truths of L.A. better. Living in a city shaped by these ideas, we should look at his architecture again and again to see ourselves more clearly.
Lautner wrestled with L.A. his entire career. It wasn't easy, but the struggle resulted in great buildings that give us insight into our city. Like Lautner, Los Angeles shouldn't need to look over its shoulder to know when we're doing it right.
An article and photo gallery on John Lautner's Chemosphere have been added to our Landmark Houses library online, latimes.com/landmarkhouses. Comments: email@example.com