Los Angeles offers some of the most iconic mid century modern architecture in the world, but there is one that stands above the rest. The Malin House, aka Chemosphere, is celebrated as one of Southern California’s most iconic and architecturally significant homes – ever.

Mid Century Modern Architecture Chemosphere by John Lautner

(Malin House)

7776 Torreyson Dr,
Los Angeles, CA 90046

John Lautner

A heap of determination and ingenuity were the two most important elements needed to build this modernist home the Encyclopedia Britannica once called “the most modern home built in the world.”

Aerospace engineer, Leonard Malin, was gifted a piece of land in the Hollywood Hills deemed unbuildable due to its 45 degree slope.

Determined to live here Malin turned to architect John Lautner to realize his dream.

John Lautner, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, understood the importance of Organic Architecture.

Instead of competing with the hillside Lautner arrived at a unique solution. He designed what LA Conservancy describes as,  “An octagon perched atop a twenty-nine-foot high, five-foot-wide concrete column like a flying saucer on a stick ….”

It cost $140,000 to see the project to completion. Malin came in with $80,000. A NY Times feature notes the rest was bartered. Malin said ”I traded six months of the house being shown by the [Southern California] gas company in exchange for things like tile that went through the whole house,’’ and “Chem Seal provided the experimental epoxies, coatings and resins to put the house together and inspired the name Chemosphere. (Lautner originally wanted to call the house Chapiteau.)”

When it was done, Malin and his family enjoyed many years riding the funicular up to this spectacular example of modernist architecture offering panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley.

Malin eventually sold his home in 1972.

And then, with each new owner, a series of unfortunate design choices left this futuristic residence looking washed up and aged.

That was until then couple Angelika and Benedikt Taschen, of the German publishing house Taschen. (Yes, the same company that publishes Case Study Houses) purchased the home for $1 million in the late 90s.

The Taschens hired architects Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena and spent the two years restoring Chemosphere. “The restoration team removed layers of paint, paneled the walls with the same shade of ash wood used for the original built-in couches and cabinets (some of which needed repair or restoration), and replaced the fixed-paneled windows with frameless glass.”

For modernist fans this home represents possibility, ingenuity, and innovation.

And we’re grateful Benedikt Taschen believes, “It’s the responsibility of the owner to preserve it for future generations because a house like this doesn’t belong to one or two people: It belongs to mankind.”

It will forever be ranked as one of the icons of mid century modernism in Los Angeles.

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