John Lautner’s Concrete Domed Elrod House Overlooks Coachella Valley

John Lautner’s Concrete Domed Elrod House Overlooks Coachella Valley

We’re continuing our series on modernist buildings in Palm Springs with American architect John Lautner’s Arthur Elrod House, which has a dome-shaped concrete roof and a half-moon swimming pool that featured in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.

The residence sits on an elevated site in Palm Springs’ Araby Cove neighbourhood, facing north to overlook the city and Coachella Valley beyond. Lautner completed the house in 1968 for American designer Arthur Elrod, who created the interiors for the home himself.

The layout is centred around a circular living room that measures 60 feet (18 metres) in diameter with an indoor-outdoor pool.

The space is covered by a huge wheel-shaped ceiling, formed by a set of alternating glass and concrete segments, and wrapped with a metal band around its outer edge. Light enters overhead through angled metal fins that form frames for the glazing.

Curved, sliding glass walls surround the front portion of the living area, opening to a terrace and the swimming pool that both face the view.

Inside, two large benches coloured light creme are also shaped to follow the geometry of the space. A matching rug mirrors the round ceiling overhead, with a fireplace along one wall.

Completing the main living room are a pair of dark upholstered chairs with high backs, a small dining table with metal chairs, and a set of rounded side and coffee tables.

A herringbone pattern features on the floors, while dark timber forms cabinetry and accent walls, and other surfaces display the board marks created when the concrete was poured.

Structural support is provided by square-shaped concrete pillars around the perimeter. Floating concrete steps lead from the pool down to a rocky path.

The natural rock of the San Jacinto mountains features prominently in the interiors, and exposed boulders are seen in the main living room and stairwell.

Elrod House is considered an example of organic architecture – a branch of modernism that is typified by more natural shapes than the style’s usual rectangular planes, and elements of the landscape incorporated into the buildings.

Organic architecture was championed by Frank Lloyd Wright, for whom Lautner worked as an apprentice in the mid-1930s. Soon after, he opened his own firm and built many residential projects in California.

Lautner came from a creative family, and was the son of Austrian and Irish immigrants who were interested in the worlds of interior design, painting and philosophy. Born in Michigan in 1911, his childhood home was built by American architect Joy Wheeler Dow, and his summer lake house was designed and built by his parents themselves.

Lautner became a key figure of California modernism, thanks to projects like the LA residence he designed for art collector James Goldstein. The house famously appeared in the 1998 movie The Big Lebowski, and was donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2016.

The Elrod House also made it onto the silver screen. A scene from the 1971 film Diamonds are Forever, from the James Bond series, saw actor Sean Connery thrown into its pool by a bikini-clad bodyguard.

The home has changed owners several times since its completion, with its most recent rumoured to be fashion designer Jeremy Scott.

It is located close to the Araby Trail, a hiking path that also passes by Lautner’s nearby house for comedian and performer Bob Hope.

These houses are among a generous collection of modernist buildings in the city, which are celebrated each year during Palm Springs Modernism Week.

This year’s edition runs from 15 to 25 February 2018, and we’re marking the occasion by spotlighting some of the most important examples of architecture in the area.

They include the Twin Palms estate by E Stewart Williams, Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, and the Tramway Gas Station that is now used as the city’s visitor centre.