Angulo Arquitectura


Elrod house_”Diamonds are forever” 1971

 17 July 2013

With organic forms and why not to say … with a touch of extravagance, It is a design listed as ultramodern style 45 years ago, and It has not lost the essence of the Avant-garde. Even nowadays still mantains a retro touch that gives it more force if possible.

Designed by John Lautner, Michigan (1911) – Los Angeles (1994), for Arthur Elrod, an interior designer born Atlanta, whose list of clients included the entire jet in Los Angeles. In summary…. an architect who wanted to surprise and developer that wanted being surprised.

This jewel of modernism, appeared in the classic James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971). With permission from “Star Wars”, the Bond saga has one of the most recognizable “opening credits” of film history as well as a wide range of loyal fans. The adventures of super agent 007 are typical of superhero with touches of flesh and clood, and that like us.

Well … before the screen fills with with blood, as usual … we take a look at the data sheet of the film, ok?

Director: Guy Hamilton

Guión: Tom Mankiewicz & Richard Maibaum

Photography: Ted Moore

Music: John Barry

Year: 1971

Genre: Aventuras, Acción, Espionaje.

Interpretes: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Bernard Lee

Productora: United Artists

Duración: 119 minutos

I really do not know why … but Sean Connery is my favorite 007. I think it has better performances starring as James Bond in other titles, probably supported by best screenplays, but what is undeniable is its ability to fill screen.

Knock, knock! Wearing a clear tone costume and pink tie, coming into the house of the villain with his jacket hanging from a finger …  who beat that?

The Elrod house is built on a steep terrain in Palm Springs (California), with views of Mount San Jacinto. The main feature of the house is the concrete deck, a dome-shaped “umbrella” of 18 meters in diameter, whose purpose is to protect the interior of the house from the scorching sun of the desert. Blind panels alternating with triangular openings to provide indirect lighting to lounge and kitchen.The Elrod house is built on a steep terrain in Palm Springs (California), with views of Mount San Jacinto. The main feature of the house is the concrete deck, a dome-shaped “umbrella” of 18 meters in diameter, whose purpose is to protect the interior of the house from the scorching sun of the desert. Blind panels alternating with triangular openings to provide indirect lighting to lounge and kitchen.

Overall, Lautner was an architect with no fear of experimentation, both in terms of geometric shapes as materials and even construction methods, entering without knocking on the rigorous engineering field to return to the plasticity of architecture and resolve constructively his creations.

The house revolves around circular geometries, a curved concrete wall that supports the roof and a emptied contour that articulates garden area, access road, garages and utility rooms.

In this case, the organic lines prevail over paralex , and it’s making visual balance of all his works, Lautner was not very fond of the square and bevel. Here we have in his studio smoking a pencil.

The freshness of his proposals seemed enhanced by its ability to blur the boundary of the building with the environment on which it was based, leading to fully integrated buildings with the landscape.

In that sense, during the foundation work, Lautner gave orders to increase the height of excavations to become the rock in  structural element as well as decorative.

The glasses are adjusted to the rock as a friendly manner unframed with a cord just epoxy resin, which emphasizes the naturalness of the proposal.

The aesthetics  load of rocks did not go unnoticed Ted Moore (Director of Photography). 007 encounters “Thumper”, played by actress Trina Barks, who looked like a leopard taking a nap in the shade.

Such was the role of the stone in the concept of housing, even fragments were used for window and door handles.

In another vein, the concrete shell is light thanks to the glass wall that physically and visually connects the living room with the terrace and pool, offering a panoramic view of 220 degrees.

The powerful concrete pillar located on the edge of the pool meets the deck perimeter beam by a metal rod, providing visual lightness and a no gravity sense.

However, the original pillar did not have that  morphology. The primitive geometry of the support had a dialogue with the organicism of the project.

At first, the glazed enclosure was resolved by glass panels arranged in zig-zag, but a sandstorm blew the windows. The feeling of Arthur Elrod by observing the natural environment from his living room without any physical barrier (not even the translucency or transparency of the glasses), he did give a new twist in the enjoyment of a sensory space.

Summoned Lautner to design a motorized sliding door system that would allow enjoying those feelings by touching a button.

Several modifications  about the project initially executed were needed. One was “cutting” the  mentioned pillar that could let the glass closure sliding along the outline of the flight deck. Another modification by way of collateral damage was the elimination of the garden area located next to the pool against the concrete wall to create a space that will house the sliding door.

This is the current state. While it is true that seems to have lost a bit of “punch”, sometimes the balance between design and functionality requires less gimmicky details and more practical.

Two years after the completion of the work, was projected an attached  guest housing .

It is located just below the pool deck, on a lower level floor which is accessed from the terrace through a curved staircase in dialogue with the skylight.

With such canvas bathed in light and shadow … who needs additional decoration?

Rooms in the guest house.

Returning the dependencies of the main house, the suite deserves special attention. Elegant and spacious, with few and well-defined materials (wood, concrete and textiles). The dropped triangular section beams are curious, and is also worth noting the solid rock working as estructural element.

The first photo shows the current status. If you look at the background to the right, there is a “person” with the head of a seagull. This is not a joke, nor is it a fake. The explanation is that for one week a year, the house can be visited as a museum and that doll is a temporary performance of a modern artist.

The second and third photo are over 40 years old and show the main room with original furniture.

Another highlight is the kitchen, that shares texture tile floor with the living room and is separated therefrom by wood paneling. It could not be otherwise, also has curved walls.

As for the exterior of the house, the strength of the concrete walls is diluted with vegetable layer. The integration is absolute.

But without doubt, the most appealing is the pool. With crescent shaped, overlooking the cliff as Lautner-style. (For example “Marbrisa residence” in Acapulco).

An evening bath can be quite a show, but seeing the sketch section, you can see that the bottom of the pool is concave …

… And I am thinking of another extreme sports like this … Pedro Barros in action on the Vans Bowl-o-rama. (pool skating)

Has been magazine cover hundreds of times. Such is the media interest that fashion brands from the likes of Gucci and Hugo Boss have publicized their collections in it.

Leaving aside the coated paper and returning to film analysis, when Bond enters the room, he is welcomed by Lola Larson in the role of “Bambi”.

And after a failed seduction attempt, the fight breaks out, (excessively acrobatic for my taste), however, James Bond stories endure it all and the fun is guaranteed …

At the end … 007 solves the situation as if it were any afternoon in Acuapark … even though he had previously received as ever …

A Different Note, but without going too far, consider it obligatory to mention the vehicles that appear in the film: Hovercraft, Lunar Buggy, Ford Mustang 1971 Match One, Mini-Sub, Dirt Track bikes and a Ford Galaxie 500, 1971.

Also I know that among our followers,  there are some fans and even owners of classic cars … going for them! I want to share this little summary of the sequence of the car chase …

Following a piloting resource exhibition, the ford of our protagonist, gets into a “Dead End”.

He approaches the ramp loading platform and put the car on two wheels to go through the alley ….

The car comes rolling over the right wheels but it goes off with the left ones!

Gazapo or driving skills? I am sure 007 did it on purpose … and with his elbow out the window …

Before closing, I would like to write about the art of the storyboard. Officially, unknown artist, because there is not reflected in the credits, but experts illustration, are able to claim almost 100% that the author was Thomas J Wright, who later did the storyboards for The plot (1976) by Alfred Hitchcock and Apocalypse Now (1979) by Francis Ford Coppola.

His argument is that Wright does not appear in the credits, but in the “making of” included in the DVD, Ken Adams (Production Designer),  mentioned Tom Wright as a team member.

Here I leave the reference hanging by a thread in case someone brings some light and confirms or denies …

And to keep the good manners … I leave you with the closing credits of the film, where curiously already announced the title of the next film of the saga!

Thank you very much for the support. Enjoy your summer and have fun!!! … See you after holidays with more film and architecture in the same bag.

A hug!!!


United Artist

Architecture Elrod House Pool 1

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