Photo Evely

The Spirit in Architecture: Project History
Bette Jane Cohen

 “The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner” examines the life and work of the American architect John Lautner (1911-1994), one of the most visionary American architects of the 20th century. Lautner’s work is continuing to have enormous influence on the development of a distinct architecture in Southern California. International interest and recognition has continued to increase. It has been twelve years since John Lautner’s death. His work is the subject of scholarly attention. Scholars, critics and historians have had the time to put Lautner’s life and work into perspective.

In July 2008 there will be a major John Lautner Exhibition at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Museum of Art has acquired the Goldstein Office and will be the Museum directors office. The J Paul Getty Trust has acquired the Lautner archives.  At the time I made the film no books had been written on John Lautner, though there were several magazine articles published on his work.

I started working on this film in 1988 and completed the film in 1991. The film premiered in 1991 at the Museum Of Contemporary Art Los Angeles celebrating Lautner’s 80th birthday. John Lautner and I screened the film at Taliesin West in Phoenix, Arizona, in Vancouver BC Canada, Vienna, Austria, the University of Michigan in Marquette (Lautner’s home town), and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition, I screened the film at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Pompidou Center in Paris, the House of Architecture in Moscow, an architecture film festival in Bordeaux France and Viterbo, Italy “Nature man and the Human Environment”, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Northwest Film Center in Portland Oregon, the University of Washington in Seattle and the Pratt Institute in New York City. In 2005 there were film screenings in New York City, Los Angeles, California and Auckland, New Zealand.

Project History:


I was a student at Southern California Institute of Architecture. Started working with Evelyn Wendel and Isabel Coulet. While developing the project we Interviewed critic, historian Ester McCoy, David Gebhard, and Lionel March. We also Interviewed and filmed architect, John Lautner architectural photographer Julius Shulman, architectural historian Ken Breisch and author, architect, critic Alan Hess.


Filmed Lautner at the Chemosphere, Sturges and Sheats houses.


Received Grants from the Graham Foundation, City of LA Cultural Affairs Department, Paramount Studios and the AIA

Filmed at the Arango House in Acapulco, Mexico and Rome, Italy.

Interviews with Bruno Zevi and Andrea Simochelli in Rome Helicopter Aerials of the Levy House in Malibu, California Filmed at Taliesin West in Phoenix ,Arizona with John Lautner


MOCA Premiere celebrating John Lautner’s 80th birthday,  Screened the film at Harvard University in Cambridge, the University of Michigan in Marquette, in Austria,Vienna with students of Hans Hollien and in Vancouver BC, Canada with John Lautner and a traveling exhibition on Lautner's work. Screenings at The Graham Foundation in Chicago with John Lautner.


Screening at Taliesin West with John Lautner

Received Cine Gold Eagle Award Screening in New York National Institute for Architectural Education A Taliesin Legacy Pratt Institute School For Architecture Screening at the Pompidou Center in Paris


Architecture film festival in Bordeaux France and at the House of Architecture in Moscow.


Independent Documentary Association Nomination


Screenings at the Northwest Film Center in Portland Oregon and the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California.


I donated the film to Cedars Sinai Hospital where the film has been running on their television for the patients in the hospital for the past ten years.


Television air date of the film in the Netherlands, Kuntscanal


Cinema Sephard Award Screening of the film at the DGA, Second Pompidou Center screening



Berlin Los Angeles Film Festival of Architecture and Urbanism at MAC Center for Art and Architecture in the garden at the Schindler House, Los Angeles, California





June 19 National Building Museum Washington DC Portions of the film were included in the exhibition “Liquid Stone: New Architecture In Concrete”


January met Jon Yoder and began discussing the project with him.

February 11 screening at the Center For Architecture in

May 13 Benefit screening at The American Film Institute for The Lautner Archives

October 9, Screening in Auckland, New Zealand Architecture Film Festival at The Academy Cinema

Current TV builds Chemosphere House set.


Claude Zachry from USC began digitizing all interviews from the film.

Jon Yoder began transcribing and analyzing interviews  with Bruno Zevi, Esther McCoy, David Gebhard, Lionel March,   Andrea Simochelli, Wes Peters and John Lautner.


June 11, Screening Art Center

September 23 Taliesin Spring Green for Box Weekend Screening

October 10 Screening Syracuse University

John Lautner page

Albert Frey page