Fantasy and reality meet

Modern to Classic

Residential Estates by Landry Design Group

Edited by Oscar Riera Ojeda;

text by Lynn Morgan

Oro Editions, $75

It's the holidays, so don't be surprised that if you're flipping through this hefty hardcover tome, all 430 color pages of it, you feel like a child staring at a wish book chock-full of the ultimate fantasies. Here, of course, the dreamscapes are houses, or rather "Residential Estates," a term that signals these are no mere dwellings. The first page of text is a glowing endorsement by Maria Shriver, who pines that someday she hopes to live in a Richard Landry home.

The architect and his Los Angeles firm have delivered sweeping abodes to celebrities that unabashedly telegraph "I've arrived": an English manor for Kenny G; a Georgian for Wayne Gretzky; a Mediterranean for Keyshawn Johnson.

When you have 7,000 to 28,000 square feet to fill, an architect's imagination can run wild and extravagantly with centerpiece staircases, column-lined loggias, sun-dappled solariums, coffered-ceilinged libraries, grand porte-cocheres and stained-glass rotundas. Good taste may seem like an afterthought to showoffs, but it's part of the package here.

The smallest house, at 5,500 square feet, and one of the homiest, is Landry's personal residence, a Modernistic barn in Malibu with exposed duct work, wrought-iron railings, granite sinks, polished concrete floors and weathered reclaimed wood.

There are few ideas that can be adopted to a more modest house, but this luscious picture book doesn't pretend to be practical. It's a chance to indulge in fantasies and witness residential excess.

-- Janet Eastman

Cunningham retrospective


the Immaterial

The Architecture of Wallace Cunningham

Joseph Giovannini

Yale University Press, $50

It takes a brave client to accept a floor plan that looks more like origami than livable space. And it takes a trusting client to hire someone without an architectural degree or license to tackle a barrier-breaking project. Wallace Cunningham has had a 30-year career of pleasing such clients.

This handsome 160-pagehardback explains the philosophy of one of San Diego's most innovative house designers. The self-taught Cunningham, who had an unhappy nine-month apprenticeship at Taliesin after Frank Lloyd Wright's death, was later influenced by one of Wright's most successful pupils, Modernist John Lautner. Cunningham has adopted Lautner's sense of motion by designing walls that curve with the land's contours and Lautner's use of glass to create the feeling of transparency whenever possible. From this influence, Cunningham experimented with his own concepts and shapes. Instead of leveling a site, he often wraps his S-, C-, or fan-shaped modern designs around trees, hills and ragged bluffs. The structures seem to meld into the landscape.

Some plans that have yet to be built are shown as models. The swan-white Seascape house, which was never constructed, has curled walls and floors that look like paper folded onto itself.

Though the text is often melodramatic, especially when it comes to Cunningham's difficult childhood, the photographs skillfully capture 23 of his projects. This book provides insight to a designing mind and could inspire someone who feels a little too grounded in reality.

-- Janet Eastman

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