For design nerds, the Sheats-Goldstein residence is well-known as one of the most triumphant works of renowned architect John Lautner. For hard-core basketball fans, it’s the home of James Goldstein, the flamboyant courtside fixture at Laker games. And for everybody else, it’s known as Jackie Treehorn’s house.
Now, the house prominently featured in The Big Lebowski is being donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the quickly expanding contemporary art museum just down the hill. “I want the house to be an educational tool for young architects, and I want to inspire good architecture for Los Angeles,” Goldstein told Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times.
The stunning pyramid of concrete and glass with a triangular pool that hovers over LA is absolutely one of the most well-preserved gems in modern architecture. It’s also one of the most unique, since Goldstein bought the house from the original owner in 1972 and had a chance to work with Lautner—the architect who invented the space-age style known as Googie—while he was still alive. He made a few key modifications to the property, including adding a James Turrell skyspace.
I’ve been able to visit the property several times, once during a tour of the home with Goldstein himself. I was impressed by his generosity in sharing the property with strangers, and his reverence for Lautner’s vision, as he proudly pointed out details like the plastic drinking glasses that create the skylights in the living room.
Goldstein became such a passionate steward of the house that he had long planned on turning the property into an architecture center. Over the last few years he had expanded his mission to share the house with the public: He installed gallery shows inside the home, and built an event space with a tennis court on top that has hosted charity tournaments. In addition to being Treehorn’s porn den, the home has also served as a backdrop for music videos, fashion shoots, and many wild parties. (The neighbors must be relieved it’s being turned into a museum.)
Not many museums have architectural pieces like this in their collection. Some architecture schools and cultural groups are gifted significant homes so they might act as long-term caretakers for the properties, but for the most part the job of preserving these types of homes is on the owners, who spend decades and millions of dollars to prevent them from falling apart. This donation by Goldstein will include $17 million to maintain the house, but LACMA will need to raise even more money than that to keep it intact.
When I met Goldstein several years ago I asked him what he imagined might happen to the house after he was gone—he has no kids—and he seemed confident that a museum would want the property. He doesn’t reveal his age publicly (he’s probably at least 70) but will continue to live at the home while LACMA organizes tours and fundraisers. Although he does spend the entire basketball season traveling to every single Laker game, so he’s not around much.
No word if Goldstein’s dozens of hats, which he apparently designs himself, will stay behind as part of LACMA’s acquisition.
Update: According to LACMA, Goldstein’s “extensive fashion collection” is also included in the gift (!).
All photos by Alissa Walker / Top Image by the Coen Bros.