The Chemosphere: A Futuristic Gravity Defying House

Leave it to an aerospace engineer to insist on building a flying saucer shaped house on a dangerously steep hillside. Engineer Leonard Malin’s father-in-law gave Malin a sloping plot of land that seemed extremely inhospitable to any type of development. Malin swore that he would build a home for his wife and kids upon the unconventional plot of land. Malin enlisted innovative architect John Lautner to design a one story octagonal house supported by several beams that rested on a large slab of concrete. The Malin residence remains one of the state of California’s most eccentric buildings.

John Lautner's Chemosphere

John Lautner’s Chemosphere
Photo by evdropkick/Flickr

When Leonard Malin first set out to build his iconic home, he only had $30,000 to spend—which was a tiny construction budget, even by 1960s standards. Malin convinced a handful of companies to help finance his construction project in exchange for a little product placement. One of the main companies was a chemical company, which is why the Malin residence was nicknamed “The Chemosphere.” The Chemosphere was even equipped with its own funicular—a small cable car designed to traverse steep inclines.


The Chemosphere has been featured in numerous TV shows and films. After the high cost of living drove Malin and his family out of Los Angeles, the Chemosphere was rented out to untamed partiers who trashed the place. In recent years, publisher Benedikt Taschen purchased the Chemosphere and restored it to its former glory. Leonard Malin didn’t initially set out to build a house that resembled a dormant extraterrestrial spacecraft. He simply wanted a structure that would remain sturdy at a steep angle. More than one onlooker who was surprised by the sight of Malin’s unconventional home has asked why no one told them that space creatures now had a California command station with a killer view of the San Fernando Valley.


Chemosphere inside

Chemosphere view from inside

Photos via
Julius Shulman / Getty Archives



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