In honor of the 50th on-screen anniversary of James Bond, I am reminded that we have a piece of local Bond history here in the desert to celebrate. The general public knows the Elrod house primarily as the ultimate bachelor pad from the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds are Forever. This iconic Palm Springs home celebrates the emphasis on the relationship between space and nature.
Located in the Southridge enclave of Palm Springs, California, the house was designed by architect John Lautner. A conical dome is the main recognizable structure that most 007 fans are sure to remember and features a futuristic spin of concrete and glass built over giant boulders. The Elrod house has in common with other Lautner homes distinct elements of surprise—even danger—such as the disappearing walls, precarious pavers, and sheer drop-offs.
In Diamonds Are Forever, the Elrod house was chosen as the home for a character named Willard Whyte, the reclusive billionaire who holds a vital clue to the whereabouts of Bond’s archenemy. The house needed to be something that would belong to a visionary, futuristic billionaire who knew design. The result was the architectural work of John Lautner became immortalized with this Bond movie.
An apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright early in his career, John Lautner died in 1994. Only then did Lautner’s other original designs truly start to receive attention and recognition as an influence on current architecture luminaries.
Now, four decades after its birth, perhaps the Elrod house can begin to be considered a true architectural masterpiece in the years to come, if not forever.