You might know James F. Goldstein as Los Angeles's second most iconic basketball enthusiast. Goldstein, a man who NBA management calls its superfan, attends over one hundred NBA games each season, including approximately ninety percent of home games for the world famous Los Angeles Lakers and his personally cherished Los Angeles Clippers, while his unique and flamboyant slim fit leather clad style makes him fairly easy to spot on television. Behind the public persona, is an elegant and well thought out lifelong project; to restore, evolve and preserve one of the world's most progressive symbols of eco-centric sustainable design: the Sheats Goldstein residence. Initially conceived by visionary architect John Lautner in 1963, the Sheats Goldstein Residence has been featured in Town & Country, Architectural Digest, the New York Times Magazine as well as several major motion pictures. Purchased in the 1970s in a state of decline, Goldstein re-commissioned Lautner, and his associates to make changes and improvements to the house which would both revive the initial spirit of the home, and begin an evolution which he continues today with such unique additions- such as an installation by light artist James Turrell housed in a purpose built subs-terranean concrete structure below the main residence, known as Skyspace that has been described by the Daily Telegraph as "a high-tech lair fit for a Bond villain." AfroStyle Magazine had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Goldstein in his home to know more about his architectural lair and his love for fashion and basketball.
ASM - How important to you is the creative process?
JG - For me is very important. It is very rewarding thing that my ideas become a reality. John Lautner died in 1994, and since then there has been tremendous amount of new construction on the property that I have not had John Lautner around to do. So I have been working with his former assistant and I feel like I am playing the role of an architect myself. We try to do things the way John would have done them.
ASM - Is there anything in particular about the principles of Lautner’s that resonate with you?
JG - John's design was ahead of its time in connecting the inside with the outside, there is total continuity that it feels as though you are outside when you are in the house. The way he (Lautner) forms his structures to incorporate the hillside makes the space feel like it is part of nature rather than something was just dropped here. Also, there are very few right angles in the house which everything flow into different angles. It gets the house away from any kind of boxy feel or element. There's also an emphasis on the natural elements of concrete, glass and wood. They are obvious here. Nothing is painted.
“…it is very rewarding thing that my ideas become a reality…”
ASM - The house seems to frame a lot of wooden statues and masks in key areas of your home. Where are they from?
JG - They are from different parts of Africa. I just have a few pieces but my intention is to continue acquiring them. I buy them usually in an area in Paris, France that has many African Art Galleries.
ASM - The house in many ways evokes a sense of authenticity.
JG - Yes. And also everything is built to remain for as long a period as possible. Everything is built to last because the style of the house is not meant to be trendy. It is meant to endure forever.
ASM - Has the environment always held a special place in your life?
JG - Yes. I love nature. Personally, I love the tropical environment. I just returned from Cambodia. There is no place more beautiful than where I was, and I try to make this a tropical paradise as well even though Los Angeles is really different. The city does not lie in the tropics, but I've created my own environment. All the landscaping is done in a tropical way. I have about four acres of hillside going all the way down this mountain, and between the normal city roads and infrastructure. I’ve placed not only enormous amounts of vegetation, but a number of walking trails.
ASM - So we are entering a period where Green Design is becoming fashionable. A lot of people are trying to do what Lautner has been doing for decades. Is there anything you've learned through the process of working with this space that you could see being incorporated into a more ecologically conscious model for living?
“…the style of the house is not meant to be trendy. It is meant to endure forever…”
JG - I have many architectural tours and architectural students who come here all the time and I hope this provides inspiration so that things can get better. At John Lautner’s eightieth birthday party, he was asked what he would do to improve Los Angeles. He answer was he would create a huge concrete ball, take it up to the top of Mulholland Drive and roll it down the hill. [..laughs..]
ASM - You are inspired by nature and yet it seems like futuristic elements are also visible. Is that correct?
JG - Yes. I am always trying to move forward and study all the latest buildings to see the new ideas and new technology. What we have done on the house came out pretty well and so I have not felt the need to undo any of the things I have constructed here. But there are certain little tweaks such as what I did with the television in the living room that required new technology. These tweaks are normally done out of necessity.
ASM - Are there any fashion designers you lean towards or you really like?
JG - Yes but I am always looking at what the new collections are; and sometimes those good designers can become too commercial due to someone else working for them. Others have been a little hesitant to design anything daring due the recession and fear that people would not buy their collection. So there is a constant search for originality for me. In recent years, I bought most of my clothes from John Galliano; but when he lost his job, I have not gotten much. I do miss his work.
“…I am always trying to move forward and study all the latest buildings to see the new ideas and new technology…”
ASM - What started your love with athletics?
JG - Since I was a little kid, I played a lot of sports and started watching the NBA before it became big time like it is now.
ASM - A lot of things for you seem to run with your childhood; so you are not motivated by trend?
JG - That is not necessarily true. When it comes to clothes it is totally the opposite. I always want to wear the latest because I am always trying to be ahead of everybody else so I get new wardrobe twice a year. But when it comes to a house, one cannot rebuild a house every year so you have to take a different approach.