A Look at Frank Lloyd Wright’s First Masterpiece in LA


Frank Lloyd Wright’s !rst masterpeice in LA — named Hollyhock House — has a stormy and fascinating history to go along with the topsy-turvy relationship between the architect and the original owner, Aline Barnsdall.

It’s a story that requires entire books to effectively capture, but one thing is certain: Tumultuous or not, the Hollyhock project brought the architect to California for the !rst time, where he would go on to design many more homes and shape regional style.

Hollyhock House, with a combination of house and gardens, illustrates Wright’s attempt to bring in the natural beauty of California. In addition to a central garden court, each major interior space adjoins an exterior space, connecting via glass doors, porch, pergola or colonnade. Rooftop terraces also extend the living space and provide gorgeous views.

Now owned by the city of Los Angeles, the public may tour Hollyhock House. But even so, there are areas of the property that remain private and closed off. A video with Condé Nast Traveler, seen below, gives an exclusive look at some of its off-limits areas.

Without going into the personal and often dramatic relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Aline Barnsdall, here are a few key historical highlights about Hollyhock House.

  • The home was built between 1919 and 1921 and represents Wright’s earliest e”orts to develop a regional style of architecture for Southern California
  • Wright referred to the architectural style as California Romanza, essentially meaning “freedom to make one’s own form.”
  • Because of !nancial and artistic di”erences, only the main home and two secondary residences were built. The secondary structures, according to Barnsdall.org, include Residence A (extant) and Residence B (demolished in 1948).
  • Hollyhock House took its name from Aline Barnsdall’s favorite #ower.
  • Wright and Barnsdall developed a plan that included a home for Barnsdall and her young daughter, two secondary residences, a theater, a director’s house, a dormitory for actors, studios for artists, shops and a motion picture theater on a 36-acre acre site known as Olive Hill.
  • Some call Barnsdall the mother of modern architecture because she brought Wright, as well as Rudolph Schindler, and Richard Neutra, to California to work on the project.
  • Aline Barnsdall didn’t live in the Hollyhock House, and in fact, decided against completion of the artist colony.
  • In 1927, Barnsdall gave Hollyhock House and 11 surrounding acres to the City of Los Angeles for use as a public art park.

Hollyhock House: The Masterpiece of Today

This first foray into California architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright has had ups and downs, with Barnsdall’s apparent dislike and the city’s threat to raze it at one point. Today, however, it’s surrounded by a modern theater and galleries — much closer to its original purpose to function as a centerpiece in an arts complex.

According to Barnsdall.org, Project Restore oversaw a major restoration of Hollyhock House that was completed in 2015. Signi!cant contributions from the city and the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation led to the reopening of the house after several years.

“Walk Wright In” self-guided tours are available to the public, as are private docent-led tours of the property. To book a private tour, call: (323) 913-4030 or email: hollyhock@barnsdall.org

Posted on November 4, 2016 at 10:42 pm
Chris Reisbeck | Category: Properties

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