Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hollyhock House, Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect 1921

One of Los Angeles' great civic landmarks, Hollyhock House was built for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, who inherited the estate of her grandfather, William Barnsdall (who had the good fortune of discovering the second oil-producing well in the United States). The heiress had a passion for the arts, serving as co-director of an experimental theater company in Chicago, where she met architect Frank Lloyd Wright. While on a trip to California in 1915, the idea of developing a theatrical community in Los Angeles sparked her imagination with the innovative Wright to be her choice as architect.

The house takes its name from the hollyhock, a favorite flower of Barnsdall, which is stylized in the decorative elements of the home including the roofline, walls, columns, and furniture. The master plan called for an arts complex to be built on the thirty-six acre site known as Olive Hill consisting of a home for Barnsdall and her daughter, two guest houses, theater, dormitory and studios for actors and artists, shops, a home for the center's director and a movie theater. Only three of the structures were actually realized, the residence and guest houses. Although Wright is credited with the design, the actual construction was supervised by his apprentice, Rudolf Schindler, and Wright's son, Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr., who would establish prominent careers of their own. (Frank Lloyd Wright was preoccupied with work on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo during most of the construction).

In 1927, Barnsdall, without ever having lived at Hollyhock, deeded the house and eleven surrounding acres to the City of Los Angeles. It was leased to various organizations including the California Art Club and Dorothy Clune Murray's Olive Hill Foundation in the ensuing decades, enduring alterations to suit the various needs of the tenants. In 1974, the facility underwent an extensive restoration, bringing back much of the original appearance.

Although Barnsdall's dream of a center for the arts was not realized during her lifetime, she would be proud to see the home in its present state. Today, the Barsdall Arts Park offers a modern civic art gallery, theater, and art studios, and a stunning example of the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo taken during a tour of Los Angeles Modernism for the French Institute of Architectts (Champagne Region) arranged by myself and Architect Gustavo Gubel, October 11, 2008.

In 1963, the Hollyhock House was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark by the Cultural Affairs Commission (No. 12). The Barnsdall Art Park is located at 4804 Hollywood Boulevard. Hourly tours are available Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 12:30 p.m. and ending at 3:30 p.m.

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