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The Hollyhock House: Frank Lloyd Wright's Los Angeles Gem

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Exterior of Hollyhock House; Image provided with permission by the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation

The Hollyhock House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces and his first project in Los Angeles, has recently reopened to the public after three years of major renovation and nearly a century after it was first built. Commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall in 1921, this Mayan-style home was unlike any residential structure built in Los Angeles - and unlike anything Wright had designed before. Located on a 36-acre hilltop site in East Hollywood, this arts complex and residence is a stunning paradigm of California modern design and a crown jewel of Los Angeles architecture.

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Looking into courtyard; Image provided with permission by the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation

HISTORY

Although Wright is credited with the design, Wright’s son, Lloyd, and Wright’s assistant Rudolph Schindler (who would go on to become a well-respected architect) ended up overseeing much of the construction. Barnsdall battled regularly with Wright over delays and cost; therefore, he was fired mid-construction and replaced by Schindler. Disappointed by the experience and the house, Barnsdall donated it and the ancillary buildings, with 12 acres now known as the Barnsdall Art Park, to Los Angeles in 1927. Through the years, the house endured a series of bad repairs, along with the loss of interior detail and furnishings. Lloyd Wright remodeled it in 1946 and in 1974, and the house wasn’t completely restored to its original state until its latest renovation in 2010.

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Fireplace. Photo by Grace Lennon

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Replicas of original custom furniture; Image provided with permission by the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation

DESIGN

Set around a central courtyard and a succession of spaces enclosed by pergolas, porches and colonnades, the Hollyhock house takes unique advantage of California’s temperate climate. The house showcases an innovative, open-plan design, with each major interior space adjoining an equivalent exterior space, while roof terraces provide stunning views of the city. The design features exterior walls that are tilted back at 85 degrees, as well as beautiful leaded, stained-glass windows. The interior is fully accented with custom-designed textiles and furniture, as well as differing ceiling heights to accentuate particular spaces. The dining room displays a table and chairs designed by Wright himself, while the main living area showcases an abstract bas relief fireplace hearth, with a skylight above and pool below. The accompanying couches sit 45 degrees to the hearth and are constructed of Wright’s signature quarter-sawn oak.

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Hollyhock Motif. Photography by Grace Lennon

THE HOLLYHOCK

The house’s name comes from Barnsdall’s favorite flower, the hollyhock. She enlisted Wright to channel the spirit of the flower into the design; therefore, he transformed the vertical, spine-like structure of the plant into a geometric pattern throughout the home. From the dining room chairs, to the interior column reliefs, hollyhock reproductions manifest themselves throughout, combining geometry and nature to a striking effect.

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The Hollyhock Flower. Photo by Wayne Hoffsinger, under the Creative Commons License

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Stained Glass and Interior Plaster. Photo by Grace Lennon

RESTORATION

Jeffrey Herr, the Hollyhock House curator; Hsiao-Ling Ting of the city’s Bureau of Engineering; and Kevin Jew of the nonprofit Project Restore worked together to lead the restoration of the house back to its 1921 magnificence. The $4 million restoration has involved re-creating the floors, windows and moldings, as well as re-painting the house in its original colors to become more harmonious with the surrounding landscape. The house/museum displays some original furniture that Barnsdall commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design for Hollyhock; however, other pieces, like the monumental sofas, were re-created.

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Dining Room. Photo by Grace Lennon

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Library. Image provided by permission by the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation

For more information on the Hollyhock House and tour times, please visit http://www.barnsdall.org/