Frank Lloyd Wright's design motif for the Hollyhock House complex was taken from Barnsdall's favorite flower, the hollyhock, a tall-stemmed plant with flowers running up the stems. Wright created a geometric interpretation of it which he used in the textile blocks and throughout the house. Combining many architectural styles for his first California commission, Wright named the result California Romanza. Breaking his own rule that a house should never sit on top of a hill but instead just below the "brow," he sited Hollyhock House squarely on the hilltop to take advantage of 360-degree views that are some of the best in the Los Angeles basin.
While Hollyhock House was being built, Wright was busy working on Tokyo's Imperial Hotel, and travel to the far-away city took 11 days each way by boat. Barnsdall also traveled extensively, and the two rarely found time to meet. Wright left details of Hollyhock House's construction to his son Frank and Rudolph Schindler, both of whom became influential Los Angeles architects.
Because of owner and architect's schedules, poor communication plagued the project, leaving Barnsdall frustrated. She later complained about many parts of the house she didn't like. Like most Wright projects, costs far exceeded estimates. By the time three residences were built, Wright and Barnsdall parted ways and the rest of the planned complex was never realized.
Barnsdall moved to one of the smaller residences before her death and afterward, Hollyhock House was used for various purposes. By the 1950s, one of the residences had been torn down. Today, the second one languishes in need of repair. You can see it and the garage in the next two images.
A seismic retrofit project in 2005 made Hollyhock House safe for tours and facilitated the research needed to restore the living room to its original color scheme. However, much remains to be done to completely restore Hollyhock House to its original state. If you want to help, you can join Friends of Hollyhock House, which will not only support continued work, but get you invited to some fun events.
4800 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
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