Thursday, February 26, 2015

UPDATES: Grand reopening of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, by guest blogger Joemy Wilson

Frank Lloyd Wright's stunning Hollyhock House, built in Los Angeles is 1921, recently reopened to the public for guided tours following a 4-year, $4.3 million renovation.
Originally intended as the residential section of an experimental theater campus, the home
has been named a Unesco World Heritage site -- an honor awarded to
a select group of iconic architectural masterpieces around the world.

Mad for Mod's West Coast correspondent Joemy Wilson was on the scene
for the festive grand reopening. She filed this report.
•     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •
All the Wright Angles in Los Angeles
text and photography by Joemy Wilson
On February 13, 2015, the City of Los Angeles and the Barnsdall Park Foundation held a 24-hour open house. And not just for any old house, but Frank Lloyd Wright’s extraordinary Hollyhock House, which has been closed to the public for renovations since 2008. And not just any 24-hour period, but from 4:00 pm on Friday until 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon. New York may be the City that Never Sleeps, but for this one night at least, Los Angeles could claim the same. Driving through rush-hour traffic, I managed to get there, and finally park, at about 4:00. Plenty of other people had the same idea.
 The press was out in force for the grand reopening. 
(Griffith Park Observatory is in the background.)

Southern Californians and Wright aficionados everywhere have been anticipating the reopening with great excitement. In 1919, oil heiress and arts patron Aline Barnsdall hired Wright to build the house, part of an extensive arts complex on Olive Hill, a stunning 36-acre site with 360-degree views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills. However, the notoriously difficult architect was seldom around during construction, directing his attention primarily to the Imperial Hotel he was building in Tokyo at the same time. Costs got out of hand. Barnsdall fired Wright and hired the project manager, Rudolph Schindler, to finish the job.  Barnsdall never lived in the house, and in 1927, she gifted the property to the city.

Upon my arrival, I joined a seemingly endless, unmoving line behind the house and estimated that my own entry would occur at about 2:00 am. Or maybe dawn. Or never.  I’m not good at standing in line, especially when I don’t know what’s going on, so I asked the friendly folks behind me to save my place and confidently strolled into the park area in front of the house to find out why we weren’t moving.

Because they weren’t opening right at 4:00, of course. Four o’clock was when the opening ceremonies began. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Jeffrey Herr, Curator of the Hollyhock House; Linda Dishman, Executive Director of the LA Conservancy; and other dignitaries were holding forth from a platform in front of the house. I edged up the fence surrounding the audience and had a fine view of the proceedings.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Aline Barnsdall’s granddaughter cut the ribbon

Around 5:00 PM, just when the light was so gorgeous it was almost unbearable, Hizzoner and Aline Barnsdall’s granddaughter cut the red ribbon, and the Hollyhock House was officially opened. Spirits were high. “Who’s going to be here at three am?” a speaker asked. 

Half the VIPs raised their hands. Another said, “When Aline told her friends that Frank Lloyd Wright was designing her house, they told her that she’d have to sleep out in her camper every time it rained. Well, I can tell you that this roof will never, ever leak again!” (After a $4-million renovation, let’s hope not.) Everyone praised each other and his or her staff for doing an amazing job. The announcement that the Hollyhock House had just been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site elicited a roar of approval from the crowd. Everyone was grinning from ear to ear as the sun gradually set and the house gave off a golden glow. 

We were motioned up to the porch to don booties and allowed to enter in groups of 20. I was fortunate to be in the fourth group, because initially it was still possible to move around. When I had to turn in my booties at the exit, there was barely enough room to bend over to pull them off. But it was all worth it.

 Living room

 A niche in the library. Wright was working on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo contemporaneously with the the Hollyhock House, and many details in the home 
reflect Japanese influence. An alcove such as this, serving as the focal point of a reception room with a simple but exquisitely balanced arrangement of objects, 
is a common feature of traditional Japanese homes. 
The space  is called tokonoma, or simply toko.

 View near dining room entrywayshowing restored 1920s hardware on doors

View of the courtyard from inside the entry foyer

Link here to NY Times interview with the Hollyhock House curator

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