Wright's architectural treasure reopened

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Easily overlooked at the busy intersection of Hollywood and Vermont in Los Feliz, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House is a hidden gem within Los Angeles.

Located atop Olive Hill in Barnsdall Art Park, the anonymity of the space works for the Wright House, as residents of Los Angeles often visit to seek refuge from the city below. But this weekend, the Hollyhock House was brought into the spotlight after receiving the ultimate makeover—a $4.4 million restoration that was four years in the making.

Overlooking sweeping vistas of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory from the hill, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti officially reopened the Hollyhock House to the public during a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday.

“When you learn about the Hollyhock House it touches your heart, it lifts your soul, it inspires your thinking and re-alters the way that you position yourself here in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said in his speech.

Upon entering the restored Hollyhock House, visitors are transported to Los Angeles in the early 1920s, when Wright completed the house for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall.

Barnsdall was a woman with a vision. She wanted to create a home and creative capital where artists could come together and celebrate culture on Olive Hill, with the Hollyhock House as its centerpiece. Now, restored to its former glory, the Hollyhock House is a crown jewel of Los Angeles and a historic landmark.

The Hollyhock House was an experiment at the forefront of California modernism, a style that defines the architectural history of Los Angeles. At the time, Wright had started to employ the Japanese concept of dissolving barriers between inside and outside. As a result, there are no doors in the house, and visitors seamlessly transition between outdoor terraces and ornate interiors.

From the exterior, the stucco structure of the home features remnants of Mayan designs, a radical departure from conventional 1920s American architecture. Named after Barnsdall’s favorite flower, a geometrized Hollyhock motif is incorporated throughout the house, from the roofline to the dining room furniture. Now, visitors must wear protective booties upon entering the building to preserve the taupe carpets and hardwood floors, which have been restored according to Wright’s original design.

With grants from the California Cultural Heritage Endowment, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Engineering, the Hollyhock House is now seismically sound, ADA compliant and drought tolerant, with an exterior landscape that will attract pollinators to self seed.

But even after four years of restoration, city officials are not done refurbishing the Hollyhock House. In the long term, 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, state partners and Mayor Garcetti hope to restore a terrace and residence area in the house, improve parking options near the building and install bathrooms on site. There are even hopes for an art exhibition space in the home.

“We have accessibility restrictions that prohibit anyone from going in the [exhibition] area right now, but there may possibly be exhibitions held there in the future,” Hollyhock House curator Jeffrey Herr said.

Occidental students can also take advantage of what the park has to offer through the Career Development Center’s InternLA program, which offers a summer internship at the site.

Today, the Barnsdall Art Park campus also houses a theatre, working studios and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery—all of which are open to the public. In his speech, Garcetti recognized the importance of caring for the Hollyhock House and the park as a civic space moving forward.

“Now more than ever we see the collision of art and culture everywhere in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said. “L.A. is a cultural crossroads where creative minds continue to meet in a way that would make Aline Barnsdall very proud.”

Now nominated for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Hollyhock House is coming to the world stage. It would appear as if Barnsdall Art Park’s secret is out, as the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece is a must-see for Angelenos.