Hollyhock House Launches Digital Archives

Hollyhock House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first in Southern California, is an aspirational and inspirational masterpiece.

Now Wright’s drawings for the house and other projects are available in digital format for most of the world to see.

“We’re trying to get on this bandwagon that’s available to scholars and researchers and people interested and want to learn more,” says curator Jeffrey Herr. “There’s only so much you can glean from tour guides.”

That’s not to say the tour guides for the house aren’t well trained – they are. “Volunteer docents get a training class with lectures devoted to reorienting their thought processes,” he says. “So now they take a look through that lens.”

What they learn is that Hollyhock House was the first of his second period out of five as an architect. It was built between 1919 and 1921, and his ideas about organic design apply particularly here.

“When he arrived the prevailing style was Spanish Colonial, completely fabricated and evocative of a romantic past that never existed – it was created out of whole cloth,” he says. “So he brought together indigenous architectural elements like Pueblo and pre-Hispanic architecture, synthesized and re-imagined.”

His client, Aline Barnsdall, wanted a theater for Avant Garde plays, but that changed when she bought 36 acres for the theater and a home for herself. She also wanted a home for the director, and housing for actors. It was a gargantuan project, had Wright ever given her construction drawings for the theater.

When he didn’t, he lost the commission. Barnsdall later left the house to the city, and it languished for years. Its drawings were still in the house, then were transferred during a 2010 restoration, to a chauffer’s garage-turned archives.

Now that they’re available to anyone practically, what would Wright think?

“I would say he would be absolutely tickled pink because he was such a self-promoter,” he says.”This is a way that takes his ideas and promotes them to a wider audience, and I can’t believe he’d be anything but thrilled that his work at Hollyhock House was available to the public.”

You can see them here.

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