Hollyhock House, 1921
Many people like to believe Los Angeles is a cultural wasteland, appealing to only the crudest of aesthetics. The truth is far different than the image of plastic starlets, paparazzi, and excess gone awry. There are many fine example of early twentieth century architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wrightâ€™s Hollyhock House built in 1921.
Hollyhock House was designed by Wright for Pennsylvania oil heiress Aline Barndale.Her father, William Barnsdale had dug the second oil well in the country. Ms. Barnsdale is an extraordinary topic all on her own. A woman far ahead of her time in many ways, she had Wright create Hollyhock house as her home in Barnsdale Park, right off Hollywood Blvd. She wanted to provide space for an artist community, California Art Club, and they used the space for many decades. Her wealth provided her an independence few women had. She never felt compelled to marry, but was very happy to raise her daughter alone. The childâ€™s room at Hollyhock House is scaled for her and is utterly charming. Wright even created a special garden pathway for the child, including a tiny gate. Unfortunately, there were many problems with construction and the enormous amount of leaking meant that the Barnsdales spent little time actually residing the house. The design itself is Art Deco, inspired by MesoAmerican themes.
(Look closely above just to the right of the fireplace andirons, you will see a half-circle shaped pit. This was actually a water feature. MesoAmerican and South American art place a strong emphasis on the concept of complementary objects or dualism, hence the fire and water.)
The house was undergone a great deal of renovation to remove some later additions to the design and return it to Wrightâ€™s vision. The carpets have been replaced by authentic designs that were loomed from original specifications and the stainglass throughout is still being replaced as necessary by the original Angeleno family business who worked on Hollyhock House nearly 100 years ago.
In the art world Art Deco has always been dismissed as consumer-based and therefore, not art. Therefore it is easy to dismiss a lot of Los Angelesâ€™ architecture because is features a lot of Art Deco, due both to the economic and physical expansion of the area and rebuilding after devastating earthquakes that ripped though the beginning of the century. The phenomenal growth in the area is directly correlated to the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. The advent of both the aerospace and movie industries in the 1920â€™s rocketed the city forwarded and provided the money required to fuel construction of many fine structures.