Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House: The Story of an LA Icon
The architectural masterpiece is LA's first UNESCO World Heritage Site
In July 2019, Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, an iconic architectural masterpiece in the heart of Barnsdall Park, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The first Los Angeles landmark designated a World Heritage Site, Hollyhock House is part of a UNESCO group officially titled The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, which includes eight major works spanning 50 years of the famed architect's career. There are more than 1,000 World Heritage sites around the world, and the group of Wright sites is now among only 24 sites in the U.S. The collection represents the first modern architecture designation in the country on the prestigious list.
A significant part of LA’s storied architectural history, Hollyhock House (built 1919-21) marked Wright's first architectural project in Los Angeles. Hollyhock House boasts a lyrical and poetic style of architecture known as "California Romanza" (from the musical term meaning "freedom to make one's own form"), which complements LA's significance as a trendsetter in the arts and architecture.
Oil heiress Aline Barnsdall commissioned the house as the centerpiece of a cultural arts complex on Olive Hill, which was to include a major theatre, cinema, artist residences, and commercial shops. For Hollyhock House, her personal residence, Barnsdall asked Wright to incorporate her favorite flower, the hollyhock, into the design. In 1927, Barnsdall donated the house and the surrounding 12 acres (now Barnsdall Park) to the City of Los Angeles. Today, Hollyhock House is owned and operated by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA).
In addition to the UNESCO recognition, Hollyhock House was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #12 in 1963, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007.
"Hollyhock House is one of Los Angeles’ greatest cultural treasures — a landmark elegantly rendered from Frank Lloyd Wright’s imagination and Aline Barnsdall’s vision," said then-Mayor Eric Garcetti. "The history of this home and its excellent craftsmanship will inspire Angelenos for generations to come, and Hollyhock House’s well-deserved place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List is a fitting tribute to this bold structure."
"This designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site underscores the significance of Los Angeles' rich history of modern architecture," said Mitch O’Farrell, former L.A. City Councilmember, 13th District. "Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House is a beloved masterpiece locally, and now a treasure worldwide. It has been a pleasure working with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and all parties in our efforts to preserve and restore the priceless cultural resources at Barnsdall Art Park — and our work continues! We are grateful to the National Park Service for recognizing that our collaboration here at home enhanced this serial nomination."
"It is brilliant when architects shape the future, and exceptional when their work becomes a unique part of the city’s landscape," said Danielle Brazell, the former General Manager of the DCA. "We are grateful for the inclusion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House on the World Heritage List, and thankful that the artistry of his work will be made available for all to experience."
Following a multimillion-dollar restoration, Hollyhock House celebrated its official reopening in February 2015. To mark the occasion, Garcetti and O'Farrell participated in an official ribbon cutting ceremony with the project's collaborators at the Hollyhock House.
"It's a fabulous, exotic and quirky house - not a conventional home in the least," said Hollyhock House Curator Emeritus Jeffrey Herr at the reopening. "It also happens to be an important architectural icon because its design is unique and was the impetus for a whole new design for living."
When asked which room or design element of Hollyhock House has been the most popular with visitors, Herr replied, "Historically it is the living room with the monumental bas-relief over the fireplace and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed furniture. That seems to be changing in favor of the library."
Herr said his favorite area of Hollyhock House is the colonnade along the north side of the inner courtyard. "It's lovely in the afternoon with the sunlight streaming through the columns and equally beautiful at night with the restored lighting."
With so many interesting details throughout the house, there are bound to be a few hidden gems. Herr said, "I think most people forget to look up and consequently miss the exquisitely crafted ceiling mouldings in the loggia."
Rather than highlighting a particular aspect of the restoration for visitors to seek out, Herr said, "Perhaps it is what visitors will not notice that is most important. Our goal has been to recreate the 1921 appearance without making the re-creation obvious. What visitors will experience is the opportunity to step back in time."
Hollyhock House is open for self-guided tours Thursday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm. Pricing is $7 for Adults, and $3 for Seniors (65+) and Students with valid ID. Children under 12 are free when accompanied by a paying adult. Docents are on hand to provide information and answer questions. Guidebooks are available to visitors for onsite use.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Hollyhock House website.
Barnsdall Art Park
4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90027