Posted on January 5, 2018
Just as with a favored recipe, when inspired people come together the fruit of their collaborations can change the face of regional design. Such is the case with the Hollyhock house–the centerpiece of the Barnsdall art park in Los Angeles. Aline Barnsdall hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design the complex incorporating motifs of the Hollyhock, her favorite flower. Wright was working on the Imperial hotel in Tokyo at the time and had been looking to Mayan architecture for inspiration. Wanting to create a style that would work for California weather, this was one of the earliest open floor plan designs that came to define the California style.
Barnsdall would be pleased that the home remains open to the public and true to her original vision that she had for it when it was conceived. Although intending for much more, due to budget overages, the original art colony ended up being only Hollyhock house and two guest houses. Citing financial concerns, she abandoned the expanded plan and donated the land to the city just 5 years after the house was completed to be used as an art park.
Despite letting Wright go, the house is credited to him and contains many of his trademark touches. However, the design was new to him, incorporating access to the outside from all major rooms in an open floor plan. The center of the house was the fireplace, considered to be one of his greatest works of art.
One of Barnsdall’s objectives for the park was to create a space for a progressive theatrical community. She had directed the Los Angeles Little theater in 1916-1917, giving a start to the just novice Norman Bel Geddes as a set designer. He went on to have a successful career as a theater and industrial designer, notably designing the Futurama pavilion for General motors in the 1939 World’s Fair.
Every collaboration pulls from it’s separate contributors and has the potential to create something new and unique from the way the ingredients combine and come together. A process of endless possibilities, the combining of times, influences and tastes is a joy to experience, especially in examples so finely woven.