Frank Lloyd Wright's first client in Los Angeles, the eccentric oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, didn't just want a house. She wanted a locus for the local theater community and a center for public art and gardens. Although her ambitious scheme was never fully realized, it did result in a residence that is itself a work of art. In his quest to create an architecture that was fully American, as well as Southern Californian, Wright synthesized elements of Mayan temples, European classicism, and Southwestern pueblo buildings. The hollyhock, his client's favorite flower, also makes up an important part of the home's vocabulary, articulated in concrete, wood, and fabric throughout the project.
Barnsdall gave the house to the city of Los Angeles in 1927, and over the years its structure deteriorated. Her dream of an art park open to the masses is finally coming true, after a fashion: Phases one and two of a grand restoration scheme are now complete, and the house will reopen for tours this May.