Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Angeles

It’s no real shock that Frank Lloyd Wright, the greatest American architect of all time, was commissioned to design and build several houses in the Los Angeles area at various points during his 70-year career. The list below, in order by year built, offers not only a description and location for each building, but also a small view into the evolution of the master architect’s designs over time.

Wright designed Hollyhock House, his first residential project in California, for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. The hollyhock flower is a recurring motif throughout the structure, which, despite Wright’s self-proclaimed aversion to building houses on hills, sits on one. Unlike many of his other projects, Wright was not able to personally supervise construction of Hollyhock House due to his constructing the Imperial Hotel simultaneously in Japan. While overseas, Wright left much of the decision-making authority to his assistant, Rudolph Schindler, and to his son, Lloyd. Hollyhock House is now the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Barnsdall Art Park and the most accessible Wright house in the city.

Wright designed Hollyhock House, his first residential project in California, for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. The hollyhock flower is a recurring motif throughout the structure, which, despite Wright’s self-proclaimed aversion to building houses on hills, sits on one. Unlike many of his other projects, Wright was not able to personally supervise construction of Hollyhock House due to his constructing the Imperial Hotel simultaneously in Japan. While overseas, Wright left much of the decision-making authority to his assistant, Rudolph Schindler, and to his son, Lloyd. Hollyhock House is now the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Barnsdall Art Park and the most accessible Wright house in the city.

Wright was commissioned to design a second textile-block house by Samuel and Harriet Freeman, friends of Aline Barnsdall’s. Though the cost of completion was over double Wright’s original estimate, the Freemans loved the end result and remained the sole owners and occupants of the Freeman House until Harriet donated it to USC’s School of Architecture in 1986. Unfortunately, the structure has since suffered earthquake damage and remains closed to the public pending its restoration.

Millard House (La Miniatura), 1923
645 Prospect Crescent, Pasadena, CA

Nestled among Pasadena’s craftsman houses on the edge of the Arroyo, La Miniatura, the third textile-block house Wright constructed in California, overlooks the Rose Bowl and sits just around the corner from the Gamble House, another architectural wonder that was made famous in Back to the Future. Commissioned by Alice Millard after her husband’s death, the Millard House features many of Alice’s personal touches, making La Miniatura arguably the most unique of the textile-block houses built in Los Angeles. Recently sold for $4 million, La Miniatura narrowly avoided being moved to Japan in 2012 and keeps its home on the edge of the Arroyo.

The last and largest of Wright’s four textile-block houses, Ennis House is also arguably the most famous. Blade Runner, The Rocketeer, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks are just a few of the movies in which Ennis House appears. In 2011, it was sold to billionaire Ron Burkle on the condition that he (and any subsequent buyer) allow the public to view Ennis House at least 12 days a year. However, due to deferred maintenance and restoration after extensive damage sustained during the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the record-breaking rainy season of 2005, Ennis House remains closed to public visitors.

The futuristic one-story residence known as Sturges House marked a drastic shift away from the textile-block houses Wright built the decade before. Designed and built in 1939 (shortly after Wright completed Fallingwater), Sturges House is the only Southern Californian example of the modern style Wright called “Usonian” (a term Wright coined to describe the distinct “New World” character of the American architectural landscape). Wright, who preferred natural elements that complemented a structure’s environment, used stone to create a strong visual connection between the house’s interior and exterior spaces. Sturges House also features a cantilevered overhang typical of Usonian design.

Oboler Gate House, 1940 & Eleanor’s Retreat, 1941
32436 West Mulholland Highway, Malibu, CA

In the 1940s, radio and television personality Arch Oboler and his wife Eleanor commissioned Wright to design an estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean that would include a house, film-processing studio, stables, and other structures. The gate house was completed in 1940 and is the only example of Wright’s desert rubblestone construction in Southern California, and Arch Oboler, an avid rock collector, gathered many of the stones used in the construction of the gate house himself. The following year, a small studio for Eleanor was erected by the gate house on a nearby hilltop. For various reasons, including the death of the Obolers’ son at the construction site, the main house and other structures were never constructed, and the Obolers lived in the gate house until 1987. Both the gate house and Eleanor’s studio (dubbed Eleanor’s Retreat) remain privately owned and are not open for tours.

At the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, Pearce House is the most mysterious of Wright’s works. Not much is known aside from basic details; the property is still owned by the Pearce family but has been unoccupied for many years. From the few pictures that are available, Pearce House appears reminiscent of Wright’s Guggenheim years in New York and seems to marry the concrete and rounder corners of his later years together with the earthiness and family living sense of his earlier works. The missing link? Maybe.

Anderton Court Shops, 1952
332 Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA

A three-story group of shops on Rodeo Drive in downtown Beverly Hills, one of the most shi-shi neighborhoods Los Angeles has to offer, the Anderson Court Shops are less well known and not much fussed over despite their location. They do, however, represent Wright’s last contribution to the architectural tapestry of Los Angeles and are, along with many of Wright’s other works, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.