Hollyhock House is California’s Newest UNESCO World Heritage Site

On Sunday, July 7, the World Heritage Committee inscribed the 20th century architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright as a cultural site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It is one of 29 new cultural and natural properties added to the list in 2019, and the only one in the United States.

The property comprises eight Frank Lloyd Wright buildings across the United States, including Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Also included are the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.

Hollyhock House, built for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall from 1919 to 1921, was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first commission in Los Angeles. Barnsdall was a prominent feminist and patron of the arts. She envisioned Hollyhock House as the centerpiece of an avant-garde artists’ retreat and performance complex with a theater, galleries, shops and residences. During her lifetime only Hollyhock House and two guest houses were constructed, and Barnsdall was ultimately dissatisfied with the results. Today, Hollyhock House is the central landmark of the city-owned Barnsdall Art Park on 36 hilltop acres in East Hollywood. The park also hosts the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, a theater and art classes.

Hollyhock House is open to the public for self-guided and docent-led tours Thursdays through Sundays. Look for hollyhock motifs – Barnsdall asked Frank Lloyd Wright to incorporate her favorite flower into the design of the house. She also requested the property to be “half house and half garden,” a vision represented through numerous pergolas and terraces connecting indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as rooftop terraces with glorious views across the Los Angeles basin. According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, “the building bridges the Prairie style of the preceding decades and his textile block structures of the 1920s.” The architect himself described Hollyhock House as a “California Romanza” with Mayan, Asian, Aztec and Egyptian influences.

With the addition of the 20th century architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright to the UNESCO World Heritage List, California now boasts three out of 24 listed sites in the United States. Redwood National and State Parks was inscribed in 1980 followed by Yosemite National Park in 1984.

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