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Category: Frank Lloyd Wright

Pedro E. Guerrero: Frank Lloyd Wright's photographer, in focus

Pedro E. Guerrero left Arizona in the 1930s to escape bigotry and to become an artist in Los Angeles. But years later, upon seeing photography of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, he headed back to Arizona. His destination: Taliesin West, Wright's school near Scottsdale, where he sought to meet the master. He did more than meet Wright. He began a relationship that would last until Wright's death in 1959.

Pedro-GuerreroWith no formal training, Guerrero went on to serve as Wright's primary photographer, documenting not only the architecture but also the architect. That body of work forms the backbone of “Pedro E. Guerrero: Photographs of Modern Life,” billed as the first in-depth retrospective for a man who also captured the designs of Alexander Calder, Marcel Breuer and Philip Johnson.

Emily Bills, director of the Julius Shulman Institute at Woodbury University and co-curator of the exhibit, said the goal was to show how Guerrero, right, built a career in parallel to photographers such as Shulman but with less fame.

“He was similarly prolific, influencing how midcentury architecture was represented and understood,” Bills said.

We asked the curator to elaborate on Guerrero's significance and talk about some of her favorite photos in the show.

Continue reading »

Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House sells to Ron Burkle for $4.5 million


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, the 1924 hilltop mansion that is one of the master’s most celebrated residential designs and one of Los Angeles’ most revered architectural landmarks, has sold to billionaire Ron Burkle for about $4.5 million, 70% less than its original asking price.

Ennis House Foundation chairwoman Marla Felber confirmed on Saturday the exact price: $4,458,084.58, which represents the organization’s balance on a construction loan taken out to repair L.A.’s most prestigious fixer.

Ennis-exterior-damageAt more than 6,000 square feet, Ennis House is the largest of Wright’s four “textile-block” houses in Southern California, so named because their patterned concrete blocks were knitted together to serve as structure and decoration, inside and out. The Maya-influenced design, which consists of more than 27,000 blocks, deteriorated over time, sustained serious damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake and then partly collapsed during heavy rainfall in 2005.

The foundation spent about $6.5 million on structural and seismic repairs to the Los Feliz landmark, and remaining repairs will cost an estimated $6 million more.

Wright’s grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright, announced in June 2009 that the foundation was putting Ennis House up for sale with hopes that a private owner could better finish the job and act as the property’s steward.

The house languished on the market even as the initial $15-million asking price tumbled. By this January, when The Times published an article on Ennis House as part of a Landmark Houses series, the price had dropped to $7,495,000.

In a region where coastal mansions and hilltop estates exceed $10 million and the compound formerly owned by TV mogul Aaron Spelling recently went for $85 million, $4.5 million might seem low for a piece of Wright history. But Felber said the foundation had few options. Because the foundation’s top priority was responsible stewardship of Wright’s architecture, she said, the board of directors rejected larger offers from corporations. Felber would not divulge how large those offers were, where they came from or how many were rejected.

Preservationists have speculated whether a rich celebrity or house-collecting architecture aficionado would step forward and assume the responsibility for Ennis House, but Felber said the foundation had fielded “no serious offers.”

Felber confirmed that the Ennis House construction loan had been guaranteed by Burkle and that he had first right of refusal on any bid. But Felber disputed the notion that the foundation was the victim of a deal gone bad: $4.5 million paid for a property that has benefitted from $6.5 million in restoration work. She said that the first phase of restoration would not have happened without Burkle’s support and that no one else expressed a commitment to future repairs.

“He was the only one to step up,” she said.

The sale closed Friday. Burkle, who could not be reached for comment, is the founder of the investment firm Yucaipa Companies and a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. He lives full-time in London but also owns Greenacres, the 1920s Beverly Hills estate built for silent film star Harold Lloyd. He is on the board of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

As a teen living in San Bernardino County, Burkle aspired to be an architect and traveled to see the Ennis House, a spokesman said. He left a note asking to be notified if the house ever were to open for touring; the owner later called young Burkle and invited him to see Wright's creation.

Felber said Burkle would provide at least 12 days of public access a year. Access has long been a question among design fans, given that neighbors have been intent on keeping out visitors. Specifics of the access plan will be determined between Burkle and the L.A. Conservancy, which holds an easement that also prevents "excessive" alteration of the landmark, inside or out.

The house was built for Charles and Mabel Ennis, proprietors of a men’s clothing store and admirers of Maya art and architecture.

When The Times surveyed historians, top architects and preservationists in 2008 for their picks for Southern California's best houses of all time, Ennis House finished No. 3. Only Rudolph Schindler’s groundbreaking Kings Road House in West Hollywood and Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House in Palm Springs ranked higher.

In the recent Landmark Houses article, architecture critic and former Dwell magazine editor Karrie Jacobs recalled her first tour of Ennis House.

“Usually, in Wright houses, I feel a little claustrophobic, a little trapped in the man’s tightly choreographed conception of domestic life,” she said. “But during my one visit to Ennis, I felt as if I was in a different world, someplace I'd never been before — and maybe someplace Wright had never been before either.”

-- Craig Nakano

Corrected: One earlier version of this post misspelled Jacobs' first name as Kerrie.

Updated: This post has been expanded multiple times since its original publication.


Upper photo: The Ennis House, photographed in 2009. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Middle photo: One of the "textile block" walls, photographed in 2005 after a major earthquake and winter storms had taken their toll. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: An interior of the Frank Lloyd Wright landmark, which has been largely closed to visitors for years. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times


Ennis House photos

Ennis House history

Landmark Houses: The Times series

Frank Lloyd Wright's Millard house, La Miniatura

Frank Lloyd Wright called the Alice Millard house in Pasadena “this little house” as a term of endearment. Over time, the nickname La Miniatura has stuck. Both monikers seem ill-fitting for a landmark of such stature today, one that grandson Eric Lloyd Wright called the best of Wright's four concrete block houses in the region.

It boggles the mind to think that the Millard house has been on the market for two years, currently listed at $4,995,000.

If that's out of your price range, at least you can live vicariously through our recently posted article and photo gallery, the latest installment in our Landmark Houses project.


Landmark Houses: the series

Landmark Houses: Ray Kappe's natural wonder

Landmark Houses: Ennis house

Photos: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Lost L.A.: A Frank Lloyd Wright house on the move?

Frank-Lloyd-Wright-MinaturaThe photo, circa 1923, shows the Frank Lloyd Wright house known as La Miniatura in Pasadena, before the guest house was added, and long before the talk of an owner potentially moving the landmark to Japan.

In his latest Lost L.A. column, Sam Watters discusses how the site is essential to the architecture. "Wright set La Miniatura into its ridge and terraced down to a ravine below the living and dining rooms," Watters says. "He organically bonded the house to its site by mixing sand from the hill into the construction concrete, creating a permanent structural flaw undermining the house's long-term stability. The outcome, however, was a bold interpretation of SoCal's indoor-outdoor lifestyle mantra."

-- Craig Nakano

Photo from the collection of Sam Watters


Leland Means artwork lost

Why the Century Plaza Hotel matters

Marion Davies' Santa Monica beach house


Frank Lloyd Wright houses having trouble finding the right buyers

Who doesn't love a bargain? With a lot of history thrown in, who can resist?

Apparently many people can. In this case, the bargain is La Miniatura, a Frank Lloyd Wright house; the price has been slashed from $7.7 million to just under $5 million. And still no takers.

But there's more! Wright's Ennis House in Los Feliz is also up for sale, and the price for that has been cut in half, to under $8 million. Again, no one's buying.

Why? Who is willing and able to take care of these historic homes? The answer is complicated, of course. The Times' Column One feature explains, and says La Miniatura might even end up taken apart and shipped to Japan.

The Ennis House, above, was built for Mabel and Charles Ennis in 1924 on a hillside overlooking the city of Los Angeles.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: The Ennis House. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

The time is Wright: Frank Lloyd celebrated
from L.A. to New York this month


Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the first "starchitect" and perhaps the most celebrated residential designer of the 20th century, continues to be a news maker more than 50 years after his death.

"Contemplating the Void," a show featuring 200 renderings showing how architects and artists would fill the atrium of Wright's iconic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, opened this month in celebration of the building's 50th anniversary. (Read Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne's assessment of the show.)

Then on Feb. 14, in a fitting valentine to the architect, an archive of Wright photographs and drawings was sold at auction to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. And on Saturday, Frank Lloyd Wright fans in Los Angeles will have an opportunity to view the 1921 Hollyhock house

On a recent trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., I took a guided tour of Taliesin West, pictured above, the residence and studio of the architect and headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. 

Wright collected Asian ceramics and often incorporated pieces in the masonry at Taliesin West. Check out some of the details that caught my eye.

Continue reading »


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