By theguardian |

'Beauty available to all': groundbreaking US buildings added to Unesco list

A villa in Los Angeles and a church near Chicago have been granted the same level of cultural recognition as the pyramids of Giza and the Great Barrier Reef, and have been declared Unesco World Heritage sites.

They are part of a group of eight projects by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright to be added to the list of 1,000 heritage sites around the world. The Wright structures are the only US modern architecture on the prestigious list.

Hollyhock House, for instance, sits in the middle of a park in east Hollywood, and at first it occasioned great displeasure. Designed by Wright as a residence for the oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, and built from 1919–1921, it was envisaged as part of a larger art and theater complex, but that project never materialized. Wright was fired from the site in 1921 for cost overruns.

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The courtyard at Hollyhock House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. Photograph: Joshua White

The heiress, frustrated with the expense of maintaining it, donated the house to the city of Los Angeles in 1927. Arranged around a central courtyard, its many terraces and split levels frame what was intended to be a stage. Wright used evocative Mayan and hollyhock floral motifs, with symmetrical decorations dotting the outside.

Born in 1867, Wright is considered America’s greatest 20th-century architect. He designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. Wright’s philosophy was that architecture should be organic, and in his hands structures and their surroundings interacted harmoniously. Often, they had an open-format plan, with a blurring of boundaries between interior and exterior spaces. In addition to houses, he designed dozens of schools, churches, skyscrapers, hotels and museums, often crafting the interior elements for the buildings as well.

The sites selected as part of “The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright” include Unity Temple (1909, Oak Park, Illinois), the Frederick C Robie House (1910, Chicago), Taliesin (1911, Spring Green, Wisconsin), the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (1937, Madison, Wisconsin), Taliesin West (1938, Scottsdale, Arizona) Fallingwater (1939, Pennsylvania) and the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum (1959, New York).

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Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright. Born in 1867, Wright is considered America’s greatest 20th-century architect. Photograph: Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

In Wright’s time, American cultural leaders revered the European modernists over homegrown practitioners, even though the work of many Europeans was heavily influenced by Wright, said Stuart Graff, the president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

“Wright’s architecture reflects his efforts to put vital American values like liberty, democracy and community into material expression,” he said.

“We look at some of his best known works and see the grandness of his designs.” But “much of Wright’s work was always about establishing a democratic architecture in which quality and beauty were available to all, and that’s a still a part of his vision that we should work to realize in our time.”

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The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. Photograph: Courtesy of Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation

The Unesco designation means these sites may now enjoy better funding and, in turn, preservation.

Hollyhock House has gone through multiple renovations, the most recent in 2014. When the building reopened to the public, the doors were kept open for 24 hours straight, and the Los Angeles Times estimated that a thousand people at a time lined up to get a chance to enter.



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