Rain bad for Wright

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In my second rain-based post of the morning I’d like to point you to L.A. Observed who tells us the sad news that the Frank Lloyd Write designed Ennis Brown house has been slapped with a red tag.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the house was built in 1924 using more than 24,000 textured concrete blocks. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and awarded landmark status by the state and the city of Los Angeles. In 1980, owner Augustus O. Brown donated the house to the Trust for Preservation of Cultural Heritage, which has been raising money to save the residence. The trust’s website has numerous photos and more information; even before the rains, the home’s custodians had issued an urgent plea for help to the preservation community.

It sounds like there’s a retaining wall that isn’t doing it’s job so well these days and will probably cost half a mil to fix. Ouch. Personally, if historic architecture has to get damaged I’d rather see it be a Wright than a Neutra or Schlindler but that’s just me. I never got into all those funky textures.

16 Replies to “Rain bad for Wright”

  1. No you dont cindy… come, on…… do you really? I wasnt aware that anyone still lives there, I thought it was only available for filming (this is the famed FLW house in which Blade Runner was filmed). I work for an architecture firm right down the street, and actually my boss was interviewed this morning for abc 7 news. I have been in this house before, and it is beautiful, but it is however, also one of the poorest examples of FLW’s Usonian houses (its Wright’s fault that it is slipping away, not the rain!). I do completely agree, Sean, that better this house than a Neutra or Schlindler, but the simple fact of the matter is that poor design and a couple of uniformed and ill-prepared custodians have led to this home’s demise.

  2. Oooo, it was bad enough for this admitted Wright nut to have Sean write telling me that if anything must go gently into that good mudslide better a Wright than a Neutra or a Schindler. WTF? Why should we accept losing any of this city’s scant architectural wonders ó just because we don’t feel as strongly for one design over another? Bullshit.

    The Ennis-Brown is a dramatic, enigmatic magnificent work of art that we should strive to recover and restore, not just blithely wave goodbye to once the retaining walls start tumbling down.

    And to Bix jumping on the Wright’s Wrong wagon and chiming in that the 80-year-old design is to blame for the damage it’s recently sustained (yeah, the record rainfall that’s pummelled the place had NOTHING to do with it), that’s just off-hand horseshit.

  3. I’d rather it not be a family that cannot afford to have their house sleding down the hill. Why hasn’t President Bush allowed FEMA in here? Could it be that we didn’t vote for that moron?

  4. Simmer down Will – I’m not saying that because it’s a Wright it’s OK for it to get trashed – I’m saying that having a bookshelf full of Neutra and Shlindler books and not much Wright that that I could be way more freaked if this was a different house. Not to suggest that any less should be done to save it – his designes just aren’t my favorite.

  5. All right my friend, I’m simmering… I’m simmering. But then there’s Bix agreeing that “better this house than a Neutra or Schlindler…” that effing grrrrrrrrrinds me man.

  6. Will, did you even read the LA Observed article: “uninhabitable due to a crumbling retaining wall.” Any decent architect is well aware of what rain can do to a hillside. That house was not built to last, starting with the shitty mixture of dirt and rocks (from that same hillside) he put into those concrete blocks. Drive by and take a look at all the steel that supports the south facade. Did Wright put that there? –no, and if it hadn’t been erected ten years ago that house would have been lost back then. A similar preservation crisis is going on with Wright’s Freeman House at Hollywood & Franklin. When USC aquired the house and began restoration they found that footings were so poorly designed the ENTIRE foundation had to be re-laid. Now consider Schindler & Neutra’s joint project, The Lovell Health House, just down the street from the Enis-Brown House, and of similar age, remains in great condition and is in no danger from quake damage or mudslides.
    My statement, “better this house than…” is a value judgement based on my opinion that FLW is a hack, and Richard Neutra is LA’s greatest architectural legacy. Dont get me wrong, I believe in preservation, but this is not a new problem. The foundation that owns the house knew of the existing conditions and should have done more before this situation inevitably arose.

  7. Wright a hack? Aw, you go right ahead and spew such valueless judgement Bix. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there’s no disputing taste ó especially with those that don’t got none.

  8. Hollywood and Franklin? Where do those two streets intersect? Aren’t they parallel?

    Sorry, Will. I love FLW’s designs too*, but there seems to be a consensus from what I’ve read that, while gorgeous, quite a few of his buildings tend not to be as structurally sound as one would exepct. It isn’t a question of taste.

    *I actually don’t like his Usonian houses and other West Coast designs very much, but I love his prairie houses and other buildings in the Midwest, and of course Fallingwater.

  9. No problem, Hooks. Structural soundness or lack thereof certainly is an issue beyond taste. And one person’s marvel of design and vision may be another’s waste of real estate.

    But what I consider tasteless is the wholesale sledgehammering of Wright as nothing more than a “hack,” or the thoughtlessness in accepting the destruction of his work over some other architect.

  10. It’s ridiculous to assign any sort of rank to Neutra/Schindler/FLLW preservation debate. Bottom line is these were among the most significant practicing architects of the 20th century (and a bit of the 19th, in FLLW’s case), whose work deeply impacted Los Angeles, and vice versa.

    True the administrative oversight of the property has been difficult over the decades. True Wright was an arrogant bastard whose genius designs were often flawed. (Flat roof = generally bad idea.)

    But same can be said of the other two architects in this discussion. They used experimental, innovative materials without knowledge of how they’d hold up in the long term. I work in historic preservation and it’s not as if we only hear stories of Neutras and Schindlers lasting forever. Talk to the steward just about any of these architects’ structures, and they’ll offer tales of woe. Your average Craftsman or Spanish Colonial Revival bungalow is easier to care for than just about the product of any modernist master.

    The Schindler House — even on its level building pad — is by no means free of maintenance challenges. Ever notice the 1941 Bubeshko apartment complex by R.S. that’s been up for sale for months on Griffith Park? Wonder why it hasn’t been snatched up by some gung-ho fab architecture collector yet?

    And Bix, if you’re gonna make this kind of assertion please get your facts straight: Ennis house has nothing whatsoever to do with FLLW’s Usonian house program. Construction of Usonian houses began 10-plus years after Ennis. They were about designing single-family housing for the middle class on an affordable, broad, and easily constructable scale (in theory, of course). In contrast, the Ennis House was a seriously unabashed, radical aesthetic statement and material experiment.

  11. The Bubeshko apartments were just sold.

    The reason they weren’t “snatched up” was that the original asking price was totally unrealistic.

    In fact they are in incredible shape and if you saw the “experimental, innovative” plywood used throughout, you’d see what a brilliant and inspired choice it was, then and now.

    When you are inside, and look at the design in the plywood, it appears like tree bark, and the wall dissolve . . . it’s as if you are standing in a forest.

  12. Skipping the argument about structural responsibility, it is just a really cool looking place. I am a great fan of the Mayan locations south of our borders, and the appeal of FLW’s house is very strong. To bad restoration costs so damn much money. If it falls down, that will be a sad thing.

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