Wright On

VR tour of Wright’s Hollyhock House in the works

Architecture Technology West
VR tour of Wright's Hollyhock House in the works. (Courtesy Sandra Cohen Rose)
VR tour of Wright's Hollyhock House in the works. (Courtesy Sandra Cohen Rose)

As part of a new project orchestrated by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in L.A.’s Barnsdall Park could soon be accessible to the public via virtual reality.

The Mayan-Revival style home was built between 1919 and 1921 as Wright’s first Los Angeles–based residential commission and presaged the architect’s experimental “textile block” technology, a system Wright envisioned as a do-it-yourself solution for prefabricated building. The house is also considered the first work in the architect’s post-Prairie Style period. Previously, in Wright’s Prairie Style work, divisions between interior and exterior were stark and emphasized; with the Hollyhock House, that dichotomy gave way to a more fluid relationship between landscape and space, interior and exterior, presaging certain tendencies inherent in the coming modernism movement.

The home was also an influential project on Wright understudy Rudolph Schindler.

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure was renovated most recently starting in 2010 by architects Brenda Lavin & Associates, a $ 4.4 million modernization and restoration scheme that aimed to bring the structure back to its original luster.

The DCA is seeking to make the relic more accessible to the general public and, more specifically, for patrons who cannot enter the building due to its noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The historic status of the work makes ADA-focused retrofits impossible. Instead, DCA is working to transform the interiors of the structure into a virtual reality experience that can be accessed both on-site in Barnsdall Park and via the internet. According to DCA, the virtualization project could potentially increase the accessibility of the house by 210%, an increase that could perhaps boost physical attendance at the site, as well.

The push would make the site’s bid for UNESCO status potentially more plausible. The nomination was organized by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and submitted as a group nomination including nine other Wright buildings, including the Fallingwater, Guggenheim, Taliesin, and Taliesin West projects in 2015. While the status of the nomination is still pending, the DCA proposal will be working its way toward approval by the Los Angeles City Council’s Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, the full L.A. City Council, and ultimately, the L.A. Mayor’s office.

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