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I'm sure I will learn much during the 5-week training session, but I know from the people who haunt this forum I can learn even more. I'll search the archives, but if anyone has anecdotes, stories, facts or tidbits about the house, the owner, the history, or even the experience of being a docent there, I'd love to have you share them here with me!
Could this be a first: A docent appealing to the forum for facts which could support a better job of interpretation ? We should be flattered, and pleased by the opportunity.
I know that Roderick Grant has extensive first-hand knowledge of all things Olive Hill; he'd be the first person I'd go to with such a request. But I'll let him speak for himself. Perhaps others will pipe up as well . . . ?
- "Hollyhock House", not "the Hollyhock House"
- "Barnsdall", not "Barnsdale"
- It's not built of poured concrete.
- The skylight over the living room fireplace was not intended as a rainspout.
- Don't tell visitors which pieces of furniture are authentic and which not, lest they know which ones are worth stealing.
- Speaking of stepping forward, don't walk and talk at the same time. If you face forward they can't hear you; if you face backward you'll trip.
- Visitors can't sit on the living room sofas, but you can. Just take your shoes off before you step onto the rug.
I wish you every success. It's a marvelous place that will never finish revealing itself no matter how much time you spend there.
At the Weltzheimer house, we are asked about the flat roof (Does it leak?), how much did the house cost, etc. It seems as though everyone wants to prove how bad an architect Mr. Wright really was. I have come to realize that you need to look at the architecture and see how great an architect he is.
Lastly, get the facts correct. I was once told at one of the major Wright sites that he died in 1957!
Hope I can get back to the house in the near future.
I am disappointed to hear that docents are speaking negatively about the architect. The lay public doesn't need to be loaded with that burden -- a distraction to what they are experiencing, which is a potentially life-changing exposure to great architectural design. Let them explore the facts at their leisure, later. I feel free to look at the whole man, warts and all, here among those who are seasoned in the work and the ways of Wright. But leave Mr and Mrs America alone, when they are In The Presence . . . !
It does seem like an odd way to introduce Wright to a docent group. I understand where he was going, but would have taken a different route.
The arches of the Colosseum are definitely structural. The solid wall with decorative columns just represents a necessary interruption in the flow that was designed that way to continue the march of arches.
From the car court, up to the entry, through the concrete doors (or gates), into the entrance and loggia, down the hallway past the library, around the corner into the conservatory, up the stairs from the loggia into the pergola (gallery in Storrer) ... all that low-ceilinged space is meant to be semi-enclosed circulation with a porch-like feel to it. Most of it is concrete floored, which is correct, but the wood floors are not proper.
There are three basic ground floor masses: music/living/library; dining/kitchen/servants' rooms; 2 guest bedrooms/Sugartop's room/servant's room. All enclosing walls of the units should be treated as independent, and the plaster exterior of each should be the same as the stucco exterior of the building as a whole. The west wall of the loggia was originally, and incorrectly, painted gold. The south wall of the pergola was also colored like an interior wall, which it should not be.
The loggia folding doors have been restored, but if they are connected into two sets of 7, they are wrong. Originally each pair of doors were free-floating, as can be seen in Kathryn Smith's book, page 125.
The march of hollyhock columns along the north side of the garden court have been compared to the entrance faÃ§ade of the Parthenon; if there is any connection to the Parthenon, it should be the colonnade along the side of the building, where there are no apertures between columns. The whole row, with its roof stopping at the top of the columns, serves as a shadow box to give prominence to the hollyhock design of the columns as a transition from garden (which should occupy 1/3 of the garden court) to building. The north/south limits of the garden court (a fair-weather living room) are the wall of the service wing and the south wall of the pergola, with the rectangular lawn off axis.
The so-called guest bedroom upstairs may actually have been intended as Aline's bedroom. The original design had a porch at the north end with an opening on the north wall, a glass wall defining the south side. In the bedroom proper, the bed would have been set against the glass wall, flanked by doors leading to the porch. See Smith, page 123, section DD or Mono 4/145. Since there also exists a plan for a bed in the main room (cantilevered into the bay), which would have been her private day room, FLW may have redone the upstairs for some reason. See Mono 4/149.
As an aerial perspective shows ("The Drawings Of FLW" by Arthur Drexler, plate 63), the living room was originally intended to be 24' square. It was extended to a length of 46' to accommodate the ritualistic entrance into the room, with its tall, altar-like chimney/fireplace, embraced by architecturally scaled couches. There is an unpublished drawing in Barnsdall's archives showing an early design for the fireplace, stopping, as had always been the practice before, at door height. A flat ceiling was to extend out over the hearth with walls above to enclose a skylight well. Another reason to extend the room: Square, the pitched ceiling would have been pyramidal, a tent-like enclosure that I'm sure FLW did not want.
That said, it would _really_ help if those of you who've trod in my future footsteps could share the traditional path through which the tours ran in the past - start here, walk there, stop here, etc - since I doubt that will change nor will there be much flexibility allowed.
Start at the end of the front walkway. If the front doors work, go straight in to the entry hall. When the doors were unusable, we went from the walkway through the kitchen and dining room to the entry hall. Spend a minute or two under the low ceiling so that people will feel the contrast when they get to the living room.
- Living room. We could take people onto the wooden floor but not onto the rug. The fireplace is the prototype of the one in the TWest living room. TWest's is of rough stone rather than concrete, but the size and shape, the overhead skylight and the beams on either side come from Hollyhock.
(If you split a large group into two, the first group follows the standard path. The second group enters a few minutes later and goes from the entry hall to the dining room and from there to the living room once the first group has moved on.)
- Music room
- Out to the west side. Point out the Schindler pergola that started out to be Wright's Little Dipper, Ennis up on the hillside and, off to the east, Neutra's Lovell house (DID you know that Harriet Freeman and Leah Lovell were sisters?). If the hollyhocks are in bloom, compare them to Wright's design.
- Back in through the south side of the living room. Point out the library on the way to the breakfast room but don't go in.
- Breakfast room
- Out again and up the steps to the south garden
- In to the gallery. It was once a pair of guest rooms, each with a bath.
- Upstairs to the master bedroom. At one time we went out to the roof, but not in the last several years.
- Upstairs guest room. See R Grant's notes above on what Wright originally designed.
- Back downstairs and out to the east side. The windows on the bedroom wing are a throwback to a Prairie design (Isabel Roberts, Frank Baker). They give the illusion of a single two-story high interior. R Grant notes above that a two-story bedroom wing may not have been Wright's original intention.
- Back in through the loggia doors (point out that the niche that holds an Asian statue [or did the last time I looked] was once a door and that the original and later concrete jobs are of different texture.)
- Dining room. Point out full-height windows on the courtyard side but two distinct levels of windows facing north. Through the upper set you see the hills. When you sit down you get a completely different view, of a garden, through the lower set.
Out through the kitchen door.
The only time I have been in the house was before the Living Room furniture was installed (late 1980's) The dining room seem so much of an after thought, not a grand dining room for gala events, but a private more intimate space.