I’d read about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House for years, but I’d never actually been to see it. So this last weekend I decided I was going to pay a visit.
It’s an amazing structure, built using the “textile block” process that Wright explored during his time in the LA area. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the house is, it started falling apart even before it was finished. Wright’s idea of mixing granite from the site into the concrete used for the blocks probably sounded like a good idea at the time. In practice, though, it made the blocks unstable. Millions have been spent restoring the Ennis House over the years. For a while, it was owned by a foundation that tried to rehabilitate it, but the process proved too costly and they ended up putting the house on the market.
Selling Wright’s LA area houses isn’t as easy as it might seem. The Ennis House was on the market for years, and the price had to be lowered significantly before a buyer was found. As far as I can tell, La Miniatura in Pasadena is still on the market. The problem seems to be that beyond the purchase price, buyers know that they’ll have to spend a fortune on upkeep. And because the houses are on the National Register of Historic Places, the standards for restoration are very strict. If you need to patch a wall, you can’t just slap on some spackle.
But the Ennis House is lovely, and absolutely one of a kind. Wright was influenced by Mayan architecture, and the house seems at once both ancient and modern. To see what it looks like inside, visit the web site by clicking the link below.
And if you’re not familiar with Wright’s work, you might want to visit the Wikipedia page devoted to him. Aside from the quality of the work he did himself, he had a huge influence on American architecture.
Wright thought he was creating a practical approach to constructing homes with his textile block system. In reality, it turned out to be terribly inefficient and outrageously expensive. But the fact that people have been willing to invest the time and money to maintain them over several decades is an indication of how precious these homes are. Their value goes way beyond anything you can measure in dollars.