This building was designed by Lloyd Wright, Architect, eldest son of Frank Lloyd Wright. The building was designed in 1927 as Mr. Wright’s own home and studio.  Mr. Wright lived and worked here from 1927 till his death in 1978. It was here that Mr. Wright raised his family and created such world-renowned buildings as the second Hollywood Bowl shell and the Wayfarer’s Chapel. The building is an exceptional example of Lloyd Wright’s combining the textile concrete block system used by Frank Lloyd Wright with plain wood frame and stucco walls. One of the finest spaces in architecture is the experience of walking under the low entry to the office, then down three stairs past a concrete screen with the studio living room opening out into the patio court. The sense of space achieved by this experience on a small city lot is unique. The building is the property most significantly associated with this master architect and his productive career; it has also received considerable recognition in architectural literature of Southern California. The building still retains its appearance from the period of Lloyd Wright’s association with it. 

Lloyd Wright, the eldest son of Frank Lloyd Wright, was born on March 31, 1890, in Oak Park, Illinois. His boyhood was spent in Oak Park and in the rural Wisconsin countryside which had so influenced his father. As a boy, he frequently worked with his father, helping to sort the elder Wright’s collection of Japanese prints and assisting at the drafting board. His constant exposure to his father ls projects was highly influential in forming his design sensibilities and his keen understanding of organic form and environmental relationships. He attended the University of Wisconsin from 1907 to 1909, studying engineering and agronomy. He left school to travel with his father in Europe, and assisted in the preparation of the Wasmuth drawings for publication. Upon his return to the United States in 1910, he secured employment in the Boston area at the Harvard Herbarium, then obtained a drafting position with the nationally-recognized landscape architecture and planning firm of Olmsted and Olmsted. It was through this latter position that he relocated to California, moving to San Diego in 1911 to work in the Olmsted nursery which had been established in preparation for landscaping the 1915 Panama California International Exposition. Within a year he was working as a draftsman-delineator for the noted San Diego architect, Irving Gill, an association which continued until 1915 with Wright employed in Gill’s Los Angeles office. He then established a landscape architecture practice in partnership with PauG  Thiene in Los Angeles. This association was short-lived, for Wright established an independent office as an architect and landscape architect in 1916; however, most of his work was in collaboration with the Los Angeles architect, William J. Dodd. His independent practice lasted only a few months; by the end of 1916, he was hired to head the newly organized Design and Drafting Department of Paramount Studios, a position which he held about a year. 

During this period, he continued to do landscape design work with Dodd. He left Southern California for a brief period on the East Coast, working in several engineering and architectural firms in 1918-19, but returned to Los Angeles in 1919 to work with his father on the house and landscaping for oil-heiress Aline Barnsdall at Olive Hill. For the next several years, he continued working with his father on projects in California and Arizona, concerned primarily with landscaping, preparing working drawings, and supervising construction. He also undertook some independent projects, such as the design of the first shell for the Hollywood Bowl, as well as a number of stagesets. He designed several notable projects during this period, including a proposed Los Angeles Civic Center and a “City of the Future”. By 1928 he had firmly established his independent practice and moved into his newly-completed studio-house on Doheny Drive, from which he continued to operate his practice for the rest of his career. 

During his career, Lloyd Wright designed many notable buildings, several of which have been recognized as landmarks in the history of Southern California architecture. Among his best-known works are the studio of the Alice Millard house in Pasadena (1925); the John Derby house, Glendale (1926); John Sowden house, Hollywood (1926); the Samuel-Navarro house, Hollywood (1926); his own studio-house on Doheny Drive (1927); the Yucca-Vine Market, Los Angeles (1928); the Raymond Griffith ranch house, Canoga Park (1936); and the Wayfarer’s Chapel on the Palos Verdes Peninsula (1946). He also designed homes or completed major remodelings for a number of celebrities including Claudette Colbert, Jascha Heifetz, and Charles Laughton. 

Throughout his life, Lloyd Wright’s achievements were often overshadowed by those of his genius father. A few of his buildings were published in national architectural journals in the 1930s, but principal recognition .as a master architect has come within recent years. His work was the subject of a major exhibition in 1971 at the University of California Art Galleries, Santa Barbara. Subsequent recognition in the professional literature has increased significantly; a number of his buildings have been the subject of serious scholarly investigation over the last few years. 

His principal contributions to American architecture began with his work in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Harriette Von Breton ha.s written in her introduction for the exhibition catalog of the 1971 Santa Barbara show, “Lloyd Wright emerged on his own as an architect in a period (1920-30) when a burst of building on the West Coast was being influenced by the easy, open California style of living. It was a period of great vitality and of fresh ideas. There was an air of excitement about new architectural concepts and numerous new building materials were being introduced. 

There was new use and experimentation with gardens and patios, spatial relationships, light and form. Strong West Coast personalities in the field of architecture were challenging each other and producing new levels and dimensions of architectural expression. Lloyd Wright was a part of this giant bubbling ferment, activity and creative outburst.” 

Lloyd Wright was part of the architectural “avant-garde” of Southern California during the 1920s, although somewhat on the fringe of the “movement”. His work in this period has often been described as “expressionist”, although it is difficult to categorize so easily. He evolved his own personal style, with a certain debt to the influence of his father’s works, also due to his own strong sense of organic and environmental relationships. Like his father, he experimented with the use of concrete, a material coming into popularity in local modernist residential design. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Los Angeles and Pasadena concrete textile block houses were built in the early 1920s; Lloyd Wright actually supervised the construction of the Storer House in 1923. His use of patterned concrete blocks in his own commissions was limited primarily to decorative detailing, although the Derby House in Chevy Chase (now part of Glendale) was designed with much of the exterior wall area in decorative blocks. Several of his other major works of the mid-1920s utilized the patterned blocks as decorative surfaces in conjunction with major planar expanses of unornamented wall surface, including the Mi Hard studio, the Sowden house, and his own studio-house. Utilizing a stylized pattern based upon the Joshua tree, he created Pre-Columbian overtones in his own. The noted architectural historian, David Gebhard, writing in the 1971 Santa Barbara exhibition catalog, has observed, “…the mysterious, almost back to the womb quality of the Pre-Columbian is present as a suggested atmosphere, not so much as a fact. The mystery and romance of these (i.e., Sowden and Lloyd Wright) houses were heightened by his cutting a cave-like opening through the block, thus posing a heavy overpowering concrete mass which hovers menacingly over the openings below. The result is even more primitive than the Pre-Columbian; it is a cave, although we are at the same time fully aware that it is a stage-set cave.” 

 

Lloyd Wright’s exceptional understanding of environmental building-landscape relationships characterizes his best work. He often emphasized the opening of indoor spaces to the out-of-doors; Gebhard comments further, “…in his own studio house…, the main exterior wall of the enclosed living area could be completely .si id…aside, the result being that the exterior and interior really do become one usable room… The Southwestern patio or courtyard never became a significant feature in the California work of Frank Lloyd Wright; while with Lloyd the courtyard was the dominant element in a majority of his designs. How successful these courtyards are can be seen in his own studio-house where the small high walled courtyard off the studio creates an indoor/outdoor environment which effectively shuts off the busy and noisy outside urban world.” Pauline (Schindler) Gibling, writing in 1932 about the avant-garde architects in Los Angeles, stated, “…the residences of Lloyd Wright… show another, but equal will for seclusion. They turn inward, wall against the world. The garden is not a continuation outward of the house, but a frame of setting. Or else he draws it within the house which thereupon surrounds it as a double wall, secluding it still more deeply and mysteriously.” She added, “He has a gift for monumental majesty–which he however occasionally counteracts by an abundance, a richness, of applied ornament…” 

The studio-house was built at a pivotal point in Lloyd Wright’s career, coinciding with his establishment of a fully independent practice. It is a summation of his residential design philosophy and a masterwork of this important architect. It has been recognized in numerous publications on California and Los Angeles area architecture and stands out clearly as significant within the context of his career. It is the site most significantly associated with Lloyd Wright and his productive career, having been the studio from which he designed his works subsequent to 1927.