After finishing his Hollyhock House and the Imperial Hotel, Frank Lloyd Wright began to push his ideas concerning patterned concrete blocks. Utilizing the textile block, Wright built four houses – La Miniatura, the Ennis House, the Freeman House and the Storer House – as a way to truly challenge himself, as he explained in Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and Gerald Nordland’s book, Frank Lloyd Wright: In the Realm of Ideas, “ “What about the concrete block? It was the cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world. It lived mostly in the architectural gutter as an imitation of rock-faced stone. Why not see what could be done with that gutter rat? Steel rods cast inside the joints of the blocks themselves and the whole brought into some broad, practical scheme of general treatment, why would it not be fit for a new phase of our modern architecture? It might be permanent, noble beautiful.”
La Miniatura, Wright’s first residence that utilizes the textile block system, has been on the market for over two years. With the price beginning at $7,733,000 and dropping to $4,995,000, Crosby Doe, a Los Angeles real estate agent, has spoken to “an international art dealer with Japanese art-collector clients who might be interested in buying the house,” explained Jori Finkel for the Los Angeles Times. The house, which was formed on the principals modular design and ease of construction, may very well be taken apart piece by piece and re-built in an entirely new location.
And, La Miniatura is joined by a second textile house of Wright’s – the Ennis House – which has been on the market after a lengthy restoration process. Hilton & Hyland and Dilbeck Realtors have partnered with Christie’s Great Estates to sell the house which has also seen a significant price drop, starting at $15 million down to $7,495,000.
So, why are these historic houses taking so long to sell? As Finkel questions, “Who in the current economy is going to step forward to become the buyer-caretakers of these historic homes? And would the new owners allow public access?”
We’ll just have to wait and see the future of these homes. Although many in the architecture world are surprised that such noteworthy homes has been on the market for so many months, Finkel points out that the residences’ strong Mayan aesthetics and of course, the issue of Wright’s “notorious leaking ceilings”, may have something to do with the delay. Plus, the houses’ placement on their sites, especially La Miniatura as it is situated in a deep ravine, has made maintenance difficult. Hundreds of blocks have crumbled over the years and need repair.
Still, it is without question that the residences embody an innovative and historic part of Wright’s career. This new system of construction, in addition to Wright’s ability to take the rawest building material and create something beautiful, only confirms Wright’s proficiency in architecture.