THINKING OUTSIDE-THE-BOX: IS THIS AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME?
In 1923, a rare-book dealer named Alice Millard commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build a home for her in textile block design on an acre of gardens in Pasadena, CA. He had previously built her a home in Highland Park, IL in 1906.
The lot had a steep ravine, and Wright designed the home to cling to it, and to be nestled among the trees. The 3-story 2400 sq ft house’s concrete blocks were made using sand, gravel and minerals found on the property. The 3 stories spiral around a central chimney. Redwood ceilings and paneling add warmth. Filtered, dappled light flows through the house through the perforated blocks and tall windows. There are 4 bedrooms, 2 kitchens, a living room and a formal dining room.
He used roughly textured, earth-toned blocks to blend the color and form of the house to the trees and hillside, different from his other designs but in keeping with his love of natural materials and belief that buildings should complement their surroundings. The blocks were created in wooden molds with modernized Pre-Columbian patterns on the outside and smooth insides and featured a symmetrical pattern of a cross with a square in each corner. They were reinforced with conventional mortar. While the budget was $10,000, the project cost $17,000.
First floor has the kitchen, servant’s room and a dining room that opened to a terrace and reflecting pool. Second floor has the main entrance, guest room and 2-story living room with fireplace and balcony. Third floor had Millard’s bedroom with balcony overlooking living room and outdoor terrace.
The house, like many of Wright’s homes, had leaks during rains but nevertheless Millard added a separate studio in 1936 which Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright, designed. It was initially greeted with criticism and laughter, but today some considered Millard House one of Wright’s best works. It has the feeling of living in a work of art.
In 1926, the house was ranked by a panel of 10 distinguished citizens and architecture experts as one of the 12 most significant landmarks in the Los Angeles area. In 1980 the New York Times mentioned that Millard House was world-famous and ranked it among the few Los Angeles buildings that have become classic works of the 20thC.
The house was reported to have been purchased in 2000 for $1.3MM with restoration estimates at least double since “glass was incorporated internally into the concreted blocks by hand” which caused imploding/exploding difficulties in all of Wright’s concrete-block houses in Los Angeles. There are four such houses built by Wright in Pasedena. Once on the market for $15MM. Price now is $7.495MM.What is the out-of-the-box idea? Selling to a Japanese art-collector and moving the house to Japan.