Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House: the best residential example of Mayan Revival architecture

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Marija Georgievska
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Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the best-known American architects who through his lifetime designed many iconic buildings, like the Price tower in Oklahoma and the Rookery Building in Illinois.

He also built numerous private homes in different architectural styles for famous people in the U.S. One of the most amazing is the Ennis house, which was built in Mayan Revival style.

The businessman Charles Ennis hired Wright to build him a home made from concrete. The 6,000 square foot mansion is constructed of almost 26,000 handmade, perfectly arranged concrete cubes.

Wright developed a new style for the project. The geometric patterns on the building’s surface was a unique new look for a house made in the 1920s. It was one of the first private homes in America designed in this style.

Situated in the Los Feliz hills, this construction became one of four houses in Los Angeles inspired by Mayan architecture.

The concrete was used as an imitation of rock-faced stone because it was the cheapest material in the architectural world. It is fascinating how Wright managed to build a warm home filled with natural light from cold concrete blocks.

Ennis House is known today as the Ennis-Brown House. Ian Rutherford. CC BY 2.0

He had the idea to make small holes in the cubes through which light could enter the space.

The concrete blocks used to construct the Ennis House are decorated with shapes carefully chosen from ancient Mayan temples.

The most common is a cube within a cube decoration, which is one of the basic shapes seen on the facades of these great constructions. These patterned shapes are also called textile blocks because of the way they are knitted together.

It was designed with patterns made of handmade cubes with Mayan decorations. geek_love13. CC BY 2.0

It was the most unusual house made by Wright who considered it his favorite after its completion. He put a lot of effort into designing the mansion which became the best example of modern Mayan architecture in America.

It is separated into two buildings, and in the middle of the two is a courtyard from which the city can be seen.

Part of the courtyard overlooking the city. geek_love13. CC BY 2.0

In the main house, there are bedrooms and baths connected with long hallways and in the second there is an apartment with a private garage.

At the entrance stands a high black gate made of metal and glass doors that were also decorated by Wright.

The dining room has the most light and is separated into two parts: the main table for guests and the kids’ table near the windows.

The main gate. Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0

Four years after the mansion was finished, Charles Ennis passed away and after eight years his wife sold the property. It had many different owners over the next 30 years until it was purchased by Professor Augustus O. Brown.

In 1980, Brown donated the house to the Trust for Cultural Heritage, and its name was changed to the Ennis-Brown House. Over the years, it was damaged by heavy rains and earthquakes.

Situated on the Los Feliz hills, from afar the Ennis-Brown House looks like an ancient Mayan temple. edward stojakovic. CC BY 2.0

The most severe damage was caused by the Northridge earthquake in 1994. After the disaster the house was immediately designated a landmark and in 2006, the Trust began a restoration project to stabilize the structure.

It was put up for sale in 2009 because a lot of money was needed to finish the restoration project.

It is a popular filming location in the city. edward stojakovic. CC BY 2.0

According to the Los Angeles Times, The Ennis-Brown Foundation agreed with Wright’s nephew that the property should be purchased by a private owner who would be able to preserve it.

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From the 1950s until today, the mansion has served as a filming location for many movies and series including Blade Runner (1982) directed by Ridley Scott, and Joss Whedon’s series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.