La Miniatura

Speaking of the Wright real estate market (and Sunday Style sections)0, here’s an article from the Los Angles Times on La Miniatura (the Alice Millard House) in Pasadena, California:

“My eye had fallen on a ravine nearby in which stood two beautiful eucalyptus trees,” Wright later wrote. “The house would rise tall out of the ravine gardens.”

The two eucalyptus trees are still there, forming a cathedral more than 100 feet high over a lily pond in the gully. As he envisioned it, “Balconies and retraces would lead down to the ravine from the front of the house.” The way the house is matched to its setting is often compared to Wright’s more famous Fallingwater, the Pennsylvania house poised over a waterfall.

True to his word and his eye, in building the Millard house Wright created a landmark residence that belied his preference for the horizontal. It made a singular vertical impression, evoking a Maya monument rising from the jungle when viewed from the downhill side. The design exemplified Wright’s quest to find an indigenous American architecture following a six-year sojourn in Japan, and it signaled his continuing interest in the pre-Columbian culture of the Maya, an interest that dated to his work in Chicago a decade earlier.

Vertical spaces created between exterior columns outline casement windows and doors, contributing to the building’s general upward thrust. The low ceilings so familiar to fans of Wright are here too, a challenge to anyone taller than 6 feet.

Millard wanted an “old world” European elegance but allowed her architect to indulge his affinity for Maya-inspired decorative frieze and architectural massing — as long as she could add her own touches, visible today in the ornate fireplace screen in the living room, the carved Italian doors and the crouching stone lions guarding a covered walkway.

Circulation in the house revolves around a central chimney, with the main entry at the middle level of three, and all three bedrooms in the main house stacked to face Prospect Crescent. Some would say the mezzanine, which provides passage to the master bedroom while overlooking the two-story-tall living room, offered a glimpse of the plan for the Guggenheim Museum 36 years later. The unorthodox layout is as intriguing as it is disorienting, causing some first-time visitors to lose track of where they are and how rooms relate to one another.

The Millard House is for sale, asking is just short of $5 million.