Los Angeles is described as the perfect laboratory for architecture students. Its variety of urban and environmental components, both cultural and physical, contributes to the city’s diversity, flexibility and multiplicity in all aspects.
These conditions make it the perfect laboratory where architecture starts to challenge its boundaries. In this city is where the USC School of Architecture should be. But to be in it is not enough. It should be connected to it and immersed in it.
This immersion takes many forms. Our students actively participate in the city and its culture, studying notable architecture and landscapes through first-hand experience. Student design projects often reflect this interactive engagement by creating work that directly examines issues of the city, engaging in the real world issues of architecture, landscape architecture, building science and heritage conservation that surround them every day.
The School of Architecture is also linked to the Freeman House (Frank Lloyd Wright, 1924). The Freeman House in Hollywood provides hands-on learning opportunities for students - a laboratory to explore the challenges of materials conservation and historic site stewardship.
THE Freeman House
The Samuel and Harriet Freeman House is one of the three textile-block houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Hollywood Hills in 1924. The Freeman House is among Wright's most interesting and enchanting small residences; the living room has been called by several writers one of his best rooms. Placing the house in context, it marks a major transition in Wright's work and plays a clear role in the development of modern architecture in Southern California.
The Freemans celebrated their house as one of the centers of avant-garde artistic and political activity in Los Angeles from the 1920s virtually until the 1980s. Visitors and resident guests included Edward Weston, Martha Graham, Galka Sheyer, Jean Negulesco, Richard Neutra, Xavier Cugat, and Clark Gable.
Through its life as a "Salon," encouraged by Harriet's love of the arts, and the subsequent involvement of other major architects, including Rudolph Schindler and John Lautner, this architectural jewel constitutes a unique record of the cultural, social and political history of Los Angeles. Celebrated photographer Julius Shulman photographed the house in 1953 – see the images held in the Shulman archive in the Special Collections of the Getty Research Institute. Additionally, the house was recorded in 1969 as part of the Historic American Building Survey program and those measured drawings can be found on the Library of Congress website.
Given to the USC School of Architecture by Harriet Freeman in 1984, the house was fundamentally sound but in need of rehabilitation. However, the 1994 Northridge earthquake dramatically damaged the structure, rendering it uninhaitable.
The School of Architecture, under the leadership of then Dean Robert Timme with the help of various faculty members and alumni, endeavored to secure FEMA funds, grants, and donations in order to rehabilitate the house. Grants were received from the Getty Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the Domino Foundation. A three phase rehabilitation plan was devised and the Phase 1 seismic stabilization work began in 2000. Over $1.5 million was invested in the initial phase which included the removal of vulnerable textile block and interior furnishings, structural stabilization, and basic system upgrades.
Fundraising for the next phase of the project was underway when Dean Timme passed away. The loss of his passion and committment to the house stopped the rehabilitation momentum, and phase two has yet to begin in earnest. Fundraising for this effort has begun again however! It is hoped that when the rehabilitation work is completed, the house will once again function as a residence for distinguished visitors, as well as a setting for small salons, seminars, and meetings.
The house is not currently open to the public.