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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence with R. M. Schindler
    Dates: 1914-1929
    Dates: 1918-1922
    Collection number: 960076
    Creator: Schindler, R. M. (Rudolph M.), 1887-1953
    Creator: Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959
    Extent: 1 linear ft. (2 boxes)
    Repository: Getty Research Institute
    Research Library
    Special Collections and Visual Resources
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688
    Abstract: The association between the architects Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and R. M. Schindler (1887-1953) began in 1914 when Schindler first wrote to Wright asking for a position, and revolved around two major commissions while Schindler worked for Wright: the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, known as Teikoku Hoteru (1913-1923), and the Barnsdall project, which includes Hollyhock house, in Los Angeles (1915-1924). Correspondence between Frank Lloyd Wright and R. M. Schindler contains approximately 160 items, primarily letters and telegrams, dating from 1914 (the year Schindler came to the United States from Vienna) to 1929.
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    Language: Collection material in English

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence with R. M. Schindler, 1914-1929, bulk 1918-1922, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 960076.

    Acquisition Information

    The collection was acquired from R. M. Schindler's son, Mark Schindler, in 1996.

    Processing History

    William Dabars processed and arranged the collection in 1997. J. Gibbs wrote this finding aid in March 1999.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    The association between the architects Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and R. M. Schindler (1887-1953) began in 1914 when Schindler first wrote to Wright asking for a position, and revolved around two major commissions: the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, known as Teikoku Hoteru, (1913-1923) and the Barnsdall project, which includes Hollyhock house, in Los Angeles (1915-1924).
    Schindler arrived in the United States in 1914 from Vienna, joined Wright's studio in 1918 and worked for him through 1922. During these years, Wright was immersed in the design and construction of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and spent months at a time there beginning December 1916 through July 1922. Schindler remained at Taliesin (Spring Green, Wisconsin) and Chicago for Wright until 1920 when Schindler moved to Los Angeles to supervise the construction of the Barnsdall project.
    The Imperial Hotel (Teikoku Hoteru) in Tokyo was first constructed in 1888-1889 to accomodate the arrival of Westerners, instigated by the Emperor's interest in opening trade to the West. By 1910 a larger and more modern hotel was needed. Frank Lloyd Wright was recommended for the job in 1911, in part because of his well-known interest in Japanese art (which had prompted him to vacation in Japan for three months in 1905). By 1916 the decision was made to hire Wright and he departed for Tokyo December 28, 1916.
    Wright worked closely with the Managing Director of the Imperial Hotel, Aisaku Hayashi and, to a lesser extent, with the Chairman of the Board of the hotel, Baron Okura. Wright brought some of his draftsmen (Antonin Raymond, William E. Smith among others) and contractors (such as the Chicago builder Paul Mueller) to Tokyo to work with him.
    The difficult soil conditions - eight feet of soil on top of about 60 feet of liquid mud - and the frequency of earthquakes necessitated particular attention to the engineering of the foundation of the building. In late 1919 the Annex of the old Imperial Hotel burned down. This loss made the need for the new hotel building even more urgent. Wright was asked to rebuild the Annex and speed up the construction of the hotel. Wright designed and built a new Annex which opened in 1920. He completed the new hotel in 1923. On the morning of the hotel's official opening, September 1, 1923, a severe earthquake hit Tokyo and proved the brilliance of the hotel's structural engineering. The Imperial Hotel suffered little damage and became the headquarters of refugees and rescue efforts because it was one of the few buildings still standing.
    Aline Barnsdall (1882-1928) commissioned Wright to design a residence (Hollyhock house, 1917-1922) and other buildings to support a center for the arts on Olive Hill in Los Angeles (1915-1924). Miss Barnsdall, whose money came from her family's oil business, was interested in theater and music. She first commissioned a theater from Wright in 1915, before she had even settled on a site. In June 1919 she purchased 36 acres in Los Angeles. In the fall of 1919 construction began on the residence.
    Wright's son, Lloyd Wright, supervised the early construction (grading, foundations, pools). By 1920 Schindler was producing working drawings for the residence, named Hollyhock house after Miss Barnsdall's favorite flower. The initial plan included Hollyhock house, two smaller residences referred to as Residence A and B, a theater, a house for a resident artistic director, an apartment house known as the Actors' Abode (not built), an entrance pavilion for the public (not built), a row of shops along Hollywood Boulevard with small houses on the terraces above (not built), and a movie theater (not built).
    In December 1920 Schindler moved to Los Angeles to take over the supervision of the project. By fall of 1921 Hollyhock house and residences A and B were nearly completed. Other work on Barnsdall, some of which Schindler, Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra had a hand in, continued until 1924.
    Schindler remained in Los Angeles for the rest of his life. Wright opened an office in Los Angeles for a brief period, 1923-1924, but returned to Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1924.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Correspondence between Frank Lloyd Wright and R. M. Schindler contains approximately 160 items, primarily letters and telegrams, dating from 1914 (the year Schindler came to the United States from Vienna) to 1929. The bulk of the correspondence dates between 1918-1922. Several items are undated. The correspondence begins with a letter from Schindler asking about the possibility of a position with Wright, undated but probably November 23, 1914. It ends in August 1929 with Wright's letters of recommendation for Schindler to present to the architecture licensing board in California.
    In between, the majority of letters (1918-1922) concern the Imperial Hotel, which Wright is working on in Tokyo (1913-1923), and the Barnsdall project in Los Angeles (1915-1924) which Schindler is supervising for Wright from Chicago and then Los Angeles. Most of Wright's letters are handwritten, most of Schindler's are typed. All of Schindler's letters, except some telegrams, are carbon copies. This correspondence was part of Schindler's personal papers and was acquired by the Getty Research Institute from his son.
    Twelve items in the collection are not letters. These include brief financial accounts, specifications, a photograph of F.L. Wright, Schindler's telephone book (probably dating after 1919 because most of the numbers are for Los Angeles), two poetic manifesto-like essays, a four-page draft from Wright's autobiography, and a handmade booklet titled "Frank Lloyd Wright Utterances," with pencil entries.
    Wright's letters give details of the construction of the Imperial Hotel (Teikoku Hoteru), especially the foundation engineering and the utility systems, with occasional sketches. He urges Schindler to write every week and complains when the letters and telegrams do not give enough detail or are delayed. He requests boring machines, contracts, the detailed drawings he has asked Schindler to work out for the Imperial Hotel and the Barnsdall project, and news. The lack of money is a minor but constant theme on both sides of the correspondence. He addresses Schindler's questions about the design of the Barnsdall house group (Hollyhock house, the director's house and theater) and praises Schindler's design for the Shampay house (1919). Several letters mention Sullivan, including Wright's attempt to bring him to Japan, and the money Wright sends him. Two of Wright's letters speak elliptically of his companion Miriam Noel and their troubled relationship. Three letters from 1924 reveal a rift between Wright and Schindler when Wright rebukes Schindler and blames him for the problems on the Barnsdall job.
    Schindler's letters from Chicago, Oak Park and Taliesin (1918-1920) give details of the work he is doing to reconfigure Wright's Oak Park house into separate rental units and then find renters. He is in contact with Lloyd Wright who is in Los Angeles getting ready to start construction on the Barnsdall house (Hollyhock house). Schindler also responds to Wright's requests for bids and machinery for the Imperial Hotel construction, as well as the working out of design details. In two letters Schindler recommends his friend Richard Neutra to Wright. In late 1920 Schindler moves to Los Angeles and his letters are filled with news of the Barnsdall job and the difficult Miss Barnsdall. He alludes to other jobs, including his efforts to finance and build his own house (the Schindler-Chase house on Kings Road). A file of eight letters between Wright and Schindler, November - December 1922, relate to the design of a house for Mrs. Charles P. Lowes in Eagle Rock, California. In these letters Wright addresses the wider problem of designing the small house. The last file of letters (1927-1929) contains Schindler's request for a letter of recommendation for his license application, and Wright's several responses, some of which, Schindler responds to Wright, would do more harm than good.


    The collection is arranged chronologically with the undated items that are not letters at the beginning. All undated letters have probable dates and are inter-filed with dated correspondence.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Architects and patrons—California—Los Angeles
    Architecture, Modern—20th century—California, Southern
    Concrete construction
    Hollyhock House (Hollywood, Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Teikoku Hoteru

    Subjects - personal names

    Barnsdall, Aline, 1882-1946
    Hayashi, Aisaku
    Mueller, Paul
    Schindler, R. M. (Rudolph M.), 1887-1953
    Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959
    Wright, Lloyd, 1890-1978


    Schindler, R. M. (Rudolph M.), 1887-1953
    Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959