In 1938, Esther Born, a photographer and University of California, Berkeley architecture graduate, photographed Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hanna House shortly after its completion. The house was commissioned by Paul Hanna, a professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, as a home for his family of five.
"Organic architecture sees shelter not only as a quality of space but of spirit, and the prime time factor in any concept of building man into his environment as a legitimate feature of it." – Frank Lloyd Wright, A Testament, 1957
Perched on a hill overlooking the university campus, the house’s uniqueness lies in its honeycomb structure, a shape repeated throughout in various architectural patterns and ornaments. It was the first time Wright had used this type of structure. The building was a sensation in the architectural community and was the subject of specialised writings that appeared as early as 1938. Esther Born’s photographs were published in periodicals such as Architectural Record and Architectural Forum, along with a variety of later publications. By 1975, the now-elderly Hannas’ needs had changed. To ensure that the house would be preserved, they donated it to Stanford, which initially used it as a dean’s residence. It is now a reception and seminar facility.
In a series of 39 photographs assembled as a portfolio, Born explored the house and its harmony with the landscape, capturing lighting, spaces, and the character and function of the rooms. She paid particular attention to details, furnishings, and decoration. The photographs do not aim to evoke the picturesque but instead draw the viewer’s eye to a series of visual elements that immediately suggest a sense of the place depicted. This series of images is of particular interest as it explores a single subject and elucidates the building’s articulation and the unique character of Wright’s architecture.
Born’s powerful, harmonious vision of this building complements numerous other photographs, drawings, writings and publications in the CCA Collection related to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture.
The Getty Research Institute, Special Collections also holds photographs by Esther Born of the Hanna House as well as Wright’s Sidney Bazett House, photographed circa 1940.