When the tragic Woolsey fire of 2018 devastated Southern California, one of its most notable victims was the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Arch Oboler complex of buildings, sometimes known as “Eaglefeather”, located in the hills above Malibu. All the more tragic was the fact that, after more than ten years of effort and millions of dollars spent, the restoration and rebuilding of the complex had just been completed by the owners less than a year before they were lost.
After giving the building owners a chance to recover from their shock, I reached out to them to offer any assistance our organization could provide. I had come to know them a few years earlier while filming the buildings for my film “Romanza”. We were told that there was a further, more immediate crisis at hand. The policy established by those government bodies overseeing the post fire cleanup was to demolish and remove any portions of the buildings which were still standing, ostensibly as a safety measure, and with no exceptions whatsoever.
All of the Oboler buildings were partly constructed using Wright’s method of desert masonry, and while the buildings were gone, much of the masonry, in the form of foundation and walls, was still intact. I immediately reached out to my friends and colleagues Eric Lloyd Wright, Arthur Dyson, Jan Novie, Banff Pavilion lead architect Yew-Thong Leong, Virginia Tech professor Humberto Rodriguez, and our own lead architect Jeff Baker to write letters of support indicating that the masonry should be left alone so as to be used as part of a future rebuilding, and requesting that it not be torn down and removed. Along with my own letter, these messages were given to the Oboler owners, and were submitted to the decision-making government body. AS A DIRECT RESULT OF OUR EFFORTS, the waiver was granted, and the masonry survived.
The owners of Oboler are currently waiting for the settlement of a lawsuit before embarking on the rebuilding of the complex in its entirety. The FLWRI has committed 45,000.00 towards this effort, although it has been pointed out that the ultimate rebuilding costs will be in the millions. We point this story out as an example of the FLWRI’s dedication and commitment to provide assistance which does more than pay lip service to the idea of helping FLW homeowners, but of taking action which ACTUALLY helps those owners in a tangible way. We stand by to assist the Oboler owners, as we do all Frank Lloyd Wright building owners, to help this process forward, and we will keep the public informed of the project’s progress.