04 January 2016

Hollyhock House and the Piranha Women

"The Aline Barnsdall Hollyhock House is a building in the East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a residence for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, built in 1919–1921. The building is now the centerpiece of the city's Barnsdall Art Park.

As with many of Wright's residences, it has an "introverted" exterior with small windows, and is not easy to decode from the outside. The house is arranged around a central courtyard with one side open to form a kind of theatrical stage (never used as such), and a complex system of split levels, steps and roof terraces around that courtyard. The design features exterior walls that are tilted back at 85 degrees (which helps provide a "Mayan" appearance sometimes referred to as the Mayan Revival style), leaded art glass in the windows, a grand fireplace with a large abstract bas-relief, and a moat. Water is meant to flow from a pool in the courtyard through an underground tunnel to this inside moat, and out again to a fountain.

The hollyhock is used as a central theme to the house, with many symmetrical decorations adapting the plant's general appearance. Planters are decorated with the motif and filled with the plants themselves, and Wright's stained glass windows feature a highly stylized hollyhock pattern. An interesting feature is the glass corners, an early Wright idea later used at Fallingwater...

Like many houses designed by Wright, it proved to be better as an aesthetic work than as a livable dwelling. Water tended to flow over the central lawn and into the living room, and the flat roof terraces were conceived without an understanding of Los Angeles' rains. The cantilevered concrete also has not stood up well to the area's earthquakes. 
The house and grounds were used as the temple of the Piranha Women in 1989's Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death."
Via Kottke.


  1. Another, better known FLW house in LA is the Ennis-Brown house. It's privately owned, but is much better known since it has been used in many many movies and television shows. In some cases, the set designers have recreated major parts of the house in studios.

    So, that's why the Hollyhock House seems very familiar.

  2. Wow, I find this design much more stunning and indicative of his architectural prowess than Falling Water. But when I look at info for Falling Water it says it his best 'natural' design, lol.


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