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Look, if we could fit every theater on Broadway into this list, we would, because they’re all sumptuous and wonderful (and if you ever get a chance to see a show inside, jump on it), but since the Los Angeles Theater is undoubtedly the most opulent, it gets the top spot.
Griffith J. Griffith may have shot his wife in the face (she somehow survived), but that didn’t stop the city from accepting his gift of a beautiful public observatory with his name on it.
Architect: John Bakewell and Arthur Brown, Jr. Completed: 1927
The small-scale elements on the façade enhance the existing streetscape and promote a lively pedestrian environment. By visually breaking up the façade into smaller articulated elements, the building appears to move with the passing cars and people.
Pío Pico was the last Mexican governor of California, and the hotel he ordered to be built in 1869 was the finest in Los Angeles. It’s now a historic landmark on Olvera Street.
John Lautner’s incredible concrete and glass masterpiece (you remember it from The Big Lebowski) is owned by basketball superfan James Goldstein, who recently donated the house to LACMA.
This is the iconic mid-century modern home, boasting matchless views over the city through its glass walls. If you do any architectural house tour in Los Angeles, make it this one.
4 | The spectacular house holds a highly contrasting architectural environment where romance meets sophistication in a truly contemporary and dramatic fashion; Michael Palumbo chose to implement a tasteful â€œwhite chocolate, dark chocolateâ€ theme using some of the finest imported materials, such as Hera Limestone from the Sinai Peninsula, Wenge wood, Super Thassos tiles, custom-engineered Renlita doors, and German-made Schucco windows.
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15 | The master bedroom covers the entire third floor, allowing plenty of space for his and hers closets, a huge glass fireplace, spa bathroom, and its own outdoor deck.
Designed by Schindler in early ’20s to be an experiment in shared living (he and his wife Pauline shared it with another couple), the residence basically set the stage for Southern California modernism.
Brothers Charles and Henry Greene, masters of the Craftsman style, designed this classic Pasadena bungalow with its Southern California setting in mind, and yes there are multiple “sleeping porches.”
7 | An open-plan living, dining and kitchen area take advantage of the amazing view on offer outside. Whilst inside, superb Italian lacquered cabinetry and integrated state-of-the-art appliances add to the luxury.
Los Angeles has always been a city of whimsy and experimentation. Ours is a landscape dotted with fantastical castles built by dreamers who moved west. And have you seen the mid-century modern homes scattered among the hills? (Show of hands, who’s just here for the mid-century modern stuff?) Not to mention we’re home to world class architects and contemporary innovators cooking up solutions to the problems of homelessness and urbanization. Granted, there’s aprox. a billion more incredible buildings here that could have made this list, but hey, we’re finite people in an infinitely fascinating city, and we had to start somewhere. So without further ado, and in no particular order…
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A. BasinStunning Costa Rican House With A Spectacular Coastal View
Brad Buter, Silke Clemens, Ching Luk, Matt Majack, Luis Gomez, Omar Barcena, Dan Safarik, Gwynne Pugh
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Architect: Armet & Davis, interior by Helen Fong Completed: 1957
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40 | A 5-car ‘museum’ automatically detect your arrival and open an accordion door.
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The new tallest building in Los Angeles (if you count that spire).
This Wayne McAllister-designed monument to double-decker hamburgers is the oldest remaining Big Boy restaurant.
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In 1771 Spanish Franciscans founded the fourth of California’s 21 missions. Refer to the nearest fourth-grader for additional information.
Elizabeth Taylor spent six of her eight honeymoons in Bungalow 5 at the pink palace.
Architect: Sumner P. Hunt and George H. Wyman Completed: 1893
One of the many reasons Frank Gehry is considered the world’s greatest living architect.
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Built into the side of a cliff in Los Feliz, this is first steel frame house in the United States and widely considered one of the most important homes of the 20th century.
The single best thing about driving on the 101 is that moment when the Capitol Records building comes into view with its dramatic spire (that red light at the tip constantly blinks out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code).
Step Up on Fifth was awarded the following: AIA California Council Design Merit Award, 2010, AIA National Institute Honor Award for Architecture, 2010 AIA National Housing Award, 2010 Residential Architect Merit Award, 2010 AIA Honor Award, 2010 LA Design Awards: Merit: Multifamily, 2009 Westside Urban Forum Prize.
At the second level above the retail space two private courtyards provide residents with a secure and welcoming surrounding while connecting directly to 5th street and downtown Santa Monica via a secured stairway integrated into the building storefront at street level. Community rooms are located on every other floor of the project overlooking the private courtyards protected from the street. These community rooms along with the private courtyards serve as the principal social spaces for the tenants of the building.
Every world class city needs at least one vaguely Egypt-themed library, right?
Though it’s now the West Coast’s second-tallest building, it still boasts the highest observation deck.
Another of the city’s finest examples of the Art Deco style, its turquoise terra cotta exterior and neon-lit clocktower make it an unmissable downtown landmark.
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This lustrous Art Deco gem pulls all the stops—zigzags, starbursts (the design, not the candy), gold and silver adornments, and deco chandeliers. Howard Hughes owned it for a spell, and it played host to the Academy Awards all through ’50s.
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13 | Careful combinations have resulted in a masterpiece that holds beautiful transitional spaces that include a wine cellar and wet-bar that can be seen through glass floors, enticing you just a few meters from the main floor foyer.
Architect: Elmer Grey, with an expansion by Paul R. Williams in the 1940s Completed: 1912
The glass ceiling, Victorian court, and ornate wrought iron railings within downtown treasure were inspired by the utopian sci-fi novel, Looking Backward, which explains why the building shows up so much in Blade Runner.
In the late ’50s, Los Angeles was the place for the funky, space-age Googie style exemplified by this Armet & Davis-designed coffee shop.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s most impressive “textile-block” house was built with more than 27,000 patterned concrete blocks. It’s one of the finest examples of Mayan Revival architecture out there.
The mismatched collection of galleries has been through plenty of updates to William Pereira’s original design—including work by contemporary “starchitect” Renzo Piano—but Bruce Goff’s whimsical, right angle-devoid Pavilion for Japanese Art is the most unique.
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Pretty much indisputably the world’s most glorious mid-century bowling alley.
Sketch Section Section Plan Plan Plan Plan Plan Sketch Sketch Sketch Plan Elevation Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
The cream-colored stone (16,000 tons of Italian travertine, to be specific) that encrusts the exterior of Richard Meier’s modern masterwork glows beautifully in the Los Angeles dusk.
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Conceived as part of an arts complex for oil heiress Aline Barnsdale, it’s the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in L.A. that offers interior tours, and it’s unique for its temple-like layout and abstracted hollyhock motif.
The Mediterranean-style monument has graced the city of Pasadena for 80 years and your Instagram feed for at least five.
A striking yet light-hearted exterior makes the new building a welcome landmark in downtown Santa Monica. Custom water jet-anodized aluminum panels on the main façade creates a dramatic screen that sparkles in the sun and glows at night, while also acting as sun protection and privacy screens. The material reappears as a strategic arrangement of screens on east and south-facing walls, lending a subtle rhythm to the exterior circulation walkways and stairs. South-facing walls filter direct sunlight with asymmetrical horizontal openings that lend unexpected visual depth while creating a sense of security for the emotionally sensitive occupants. Enhancing the structure’s geometric texture, the irregular array of openings variably extrudes from the building’s surface.
USC’s first football game here was on October 6, 1923 (they beat Pomona 27-3). The stadium has since hosted two Olympics, two Super Bowls, and one World Series.
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Designed by the same architect who built Pico house, the cathedral was vacated by the Archdiocese after the Northridge quake, but was saved by preservationists. It now functions as an event space and houses the restaurant Redbird.
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Despite being a paradigm of brutalist architecture, the building—with its angular concrete columns and aggressive stained glass windows—makes for an unexpectedly serene sacred space.
The victorian mansion looms over Franklin Avenue and has served as home base for an exclusive society of magicians since 1963.
Designed in a style dubbed “Modern American” by one of its architects, it was meant to be a synthesis of multiple styles (though it largely falls under the Art Deco umbrella).
Kaufmann, the guy who designed the Hoover Dam, won a gold medal at the 1937 Paris Exposition for the Times building, which includes a gilded lobby with a massive globe that’s open to the public.
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27 | A separate guesthouse is accessed by glass-enclosed spiral staircase. The off-shot even has its own writing studio and gym with bar!
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Step Up on 5th distinguishes itself from most conventionally developed projects in that it incorporates energy efficient measures that exceed standard practice, optimize building performance, and ensure reduced energy use during all phases of construction and occupancy. The planning and design of Step Up on 5th emerged from close consideration and employment of passive design strategies. These strategies include: locating and orienting the building to control solar cooling loads; shaping and orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds; shaping the building to induce buoyancy for natural ventilation; designing windows to maximize day lighting; shading south facing windows and minimizing west-facing glazing; designing windows to maximize natural ventilation; utilizing low flow fixtures and storm water management; shaping and planning the interior to enhance daylight and natural air flow distribution. These passive strategies alone make this building 50% more efficient than a conventionally designed structure.
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Though it may not be the oldest building in Los Angeles (that one earned a spot on our greatest hidden gems list), the Olvera Street landmark is perfectly emblematic of the first houses built here by Spanish settlers.
Eisenshtat’s Expressionist temple was built to house Southern California’s first conservative Jewish congregation.
In the mid-1800s, when everyone else around him lived in adobe haciendas, Banning (the guy who built L.A.’s first railroad) constructed himself a Greek Revival mansion. It’s now a museum.
It’s designed in the Streamline Moderne style and is intended to look like a ship—complete with portholes, catwalk, and bridge.
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Employing visionary Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome design, the theater is now part of the Arclight Hollywood.
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Architect: Armet & Davis, interior by Helen Fong Completed: 1958
An absolute paradigm of Art Deco design, the building housed the nation’s first car-centric department store (there were huge display windows in front, and a ton of parking out back).
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ArchDaily Projects Healthcare Architecture United States Brooks + Scarpa 2009 Step Up on Fifth / Brooks + Scarpa Step Up on Fifth / Brooks + Scarpa 00:00 – 29 November, 2010
Though the building is currently facing demolition, it was designed by Welton Becket in the International Style in 1955 as a symbolic step into the modern world for the historically corrupt LAPD. The department moved into their new DTLA headquarters in 2009.
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The actual future doesn’t deserve this gloriously futuristic 1970s hotel.
Architect: Paul Williams, William Pereira, and Welton Becket Completed: 1961
Architect: John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley Completed: 1935
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Cite: “Step Up on Fifth / Brooks + Scarpa” 29 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed .
A box of dorms hidden behind a metal scrim encloses a hive of classrooms and offices—all brought to you by Thom Mayne’s Morphosis Architects. No matter how nicely you ask, the security guard won’t let you inside.
Pet project of world class architect Cesar Pelli, the buildings bring some bold color to West Hollywood.
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Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo eschews tradition for a deconstructivist church designed to be reflective of the city’s diversity.
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Text description provided by the architects. Step Up on 5th is a bright new spot in downtown Santa Monica. A 2010 AIA Honor Award winner, the building provides a home, support services, and rehabilitation for the homeless and mentally disabled population. The new structure provides 46 studio apartments of permanent affordable housing. The project also includes ground level commercial/retail space and subterranean parking.
With its eye-catching neon sign, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, flagstone walls, and one hell of a roofline, this is the purest of Googie.
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If you’re downtown at night, there’s nothing more serene than a walk around the rectangular pool surrounding the LADWP headquarters.
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14 | When the inhabitants are done enjoying the stunning skyline from the sun deck, infinity pool and hot tub, evenings can be whiled away in the private cinema room that holds seating for eleven people.
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3 | It was envisioned that a home encased with glass, smooth flowing space from room to room, and inside to out, was the architectural answer to the splendid location.
A Guide to the 100 Stunning Architectural Gems of L.A. The burnished splendor of Art Deco. The clean grace of Modernism. When it comes to architecture, our city is a wonderland
Situated in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, atop three tiers of hillside garden borders that have been carved into the hillside in a sweeping stepped arrangement, 1201 Laurel Way is a vast home in an impressive self-contained enclosure. Downtown Los Angeles, Catalina, and the coastline of California are sprawled out in stunning view from this home, and it is this view that became the inspiration for the build team: developer Richard Papalian, designer Michael Palumbo, and architect Marc Whipple.
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Mariachi musicians used to pack out the hotel and then perform in the plaza (now Mariachi Plaza) across the street. And yeah, we can all agree that more buildings should have a Queen Anne-style turret like this one.
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The building is loaded with energy-saving and environmentally benign or “sustainable” devices. Materials conservation and recycling were employed during construction by requiring waste to be hauled to a transfer station for recycling. The overall project achieved a 71% recycling rate. Specifying carpet, insulation and concrete with a recycled content, and utilizing all-natural linoleum flooring also emphasized resource conservation. The project uses compact fluorescent lighting throughout the building and double-pane windows that have a low-E coating. Each apartment is equipped with water-saving low flow toilets and a high-efficiency hydronic system for heat. While California has the most stringent energy efficient requirements in the United States, Step Up incorporates numerous sustainable features that exceeded state mandated Title 24 energy measures by 26%. Although not submitted at this time, the project has followed the LEED certification process and would receive 39 points making it equivalent to LEED “Gold”.
For a while there, L.A. was really into that whole building-shaped-like-a-giant-food-item thing.