Los Angeles Architecture: 25 Historic Buildings

On the international stage, Los Angeles is known as the entertainment capital of the world. What those unfamiliar with the city may not realize, is that Los Angeles is a mecca for award-winning architecture.

In this post, we’ll take a look at 25 of the most iconic Los Angeles buildings. You’ll recognize some of them from films but we’ve included some hidden gems as well. Our list is curated from Curbed and LA Mag.

Los Angeles Architecture: 25 Historic Examples

1. Griffith Observatory

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When many people think of Hollywood, they think of the iconic sign on Mount Lee. For decades, tourists looking to get a breathtaking look at that sign have ventured to Griffith Observatory

It’s an Art Deco masterpiece offering unrivaled views of Los Angeles — and the stars.

The Griffith Observatory was only the third observatory and planetarium facility in the world when it was built in the 1930s. The project was both influenced by and a testament to America’s current economic state. The Depression was in full swing, materials were cheap, which is a large reason the structure only cost $400,000 to complete.

Architects made sure to source labor and materials from the Los Angeles area to create employment opportunities.

Location: 2800 E Observatory Road, Los Angeles CA 90027

Completed: 1935

Architect: John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley

2. Watts Towers

The Watts Towers Arts Center takes contemporary art to new heights — literally. Nestled within the Simon Rodia State Historic Park, the display includes 17 towers designed by Italian-American artist Simon Rodia. The display resides on his property in Los Angeles and has several distinctions, including places on the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument list and National Register of Historic Places in Los Angeles.

Location: 1727 E 107th St, Lost Angeles, CA 90002

Completed: 1955

Architect: Simon Rodia

3. Chateau Marmont

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Chateau Marmont is the work of European-trained architect William Douglas Lee. Opened in 1929, it was originally an apartment complex. It wasn’t long before it became a hotel renowned for attracting the biggest celebrities of the day, though.

It’s not hard to see why; its design is the very definition of enduring, having survived numerous earthquakes and changes in design taste. The modern iteration was renovated by André Balazs in 1990.

Location: 8221 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Completed: 1929

Architect: William Douglas Lee

4. Saint Basil Catholic Church

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Saint Basil Catholic Church on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Kingsley Drive is one of the most popular Los Angeles buildings in the brutalist architectural style. The structure was designed to be reminiscent of early monasteries with its inornate exterior surface and cavernous yet inviting interior.

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As with many of the other historic Los Angeles buildings on this list, the Saint Basil Catholic Church is award-winning. It received the Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects in 1973.

Location: 3611 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90005

Completed: 1969

Architect: A.C. Martin & Assoc.

5. Fox Plaza

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As far as Los Angeles skyscrapers go, it doesn’t get much more iconic than Fox Plaza, perhaps best-known internationally as the setting of the film Die Hard.

Beyond this, the building’s unique structure is renowned among engineers as well. In a 2018 interview, an engineer familiar with Fox Plaza pointed out that it contains numerous structural redundancies, including four massive chillers — three more than you’ll typically find in buildings.

The engineer’s speculation is that this and other redundancies were implemented to make the building look better on camera.

Location: 2121 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Completed: 1987

Architect: Johnson, Fain and Pereira Associates

6. Union Station

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Union Station is another classic example of downtown Los Angeles architecture. It is the starting point of many Los Angeles architecture tours for reasons other than its central location. It combines the very best qualities of Mission Revival, Art Deco, and Spanish Colonial architecture. 

Historians and architecture experts have hailed it as one of America’s last great train stations.

Location: 800 N Alameda St. Los Angeles, CA 90012

Completed: 1939

Architect: John and Donald Parkinson

7. Eastern Columbia Building

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This is one of the most distinctive downtown Los Angeles buildings. It exemplifies the grandeur of the Art Deco style. Experts, in fact, hail it as one of the greatest pieces of Art Deco architecture in Los Angeles. With its bright terra cotta tiles and giant clock tower, the building is impossible to miss within Los Angeles’ Historic Core.

Location: 849 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Completed: 1930

Architect: Claud Beelman

8. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was designed by Frank Gehry, a man whose name is as synonymous with architecture as the building’s namesake is with entertainment.

Within the building’s design, you can observe one of Gehry’s signatures; curvaceous metallic surfaces. It is hailed as one of the best examples of downtown Los Angeles architecture occupying the Deconstructivism style.

Location: 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Completed: 2003

Architect: Frank Gehry

9. The Getty Center

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As one of the city’s most popular museums, The Getty Center gives new meaning to the classification of historic Los Angeles buildings. Architect Richard Meier designed the facility, which houses the Getty Museum and other programs associated with the trust.

The structure blends seamlessly with its natural surroundings. Meier incorporated two ridges in the landscape that serve to divide its galleries and administrative buildings.

Los Angeles architecture tours also frequently include stops at this location, which offers a stunning view of the city, from its urban layout to the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Location: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049

Completed: 1997

Architect: Richard Meier

10. Pico House

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Naturally, a walk through Los Angeles architecture history is a walk through the area’s heritage. Pico House was commissioned by California’s last Mexican ruling governor, businessman Pio Pico. At the time, it was Southern California’s most luxurious hotel. Its Victorian architectural styling continues to be popular among photographers.

Location: 430 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Completed: 1879

Architect: Ezra F. Kysor

11. LAX Theme Building

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Theme Building at LAX International Airport looks more like an alien movie prop from nearby Hollywood than an actual building. Its design was influenced by the Populuxe style of architecture. Its additions to that style are considered a classic example of modern mid-Century design that would eventually come to be known as Googie architecture.

Googie architecture is characterized by dramatic and bold angles. Experts describe structures exhibiting it (including the LAX Theme Building) as “exaggerated” and futuristic.

Location: 201 World Way, Westchester, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Completed: 1961

Architect: Pereira & Luckman Architects, Paul Williams, and Welton Becket

12. Hollywood Bowl

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

No look at Los Angeles architecture history would be complete without mention of the Hollywood Bowl, which remains one of the city’s most popular entertainment venues. The outdoor amphitheater is situated within a natural auditorium, leading to its popularity for outdoor festivals and events.

Location: 2301 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Completed: 1922

Architect: Hodgetts & Fung Gruen Associates

13. The Stahl House

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Case Study House project was part of an effort between the 1940s and 1960s to design affordable homes that kept up with the increased demand for housing following World War II.

Some of the era’s most prominent architects contributed to the project, including Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, and Ralph Rapson.

The Stahl House is one of the finest surviving examples of these structures. Pierre Koenig designed it in a modernist style (as was customary for the Case Study Houses). In 2013, its historical provenance was recognized and the Stahl House earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Location: 1635 Woods Dr, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Completed: 1960

Architect: Pierre Koenig

14. Capitol Records Tower

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Capitol Records Tower is another example of Googie architecture in Los Angeles. It is a 13-story tower that is as emblematic of the West Coast as the record company it houses. Experts have historically stated that the building resembles a stack of records, with the antenna representing a spindle. This was apparently not the designer’s intention.

Location: 1750 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Completed: 1956

Architect: Welton Becket and Louis Naidorf

15. Dodger Stadium

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The fan-favorite Dodger Stadium was designed by architect Emil Praeger of Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury. It is one of the most historic downtown Los Angeles buildings due to its longtime association with the baseball team and its owner Walter O’Malley.

Architecturally, it is a beautiful example of a futuristic venue from the mid-Century.

Location: 1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Completed: 1962

Architect: Emil Praeger

16. Dolby Theatre

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Art Deco Dolby Theatre is a favorite venue among heavily-viewed broadcast TV events such as the Academy Awards. Among the other items on this list, the Dolby Theatre is fairly new, having opened in 2001.

Location: 6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

Completed: 2001

Architect: David Rockwell

17. Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites is Los Angeles’ largest hotel complex. It is an example of Postmodern architecture. Its embodiment of Postmodern America has been explored heavily by authors and critics such as Frederic Jameson.

Location: 404 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Completed: 1976

Architect: John C. Portman Jr.

18. Bradbury Building

“The interior of the Bradbury Building (Los Angeles, California).”

Despite being designed and constructed in 1893, the Bradbury Building is one of Los Angeles’ go-to filming locations for scenes requiring a futuristic flair. It exhibits an Italian Renaissance Revival style of architecture and is renowned for its European cathedral-esque atrium.

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Location: 304 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Completed: 1893

Architect: George H. Wyman and Sumner Hunt

19. The Beverly Hilton

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Beverly Hilton has been a staple of American culture since its opening in the 1950s. The modernist structure has welcomed Presidents and more celebrities than one could possibly count. 

Location: 9876 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Completed: 1955

Architect: Welton Becket

20. Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles City Hall is yet another example of historic downtown Los Angeles buildings in the Art Deco style. This wasn’t the architects’ intention, though. Rather, they aimed to create the building in a new “Modern American” style that did not lean too heavily on existing aesthetics.

Its many setbacks are unmistakably Art Deco, however, and locals don’t mind at all; Los Angeles City Hall is one of the most beloved structures in the city. Its shape adorns city paperwork.

Location: 200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Completed: 1928

Architect: Austin, Parkinson and Martin

21. Randy’s Donuts

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Randy’s Donuts in the Inglewood neighborhood is a quirky fan-favorite that has graced numerous films, TV shows, and music videos.

The shop itself harkens back to classic U.S. drive-in restaurants of the 1950s. The giant donut on the building’s roof has frequently been referenced as a classic piece of programmatic architecture.

Location: 805 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, CA 90301

Completed: 1953

Architect: Henry J. Goodwin

22. TCL Chinese Theatre

Sid Grauman, the creator of the TCL Chinese Theatre, was inspired to create an interpretation of Chinese architecture after traveling the world. He is also known for having created the area’s other most popular themed film venue, the Egyptian Theatre.

California-based Behr Bowers Architects modernized the building in 2000, implementing improved film technology and earthquake-proof design cues.

Location: 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

Completed: 1926

Architect: Raymond M. Kennedy

23. Rose Bowl

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Rose Bowl is important for many reasons. Architecturally, it embodies classical Greek and Roman styles merged with trends in American event venues around that era.

Culturally speaking, the Rose Bowl is also significant because it is the embodiment of an era in which football was becoming an integral part of American entertainment.

Location: 1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103

Completed: 1922

Architect: Myron Hunt

24. Gamble House

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Gamble House is a perfect example of the American Craftsman architectural style that was becoming popular in the United States at the time (and would remain so into the 1930s). 

It incorporates some components of Japanese architecture. David B. Gamble (of Procter & Gamble fame) had the Gamble House constructed as a summer home for himself in the early 1900s.

Location: 4 Westmoreland Pl, Pasadena, CA 91103

Completed: 1909

Architect: Greene and Greene

25. Los Angeles Times Building

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Last but certainly not least on this list of iconic Los Angeles architecture, we have the LA Times building. It is another shining example of Art Deco architecture in Los Angeles, with a design by Gordon B. Kaufmann. One of the interior’s most impressive features is a giant iconic globe.

Location: 202 W 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Completed: 1935

Architect: Gordon B. Kaufmann

Articles in category: architecture

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