Whether it’s mansions in the hills built by architectural legends or skyscrapers that define the downtown skyline, there are many architectural attractions that even locals haven’t taken the time to investigate (and they should!).
Monument / Landmark in West Hollywood, CA, United States
Designed by architect César Pelli, this tricolor complex opened in phases. The blue building debuted in 1975, followed by the green one in 1988, and the red in 2012. Besides office space, the campus features two restaurants helmed by Wolfgang Puck, a 380-seat film venue and reception facility, and a Michael Graves–designed fitness center.
The downtown venue for live music and other nightlife is a show in itself—the artist Francisco Cornejo sculpted the façade to reference pre-Columbian architecture, a popular Art Deco theme that continues in the tomblike interiors. Its over-the-top stylings are a throwback to the excesses of the roaring ’20s.
Monument / Landmark in Los Angeles, CA, United States
Over the course of more than three decades, Italian-born construction worker Simon Rodia built these 17 monumental structures (the tallest standing at nearly 100 feet) from rebar and an array of other found objects, producing one of the most acclaimed and recognizable works of Outsider Art. The Watts Towers are now a National Historic Landmark.
L.A.’s anchor arts institution condenses so many icons of Southern California in one place, including the architecture of William Pereira, the plant-based art of Robert Irwin, and a forest of street lamps installed by the late Chris Burden that greets you even before you enter the building.
Its four-story Beaux Arts design composition was based upon the European Renaissance palaces, which in turn were modeled after the classical column with a base, shaft and capital. For 1928, this conservative architectural style, as the more modern Art Deco style, was fashionable. The original windows have been replaced, but the interior lobby retains some of its earliest, richly ornamental Spanish Revival architectural themes.
Maltzan takes the typical low-slung courtyard building and unfurls it into a long white ribbon that arcs into the air. Part ramparts, part live-in viaduct, part toppled skyscraper, this almost comically long and narrow complex divides the Arts District, with its warehouses turned galleries, from the train yards and the concrete-encased river.
The new Broad sits between a row of century-old olive trees and Gehry’s Disney Hall. The porous concrete veil fitted over the boxlike museum evokes a host of SoCal associations: the 1964 American Cement Building, Gehry’s early experiments with chain-link fences, and the screens that cover parking garages all over the city.
The Northridge Earthquake of 1994 damaged the beachfront estate built by William Randolph Hearst. The white Colonial guesthouse still stands, though, and the 1920s pool is now the centerpiece of a very un-Hearst-like community beach house. The design is both nostalgic and exuberantly contemporary, a monument to the tasteful democratization of play.
L.A. spent much of the 20th century stinting on downtown public space; now it’s trying to make amends. This sumptuously landscaped park in Santa Monica includes palm-lined allées, ramps that clamber over a drought-defying fountain, and a pair of egg-shaped stainless-steel arbors from which to watch the sun set over the Pacific.
Tourist Attraction in Los Angeles, CA, United States
Googie architecture — the mid-century L.A. look of speed, space, and car culture — is reborn in the cherry-red box topped with steel swirls. Diagonally across Wilshire Boulevard from the famous, space-age Johnie’s Coffee Shop, by Armet & Davis, the museum nods to the glory days of running boards and fins, without actually looking old-fashioned.