Palm-lined facade of LACMA in Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles by Design: A Guide to Must-See Architecture in LA

Abundant in natural beauty and diverse heritage, it’s no surprise that Los Angeles has amassed an impressive portfolio of landmarks designed by some of the most prestigious names in architecture around the world.

From artfully designed spaces to structural marvels, Southern California’s most iconic buildings are located less than an hour from Malibu Beach Inn. Here are five of our favorites scattered throughout the city limits and worth a visit.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Downtown Los Angeles

Walt Disney Concert Hall at sunset in Los Angeles, California

In a grand gesture in honor of the late Walt Disney’s love for the arts and the city, the media mogul’s widow Lillian donated $50 million in 1987 for Los Angeles to build an impeccable performance venue. Sixteen years (and $224 million) later, the Walt Disney Concert Hall opened for the first time, and has since hosted countless performances from groups like the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale — both of whom proudly call the venue home.

Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the concert hall’s exterior was originally intended to be made of stone. However, due to the popular acclaim of his titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum unveiled in Bilbao, Spain just a few years earlier, the architect chose to craft a metal façade into the curving sails that now captivate visitors from all over the world.

Inside, the concert hall features a large, naturally illuminated lobby that Gehry intended to be a “living room for the city” and an all-inclusive hub of activity. The auditorium beyond, lit in a pink twilight glow and lined in warm wood, was designed in collaboration with worldwide acoustic pioneer Minoru Nagata to accentuate an ideal sound flow and reverberation. Anchored with a beautiful organ that conjures scenes from Fantasia, the space features panoramic vineyard-style seating to break barriers between audience and orchestra and provide a more intimate musical experience.

Photo: Los Angeles Philharmonic 

Hollyhock House

East Hollywood

The exterior of the Hollyhock House in East Hollywood, California

A centerpiece of Barnsdall Art Park in East Hollywood, the Hollyhock House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a residence for oil baroness Aline Barnsdall. Wright’s first Los Angeles commission, the structure was completed in 1921 as an homage to California’s natural beauty, ushering in an era of California Modernism. At Barnsdall’s request, the legendary architect integrated the hollyhock (her favorite flower) into various features of the building’s design.

To achieve a modern style befitting the region, Wright drew on influences from the past. Invoking pre-Columbian Mexico through inclined upper walls and colonnades of stone, the building resembles a Mayan temple from the outside. Honoring Barnsdall’s desire for a layout that was “half house, half garden,” the dwelling is situated around a central courtyard, and most rooms within have adjoining access to myriad porches and pergolas with views of Hollywood Hills. Inside, 17 spacious rooms and seven bathrooms are connected with tight corridors lined in warm wood and punctuated with patchworks of ornate stone.

In the decades since Barnsdall’s passing, the Hollyhock House has become a city-owned icon and UNESCO-nominated site, as well as the focal point of a vibrant arts center complete with a gallery, theater, and all-season art classes. In an effort to make this storied landmark accessible to everyone, Barnsdall Park recently teamed up with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department on Disability, and virtual reality company AVA Inclusivity to launch a virtual experience tour of the Hollyhock House coming in early 2019.

Photo: jwpictures.com

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Miracle Mile

The front exterior of LACMA in Los Angeles, California

A confluence of architectural feats over the last half-century, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has long held prestige as the largest art museum in the western United States. Part of the city’s Museum Row, LACMA is home to more than 150,000 historical and modern works, as well as regular exhibitions, film showings, and concerts.

Debuted in 1965 with three pool-lined pavilions designed by William Pereira, the building mirrored architectural styles of then-recent structures like the Lincoln Center in New York and the Music Center in downtown LA. In 1975, the museum’s surrounding waterscape was replaced with a three-acre sculpture garden by local landscape architect Howard Troller, featuring a Craig Elwood spiral staircase, nine Rodin bronze statues from Cantor Arts Center, and works from modernist virtuosos like Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, David Smith, and John Mason.

Promoting a harmonious aesthetic experience throughout the complex, continual enhancements to the buildings and grounds have been an ongoing ritual since the early 1980s, with a more recent palm garden addition by Robert Irwin in 2005. In the newest proposal — currently in the final stages of fundraising $600 million — Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor envisions a horizontal building stretching along the east side of the campus. Roofed in solar panels with a gently curving exterior wrapped in glass from floor to ceiling, Zumthor’s addition will not only be sustainable, it will also make art installations visible from the outside.

Photo: LACMA

The Gamble House

Pasadena

Exterior of the Gamble House in Los Angeles, California

A manifestation of the American Craftsman style of architecture, the Gamble House was completed in 1909 as the private home to the heir of the Procter & Gamble Company. Designed by the architectural firm Greene and Greene, the three-story house purveys a fusion of traditional Japanese style and spaciousness inspired by California’s land and climate.

Combining an abundance of natural materials with aesthetic craftsmanship, the Gamble House integrates seamlessly with the themes of its rustic surroundings. A reflection of the Gamble family’s love of nature, the building’s interior surfaces of wood, metal, glass, and stone are adorned with designs of flowers and trees. Its vine-laden exterior, on the other hand, appears to emerge from the landscape as if the structure itself were growing from a grassy knoll.

Today, the house is a National Historic Landmark and museum that’s owned by the city of Pasadena and operated by the University of Southern California. Guests are invited to go behind the scenes with an in-depth tour from the museum’s docents, conducted several times per week.

Photo: ©Alexander Vertikoff | Vertikoff Archive

Pacific Design Center

West Hollywood

Blue Whale building in the Pacific Design Center in California

Spanning 1.6 million square feet, the Pacific Design Center has been a haven for the West Coast design community for the past 48 years. Apart from 100 multi-use showrooms featuring 2,200 interior product lines, the complex houses workshops, restaurants, and a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The initial campus, which was designed by architect César Pelli in collaboration with Norma Merrick Sklarek (the first female African-American architect to be licensed in the US), was a hulking building covered in a brilliant blue glass. Even before its green-and-red sibling structures were erected in 1988 and 2013, respectively, the original building came to be aptly known as the Blue Whale for its stark size and color. Most recently, in addition to various screenings, exhibitions, lectures, meetings, and special events, the Blue Whale’s interiors have provided various films sets for the HBO series Westworld.

Photo: Gary Minnaert via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY

 

Featured Photo: LACMA

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