45 Fascinating and Unconventional Landmarks That Define Los Angeles

Underrated. Overlooked. Whatever you want to call them, these offbeat icons will introduce you to the other L.A.
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Los Angeles is defined in the popular consciousness by its more recognizable landmarks: the majesty of the Hollywood Sign, the grandeur of the TCL Chinese Theatre, the charm of the Santa Monica Pier, the impressiveness of our highways’ stack interchanges. Spend an extended amount of time here, though, and those sights begin to fade into the background, allowing for some of the city’s less obvious architectural wonders to make themselves known. At worst, these places have been maligned or overlooked; at best, they’re beloved among smaller, more niche subsets of Angelenos (think historic preservationists, or connoisseurs of the offbeat and obscure). But it’s high time we extol the buildings, sculptures, and roadside attractions that prove there’s more to this town than meets the eye. Ready to explore?


1.-5. Hayden Tract

hayden tract samitaur tower los angeles
Samitaur Tower

Tom Bonner

Tell most people there’s a hidden alcove of architectural wonderment in Culver City, and they won’t know what you’re talking about. It’s a campus known as the Hayden Tract, and it has been growing for more than three decades—a bevy of decrepit warehouses reconceived as 1 million square feet of creative office space and restaurants by architect Eric Owen Moss, and developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith. Think of Moss as something like an urban Picasso, a master whose style could be described as Deconstructivist or Postmodern (it certainly embodies the “less is bore” spirit of the late Robert Venturi, a stalwart of the latter movement). In any case, Moss’s astonishing constructions are proof that there’s fun to be had with glass, steel, and concrete. Take a closer look at five of Hayden Tract’s most intriguing structures. >Thomas Harlander

Pterodactyl (2015)

The jumbled silver boxes piled on top of an otherwise ordinary parking garage look like decor, but in reality the hollowed-out cubes house 20,000 square feet of offices—if those offices were out of Tim Burton’s dream journal. Each workspace on the upper floors is nestled among slanted beams and off-kilter walls, and the portals between rooms are askew. 3540 Hayden Ave.

Beehive (2001)

Embedded in the front of a street-facing office building, the hive structure is covered with overlapping titanium-zinc paneling, like a fat, distended telescope (Moss intended that the design appear to be kinetic despite the fact that it’s not). The space is home to a conference room encircled by a spiral staircase that leads to an open-air deck up top. 8520 National Blvd.

 Waffle (2016)

An exoskeleton of crosshatched red steel plates inset with glass panels surrounds the structural framework of the 55-foot, three-story building, which was built as a response to Moss’s open-air Cactus Tower (stop by the latter to see more than 20 cactus planters suspended in mid-air). Upstairs is chef Jordan Kahn’s avant-garde dining destination Vespertine. Kahn said he had originally envisioned the restaurant as an “artifact from an extraterrestrial planet”—at more than $350 a person, the price tag is definitely otherworldly. 3599 Hayden Ave.

Umbrella (1999)

The tangle of steel pipes that juts from the corner of this building was initially conceived as a performance balcony for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. When the orchestra bailed, Moss opted to stick with the design, and pioneered the use of curving, laminated glass for the canopy. 3542 Hayden Ave.

 Samitaur Tower (2011)

The breezy tower, a 72-foot assemblage of offset steel rings, marks- the entrance to the complex and sets the tone for what’s to come. Ascend via stairs or elevator (it’s the only edifice on the campus that’s accessible to the public) for views over the entire tract and nearby Expo Line. Hayden Ave. and National Blvd.


6. Kate Mantilini

kate mantilini beverly hills

Thibaud Herem

Commissioned by Marilyn Lewis, cofounder of the old Hamburger Hamlet chain, Beverly Hills restaurant Kate Mantilini—opened in 1986 and named after a 1930s boxing promoter—was to be “a roadside steakhouse for the future, with a clock.” Deconstructivists Thom Mayne and his then-partner Michael Rotondi of powerhouse firm Morphosis drew inspiration from such disparate items as hot rods and chain-link fencing to design the restaurant, which was formerly a Wells Fargo bank.

To satisfy Lewis’s request for a clock, Mayne and Rotondi built the eatery around what looks like a sundial (in fact, it is an orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system). Its proximity to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater turned the place into a haunt for showbiz types, but it closed in 2014. As of today, its fate is uncertain. 9101 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. >Thomas Harlander


7.-13. The Seven Wonders of Valley

san fernando valley landmarks

Peter Hoey

The San Fernando Valley’s ranchos and adobes are some kind of
wonderful, but it’s the area’s roadside attractions and midcentury jewels—from neon clowns to onion-shaped churches—that have stolen our hearts. >Chris Nichols

Circus Liquor

That giant clown in the polka-dot jumpsuit has been beating his neon drum for 60 years, indelibly staking a claim to his corner of the Valley (perhaps you recognize him from Clueless?). Britelite Neon crafted the Auguste behemoth for Tony Hawara, the first of three generations of Hawaras to run the business. 5600 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood.

Bob’s Big Boy

bob's big boy los angeles

Lisa Corson

Before he created the first hotels on what would become the Las Vegas Strip, architect Wayne McAllister was designing drive-in restaurants all over Los Angeles that dispensed steaks, shakes, and pancakes via carhop. His Late Moderne masterpiece continues to radiate with neon and serves up double-decker hamburgers 24 hours a day. 4211 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank.

Magnolia Car Wash

Sixteen screaming-yellow fins pierce a slim canopy that floats over an endless line of rides being scrubbed and buffed before they cruise back onto the highway. This is among the best remaining examples of a Googie-style prototype common in the car culture era. 910 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 

Casa de Cadillac

Seventy years after it opened, the car dealership remains a pristine glass box as elegant as a vintage Coupe de Ville. The owners successfully rebuffed a corporate branding effort by General Motors and restored the slate floors, garden lanai, and towering neon sign back to their factory specs. 14401 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Van Nuys Savings & Loan

Architect Wenceslao Alfonso Sarmiento always had great faith in the future, whether he was creating cutting-edge designs in Brazil with Oscar Niemeyer or waiting to be rescued after a plane crash in his native Peru. His Organic Modern concrete dome—now known as L.A. Furniture Center—looks like 1957’s idea of 2019. 8201 Van Nuys Blvd., Panorama City.

Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society

The Unitarian community in North Hills was growing in the early 1960s, back when it hired Hungarian architect Frank Ehrenthal, a former student of Richard Neutra, to create a round building in which congregants could face each other. The bulbous dome later earned the nickname “The Onion.” 9550 Haskell Ave., North Hills.

Pink Motel

pink motel sun valley

Lisa Corson

When San Fernando Road was known as Highway 99, it was lined with gas, food, and lodging like this motel, built just after World War II. The only guests allowed these days are film crews, which have utilized the spot in productions ranging from Grease 2 to GLOW. 9457 San Fernando Rd., Sun Valley. >Chris Nichols


14. Tiki apartments

tiki apartments dingbat

Thibaud Herem

Contemporary apartment blocks have created a cityscape of cost-efficient blandmarks. L.A.’s dingbat apartments of the 1950s and ’60s—two-story boxcars with carports underneath—are baroque in comparison.

The most extravagant complexes went beyond luxe-sounding names written in lovely script, as was the case with Polynesian-esque units. The 1959 Tiki apartments in Redondo Beach embody the style, with a yellow-and-gold-tiled mosaic facade, carved wooden idols, and a stone god flanked by solemn-faced torches standing guard over the pool. >Sven Kirsten


15. Alex Theatre

alex theater glendale

Ben Duggan

“It feels special, like Christmas, when you go see a show there. It’s elegant and Art Deco and feels like it’s haunted. I saw a production of Scheherazade, and I’d love to see a pre-Hays Code film there—something like The Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich.” 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. >Margaret Cho, comedian and actress 

16. Donut King II

angelyne donut king II

Ben Duggan

“I imagine I have to feed my billboard because at night she walks around when nobody is looking. She eats that giant donut. There’s also a giant hot dog in a museum, and that big beer barrel in North Hollywood is adorable, although I would maybe paint them all pink.” 15032 S. Western Ave., Gardena. >Angelyne, entrepreneur

17. Velaslavasay Panorama

velaslayasay panorama

Ben Duggan

“One can’t help but be impressed by the panoramic viewing hall as well as their
amazing garden, complete with gazebo, located in the back. You can be filled with knowledge, wonder, and beauty all in one afternoon. As a wise man once said, ‘It’s
awesome!’” 1122 W. 24th St., University Park. >DJ Lance Rock, actor

18. Chase Bank, Hollywood

chase bank hollywood

Ben Duggan

“I first came to L.A. to do reviews on Entertainment Tonight, and we filmed across the street. I suspect that not one in a hundred people who walk by take note of this wonderful artwork that pays tribute to Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and the famous and forgotten of Hollywood.” 1500 N. Vine St., Hollywood. >Leonard Maltin, film critic

 19. Besant Lodge

besant lodge theosophical society moby

Ben Duggan

“It smells like aged wood and has beautiful stained-glass windows. It was home to Orson Welles’s theater group and is now a center for the Theosophical Society. It’s a perfect little time capsule from when L.A. was even more rustic and utopian than it is today.” 2560 N. Beachwood Dr., Beachwood Canyon. >Moby, DJ and musician

20. Sunset Foot Clinic

happy foot sad foot sunset foot clinic silver lake

Ben Duggan

“Legend has it that if you pass the rotating sign and you see the happy foot, you’re gonna have a good day. But if you see the sad foot, well—you’re fucked. I don’t believe in superstitions, but the foot has either been incredibly accurate or very good at psychologically influencing me.” 2711 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. >Charlene Yi, actress


21.-25. Compton

angeles abbey compton
Angeles Abbey

Lisa Corson

Compton is best known as the launch pad for iconic musicians like Kendrick Lamar, N.W.A, and The Game, but the south L.A. city’s architecture is something to sing about, too. No one knows that better than Mayor Aja Brown, who has a background in urban planning and has traversed Compton’s every nook and cranny during her six years at its helm. Here she gives us the scoop on a few stunning contributions to the Los Angeles landscape. >Zoie Matthew

Sportsman Bowl/Skateland U.S.A.

Compton native Woodley Lewis, one of the NFL’s first black players, started a bowling alley called the Sportsman Bowl here in 1962. After a fire in the ’70s, iconic roller rink Skateland U.S.A. took its place. “It was a place where the community came together regardless of any familial or gang ties,” says Brown. “Some of the city’s more prolific music groups, like N.W.A, were birthed there as well. So it wasn’t just a roller rink—it was a pinnacle for hip-hop in that era.” Today the structure is abandoned, but you can still check out its pale blue Googie-style details from the street. “It has concrete exterior pylons, and the roof kind of has a nice float,” says Brown. “Kids say it looks like a spaceship.” 1950 S. Central Ave.

Angeles Abbey Cemetery

The cemetery, opened in 1923, is home to an ornate 1,000-crypt mausoleum that makes it a popular (and spooky) location for film and TV shoots. “It was built using Spanish and Moorish architectural details,” says Brown. “Some portions were designed to mimic the Taj Mahal, and a big portion of the interior was built with imported Italian marble.” Over the years it has masqueraded onscreen as a palace, Middle Eastern bazaar, and even an airport. 1515 E. Compton Blvd.

MLK Transit Center

The transit and retail hub, which received a $12.6 million rebuild in 2012, is a stop on the Metro Blue Line that links Compton with Long Beach and DTLA. Though it’s one of the city’s newer civic buildings, the designers wanted it to feel cohesive with its surroundings. “It’s very modern, but it’s connected to Compton’s original architectural history,” says Brown. “It uses some of the same teak wood as the new community center, and the flat roof and exterior pylons are similar to City Hall’s.” Out front, towering metal letters spell out “COMPTON.” 275 N. Willowbrook Ave.

Rancho Dominguez Adobe

Compton is smack in the middle of what was then Rancho San Pedro, the first Spanish land grant in California. Gifted to by the Dominguez family in 1784, much of the area remains unincorporated to this day. “They kept the land in their family trust for generations, and it’s still in their family,” says Brown. On the site sits a thick-walled adobe home, which has been standing for over 170 years and these days is open to visitors as a museum. “There are artifacts from the family, furniture, clay fixtures, tools,” says Brown. “You learn a lot about the history of their family as well as the surrounding area.” 18127 Alameda St., Rancho Dominguez

Compton City Hall and Civic Center

Brown spends most of her time in this Late Modern edifice, which features concrete fins, floor-to-ceiling glass, and a reflecting pool. Completed in 1977, the complex was designed by L.A. transplant Harold L. Williams. “He was a prominent African American architect and spent some time in the city,” Brown says. “He definitely had a connection with the area.” The plaza’s most-eye-catching element is the King Memorial, a sweeping monument made of angled white planes that Williams created in collaboration with Canadian artist Gerald Gladstone. 205 S. Willowbrook Ave.

Watts Towers

Italian immigrant Simon Rodia spent 34 years single-handedly creating one of our most astounding pieces of public art: the Watts Towers. Three spires—the tallest of which stretches nearly ten stories into the sky—anchor a sprawling 17-part installation that Rodia built without plans or permits. Most of the components are made from pieces of salvaged steel, each of which Rodia bent into shape before applying thin coats of cement mortar and inlaying tiles, shells, and mirrors. He stopped building in 1954, but his project remains a remarkable addition to the L.A. skyline. >Marielle Wakim


27.-30. The Masterworks of Welton Becket

In the Midcentury Modern era, Welton Becket helmed the biggest firm in town and was arguably the defining designer of postwar corporate America. Cannily reactive to emergent patterns of living—automobile-enabled suburbanization chief among them—Becket honed a Tomorrowland-inflected vision of progress, and his stylistic vernacular became a local default. Most of his oeuvre could hardly be classified as underrated, but when traced to a single point of origin, it becomes the manifestation of an approach to building the modern city that has made Los Angeles what it is today. >Thomas Harlander

 Cinerama Dome (1963)

cinerama dome los angeles landmark

Matthew Chauncey

Borrowing its design from architectural wackadoo Buckminster Fuller, the world’s only concrete geodesic dome was built to exhibit panoramic movies that required three projectors and a curved 86-foot screen. The experiment never gained traction, though current owner ArcLight Cinemas occasionally trots out films in the rare, forgotten format. 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood.

Capitol Records Tower (1955)

capitol records building landmark los angeles

Nathan Meredith

Conceived by 24-year-old Louis Naidorf under the Becket umbrella, Capitol Records was the world’s first circular office building—a design that proved both cost-effective and visually striking. Porcelain-enameled sunshades ease the workload of the air-conditioning system, itself a novelty at the time for a building of this size. 1750 Vine St., Hollywood. 

LAX Theme Building (1961)

lax theme building landmark los angeles

JC Buck

Part of a larger airport revamp done by Becket and contemporaries Paul R. Williams, Charles Luckman, and William Pereira, this Space Age structure was the centerpiece of a thoroughgoing LAX expansion during the rise of air travel. The sky-high restaurant is gone, but you can visit the viewing platform the second weekend of every month. 209 World Way, Westchester.

 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (1958)

santa monica civic auditorium

Hunter Kerhart

Emblematic of Jet Age styling with its soaring masts and porous concrete brise-soleil, the structure was built in an era when Santa Monica was ascendant yet lacked a unified civic center. Though mothballed since 2013, the venue did have its moment in the sun: It’s where the Academy Awards were held during the better part of the 1960s. 1855 Main St., Santa Monica.


31.-33. The Icons of the Glass Skin Movement

westin bonaventure
Westin Bonaventure

Spiderplay/Getty Images

During the 1960s, California artists like John McCracken, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and James Turrell responded to New York’s puritanical Minimalism movement with works that embodied Los Angeles’s radiant sunshine and a boom in modern manufacturing techniques. And so the Light and Space, and Finish Fetish movements were born, artistic epochs inspired by candy-colored hot rods and surfboards, and defined by glossy finishes and slick materials. Architects were not immune to this
West Coast Minimalism either. In the mid-’60s, local designers César Pelli and Anthony Lumsden pioneered the “glass skin,” or curtain wall system, wherein reflective glass is effectively wrapped around a smooth grid of mullions (vertical bars that separate windows). Pelli and Lumsden not only permanently changed the look of L.A. but they also pioneered a style that spread to cities around the world. These three standouts are shining examples of the craft. >Daniel Paul

Pacific Design Center

When Pelli’s 14-acre edifice opened in West Hollywood in 1975, it was one of the most lauded, controversial, and bluest buildings of the decade (maybe you called it the Blue Whale). The Green Building followed in 1988, with the Red Building completing the structural trifecta in 2012. These days the campus houses furniture markets, office spaces, and two Wolfgang Puck hot spots, including the chef’s exclusive eight-seat Test Kitchen. 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood.

Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant

Lumsden conceived a design so advanced for the Van Nuys sewage facility that the building stood in for Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy (see it in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). The adjacent Japanese Garden SuihoEn is a 6.5-acre wonderland complete with a floating bridge and functional teahouse (services are held the second and fourth Sundays of the month). Schedule a docent-led tour of the grounds by calling 818-756-8166. 6100 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys.

Westin Bonaventure Hotel

Perhaps the most famous L.A. icon of the Late Modern era is John Portman’s 1976 Westin Bonaventure, which was cast as a futuristic landmark in Logan’s Run and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Take a glass elevator to the revolving BonaVista Lounge on the 34th floor, where craft cocktails are served with a side of 360-degree panoramic vistas. 404 S. Figueroa St., downtown.


34.-39. Underrated Filming Locations

doheny memorial library los angeles landmarks
Doheny Memorial Library

Lindsay Blake

Considering L.A. is the mecca of moviemaking, it should come as no surprise that most neighborhoods are littered with film locations galore. Of all the onscreen sites around town, though, this unsung bunch deserves more fanfare than it gets. >Lindsay Blake

 Johnie’s Coffee Shop

Shuttered in 2000, the only love the Armet & Davis-designed coffee shop gets now is from location managers. At the moment, the 1956 Googie classic is festooned with Bernie Sanders fan art (back in 2016, it was the site of a rally for the Democratic hopeful), but you probably recognize it from appearances in cult favorites such as Reservoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski, and Miracle Mile. Frozen in time, the defunct diner is deserving of a revival. 6101 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Grove.

 Doheny Memorial Library

Easily one of the most beautiful athenaeums on the planet, Doheny Memorial Library is grand, gilded, and endlessly Instagrammable. But its location—right in the middle of USC’s campus—helps it fly fairly under the radar. Even so, Hollywood has managed to leave its mark: A young Mara Wilson frequents the site in the 1996 film Matilda, and it pops up in The Graduate, Marathon Man, and City Slickers II as well. 3550 Trousdale Pkwy., University Park.

 The Prince

A consistently underrated venue, the Prince serves up history (it was established in 1949 as the Windsor), ornate decor (hello, ruby-red wallpaper), and delectable Korean fare (the fried chicken is a staple), not to mention a slew of film cameos. The interior of the restaurant, a virtual time machine of Old Hollywood glamour, has been seen in everything from Chinatown to Mad Men to New Girl. 3198½ W. 7th St., Koreatown.

The Shelley

There’s no need to fly east if you want to see Jerry Seinfeld’s TV pad: The building where he lived (along with Newman and Kramer) can be found right here in L.A. Little of the handsome brick structure, known as the Shelley, has been altered since it pulled double duty as both Jerry’s “domain” and the headquarters of Vandelay Industries. 757 S. New Hampshire Ave., Koreatown. 

Blair Drive

You could pay $99 (or more) to see the shark from Jaws, the Psycho house, and other classic film sets on a Universal Studios back-lot tour—or you could scope some of the goods out for free, thanks to a sleepy residential street in the Hollywood Hills. Cruise up Blair Drive for a view of the studio’s expansive plane-crash set from 2005’s War of the Worlds. The only things you need in order to peep the eerie spectacle of a neighborhood decimated by a smoking 747 is a car and a camera phone. 3400 block of Blair Dr., Hollywood Hills.

L.A. Department of Water and Power

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is well-known to movie crews but not most Angelenos (unless we’re talking about utility bills). Surrounded by a moatlike reflecting pool and eight blasting fountains, the Corporate International-style building makes for a dramatic setting and, as such, has been captured numerous times on the small screen (The X-Files) and the big (Hancock and The Terminator). 111 N. Hope St., downtown.


40. Pann’s

pann's googie los angeles

Pann’s is a glorious holdover from the 1950s and a pristine example of the California-born Googie style. Owner Jim Poulos looks back on 61 years of the family business:

“Consistency is key to our success. I preach it every day. The public needs to be able to depend on us. The cooks are here rolling out biscuits hours before we open. The gravies are on the stove being made from scratch. We’re slicing ham; we’re breading chicken; we’re preparing our waffle batter.

First my dad opened Pepy’s. Then he opened up Holly’s—that was where they filmed parts of Pulp Fiction. A year later came Pann’s, and my dad thought Pann’s was a jewel. “The Ultra of the Southwest,” that was his term. He was so proud. Mom worked the floor with a sparkle in her eye until she was 95 years old. There’s a resin storyboard near the entrance that traces their lives from Massachusetts to Greece to Nashville with little airplanes and chef’s hats and champagne glasses embedded inside. There’s a little blue foot and a pink foot. I’m the blue foot.

My dad was infatuated with the luxury of Las Vegas and the elegance he saw in the plush booths and the cork ceilings. He was introduced to architects Armet & Davis and Helen Fong, who had the design abilities to satisfy his infatuation with the futuristic components of the Space Age.

We have this elaborate neon sign and rock-covered roof that reaches close to the ground, with floor-to-ceiling glass so diners can enjoy the tropical landscape. It was California casual living with open spaces and sunshine.

Pann’s was ahead of its time. It was part of the future, and it was as exciting as Disneyland. People would come just because of the architecture, and that excitement is still here.” >As told to Chris Nichols


41.-42. Mayan Revival Architecture

NoHo designer Robert Stacy-Judd, inspired by renderings of sunken temples in the Yucatan jungle, was so invested in pre-Columbian culture that he wrote about and lectured on Mayan history all his life. His 1925 Mayan Revival-style Aztec Hotel in Monrovia was the first building in America to utilize Mayan elements inside and out, and DTLA shelters another temple of splendor: the 1927 Mayan Theater. Mexican artist Francisco Cornejo covered the movie-palace-turned-nightclub’s every surface with warrior reliefs, serpents, and idols, an opulence that’s been derided as affectation and often as cultural appropriation. But to Stacy-Judd, it was an affirmation of the style’s eternal value. >Sven Kirsten


43. The Triforium

triforium los angeles

Courtesy Triforium Project

At the heart of downtown’s decrepit Los Angeles Mall, just across from City Hall, stands a 60-ton kinetic sculpture made from concrete, steel, and glass. Dubbed the Triforium, artist Joseph Young’s tower—whose lights are designed to dance along to music—was written off as a very expensive public eyesore (it cost the city $975,000, and that was back in 1975). Effectively dead for ages, it’s collected dust as fast as disparaging nicknames (“the Schlockenspiel,” “Trifoolery,” etc.). Last fall, though, thanks to a $100,000 city grant and a very passionate group of Triforium acolytes (Claire Evans and Jona Bechtolt of the band YACHT, Tom Carroll of the web series Tom Explores Los Angeles), the artwork flickered anew as the site of a three-part concert series. Here Evans and Carroll discuss its Tri-fortuitous resurrection and murky future. >Thomas Harlander


 

Q: Why are you so into the Triforium?

TC: The Triforium lends a sense of whimsy and ’70s futurism to Los Angeles, an aesthetic that has mostly been knocked down by this point. The other thing that has always attracted me to the piece is its sense of unrealized potential—that it was so close to being great.

Q: How will the redevelopment of the mall affect the Triforium?

CE: We don’t know for sure. The L.A. Mall is slated to be demolished and replaced with a 390-foot tower complex. There have been no specific accommodations made to protect the Triforium that we know of.

Q: What has that giant chunk of grant money enabled you to do?

CE: We decided to bring the Triforium back to life with a large-scale LED activation. We invited dozens of local artists and musicians to create original compositions and perform in tandem with that rescued hardware, lighting up the Triforium in real time.

Q: What’s your ultimate vision for the sculpture in the coming years?

TC: Short-term goal is getting it designated a Historic Cultural Monument. Long-term goal is getting it to function permanently.


44.-45. The Beauties of Brutalism

st. basil cathedral
St. Basil’s Cathedral

Brutalism—a style that’s interminably thirsty for cast-in-place concrete—managed to find a fan or two, even in sunny California: 

American Cement

Now lofts, this 13-story tower was originally designed by firm DMJM as the American Cement Company’s HQ, an homage to the sculptural potential of reinforced concrete. Ceramist Malcolm Leland is behind the exquisite latticework; he molded 450 ten-foot-tall X-members (each weighing 4,500 pounds) off-site, then had them placed by crane. The resulting exoskeleton is not only seismically sound but also made of something “more interesting texturally than any other building material,” or so boasts Leland in a jubilant eight-page ad in a 1961 issue of the Los Angeles Times. 2404 Wilshire Blvd., Westlake

St. Basil’s Cathedral

Built by A.C. Martin & Associates in 1969 to the tune of $3 million, the church is one of the city’s few odes to this severe aesthetic, with asymmetrical concrete towers that are bush-hammered to reveal the aggregate within. It seems imposing, but there’s a revelry in materiality going on—a celebration of the sheer solidity of cement. If you show up for Mass or a concert, you might even glimpse the sublime through jagged three-dimensional stained-glass windows, a convention-defying commission by artist Claire Falkenstein that she claimed could exist only here, in a locale unhampered by the self-seriousness of the East Coast and European cities where Brutalism thrived. 3611 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown >Thomas Harlander


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