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

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…

1. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Architect: Frank Gehry
Completed: 2003

A photo posted by Mike Gilbert (@magilbe2) on

One of the many reasons Frank Gehry is considered the world’s greatest living architect.

2. Saint Basil Catholic Church

Architect: A.C. Martin
Completed: 1969

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.

3. Emerson College

Architect: Morphosis
Completed: 2014

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.

4. Pico House

Architect: Ezra F. Kysor
Completed: 1869

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.

5. Pacific Design Center

Architect: Cesar Pelli
Completed: 2013

Pet project of world class architect Cesar Pelli, the buildings bring some bold color to West Hollywood.

6. Wilshire Grand

Architect: AC Martin
Not yet completed


The new tallest building in Los Angeles (if you count that spire).

7. LACMA

A photo posted by Notnobel (@notnobel) on

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.

8. Coca-Cola Building

Architect: Robert V. Derrah
Completed: 1939

It’s designed in the Streamline Moderne style and is intended to look like a ship—complete with portholes, catwalk, and bridge.

9. Westin Bonaventure

Architect: John C. Portman, Jr.
Completed: 1976

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The actual future doesn’t deserve this gloriously futuristic 1970s hotel.

10. Sinai Temple

Architect: Sidney Eisenshtat
Completed: 1960

Eisenshtat’s Expressionist temple was built to house Southern California’s first conservative Jewish congregation.

11. Getty Center

Architect: Richard Meier
Completed: 1997


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.

12. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Architect: John and Donald Parkinson
Completed: 1923

A photo posted by Viviana (@vivcall) on

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.

13. Gamble House

Architect: Greene and Greene
Completed: 1908

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.”

14. Los Angeles Times Building

Architect: Gordon B. Kaufmann
Completed: 1935

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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.

15. Magic Castle

Architect: Lyman Farwell and Oliver Dennis
Completed: 1909

A photo posted by Mimi (@mimiyavi) on

The victorian mansion looms over Franklin Avenue and has served as home base for an exclusive society of magicians since 1963.

16. Randy’s Donuts

Architect: Henry Goodwin
Completed: 1953

For a while there, L.A. was really into that whole building-shaped-like-a-giant-food-item thing.

17. Norms La Cienega

Architect: Armet & Davis, interior by Helen Fong
Completed: 1957

In the late ’50s, Los Angeles was the place for the funky, space-age Googie style exemplified by this Armet & Davis-designed coffee shop.

18. Parker Center

Architect: Welton Becket
Completed: 1955

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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.

19. Cinerama Dome

Architect: Welton Becket
Completed: 1963

Employing visionary Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome design, the theater is now part of the Arclight Hollywood.

20. Phineas Banning House

Architect: Phineas Banning
Completed 1863

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.

21. Hollyhock House

Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Completed: 1921

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.

22. Los Angeles City Hall

Architect: John Parkinson and John C. Austin
Completed: 1928

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).

23. Capitol Records

Architect: Welton Becket
Completed: 1956


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).

24. Pantages Theater

Architect: B. Marcus Priteca
Completed: 1930

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.

25. Pann’s

Architect: Armet & Davis, interior by Helen Fong
Completed: 1958

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.

26. The Forum

Architect: Charles Luckman Associates
Completed: 1967

A photo posted by The Forum (@theforum) on

Fabulous.

27. San Gabriel Mission


In 1771 Spanish Franciscans founded the fourth of California’s 21 missions. Refer to the nearest fourth-grader for additional information.

28. Los Angeles Theater

Architect: S. Charles Lee
Completed: 1931

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.

29. Avila Adobe

Architect: Francisco Avila
Completed: 1818

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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.

30. Beverly Hills Hotel

Architect: Elmer Grey, with an expansion by Paul R. Williams in the 1940s
Completed: 1912

Elizabeth Taylor spent six of her eight honeymoons in Bungalow 5 at the pink palace.

31. Bullocks Wilshire

Architect: John and Donald B. Parkinson
Completed: 1929

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).

32. Case Study House #22

Architect: Pierre Koenig
Completed: 1959

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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.

33. Pasadena City Hall

Architect: John Bakewell and Arthur Brown, Jr.
Completed: 1927


The Mediterranean-style monument has graced the city of Pasadena for 80 years and your Instagram feed for at least five.

34. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

Architect: José Rafael Moneo
Completed: 2002

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Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo eschews tradition for a deconstructivist church designed to be reflective of the city’s diversity.

35. Los Angeles Central Library

Architect: Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue
Completed: 1926

A photo posted by Megan Jicha (@meganjicha) on

Every world class city needs at least one vaguely Egypt-themed library, right?

36. Chemosphere

Architect: John Lautner
Completed: 1960

It’s for sure a UFO.

37. Griffith Observatory

Architect: John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley
Completed: 1935

A photo posted by Sam Goetz (@goetzamuel) on

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.

38. Covina Bowl

Architect: Powers, Daly, & DeRosa
Completed: 1956

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Pretty much indisputably the world’s most glorious mid-century bowling alley.

39. Department of Water and Power Building

Architect: A.C. Martin
Completed: 1965

If you’re downtown at night, there’s nothing more serene than a walk around the rectangular pool surrounding the LADWP headquarters.

40. Eastern Columbia

Architect: Claud Beelman
Completed: 1930

 

A photo posted by Bob Phibbs (@bobphibbs) on

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.

41. Ennis House

Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Completed: 1925

A photo posted by Bryant (@_brytality) on

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.

42. Schindler House

Architect: Rudolf Schindler
Completed: 1922

A photo posted by kessler (@kessler) on


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.

43. Burbank Bob’s Big Boy

Architect: Wayne McAllister
Completed: 1949


This Wayne McAllister-designed monument to double-decker hamburgers is the oldest remaining Big Boy restaurant.

44. Sheats Goldstein Residence

Architect: John Lautner
Completed: 1963

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.

45. Saint Vibiana’s

Architect: Ezra F. Kysor
Completed: 1876

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.

46. LAX Theme Building

Architect: Paul Williams, William Pereira, and Welton Becket
Completed: 1961

A photo posted by Sean (@tiki_room_lb) on

The space age was a great age.

47. US Bank Tower

Architect: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Completed: 1989

Though it’s now the West Coast’s second-tallest building, it still boasts the highest observation deck.

48. Lovell House

Architect: Richard Neutra
Completed: 1929

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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.

49. Boyle Hotel

Architect: W.R. Norton
Completed: 1889

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.

50. Bradbury Building

Architect: Sumner P. Hunt and George H. Wyman
Completed: 1893

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.

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