Walt Disney Concert Hall
Designed by Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and considered by many to be the cultural centerpiece of downtown L.A. Despite its worldwide fame, a little-known fact remains: Staircases line the steel curves of its façade, allowing visitors to scale its peaks.
Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
The rumors are true: Angelenos have an unusual attraction to all that is New Age. On the more esoteric end of the L.A. architecture spectrum is this white hilltop temple, the centerpiece of a 10-acre spiritual oasis brimming with lush flora and a spring-fed lake.
The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens
With 120 acres of thematically sculpted gardens, vast collections of European and American art, and historic manuscripts, the Huntington offers a full day of exploration. Constructed in the Mediterranean Revival style, the library is one of the top institutions in the world for the study of the history of science and technology.
The Getty Center
The hilltop home of the late J. Paul Getty’s massive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts is a white travertine masterpiece of modernist architecture, designed by Richard Meier. Artist Robert Irwin conceived the Central Garden, which is an immersive, constantly evolving work of art in itself.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
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 before you enter the building.
The Vista Theatre
It’s no surprise that Tinseltown takes its movie theaters very seriously, adding an extra oomph to the moviegoing experience through design. Silver Lake’s Vista Theatre is a classic example. The single-screen, 1923 movie house still retains its original kitschy interiors.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
One of the largest churches in the world overlooks U.S. Route 101. Pritzker Architecture Prize winner José Rafael Moneo’s light-filled design, studded with unusual geometric protrusions, hardly fits the traditional profile of a church. The giant cross built into the façade’s central window is the only giveaway.
The Mayan Theater
The downtown venue for live music and other nightlife is a show in itself. 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 styles are reminiscent of the excesses of the Roaring ’20s.
The Bradbury Building
Built in 1893, the Bradbury is the oldest commercial building in central Los Angeles and still retains much of its turn-of-the-century flair. The structure was originally designed by Sumner Hunt and completed by George H. Wyman. The pièce de résistance is a soaring atrium with decorative iron railings, marble staircases, and open-cage elevators.
An unusual blend of Spanish Colonial Revival and art deco styles, this train station is an architectural gem. Built in 1939 by the father-and-son team at Parkinson & Parkinson, Union Station was one of the last grand train hubs to be built in America, and now serves as a stop for L.A.’s Metro Rail.