Los Angeles City Guide

By: Amy Westervelt

Los Angeles Architecture & Landmarks

Visitors to the Los Angeles area won'twant to miss Randy's Donuts, with itshuge doughnut-shaped sign.

Despite all those ugly strip malls, Los Angeles is an architectural gold mine. With films and TV shows shooting daily in the city's streets, LA has always been open to making its urban landscape more interesting. And it doesn't hurt that there are a whole lot of people with serious cash to throw at the design of their homes.

Los Angeles is all over the map architecturally, which makes it a very fun place for architecture and design fans to explore. You can spot Mission-style homes, Art Deco theaters, high-rises downtown, mid-century modern homes in the hills, and huge post-modern architectural icons like the Getty Center and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.


Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Los Angeles

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles' El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument (125 Paseo de la Plaza) features several Spanish Mission-style historical buildings around a plaza. The focal point of the area, which is now officially a protected State Park, is the Avila Adobe, the city's oldest building, off of which runs Olvera Street, a pedestrian street full of mariachi bands, Mexican food and craft stands, and folk dancing.

In typical LA fashion, just around the corner from El Pueblo are some of the city's well-known examples of Art Deco architecture -- the movie palaces of Broadway, including the classic Orpheum Theater (842 S Broadway). And of course, just a few blocks away is the new Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Center (111 South Grand Ave), a building that managed to satisfy its seemingly unreachable expectations.

Hollywood is home to several more classic movie palaces, including the infamous Grauman's Chinese Theater (6925 Hollywood Blvd), the Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Blvd), and the groovy Pantages Theater (6233 Hollywood Blvd).

Several homes in LA are architectural landmarks, including gems designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Eero Saarinen, and R.M. Schindler. The MAK Center for Art and Architecture (835 N Kings Rd, West Hollywood) is housed in the home Schindler designed for himself, making it a great place to start getting acquainted with modern LA architecture. There are also a handful of tour companies that run architectural tours of Los Angeles, including tours of the classic Neutra, Geary, Wright, et al homes.

Avila Adobe (10 Olvera St) is the oldest existing house in Los Angeles. The home, built in 1820, was damaged in an earthquake in 1971, then restored to become an example to honor Los Angeles' Hispanic heritage. Having been built in 1884, The Old Plaza Firehouse (134 Paseo de la Plaza) was the city's first firehouse and has recently been restored and turned into a museum of photographs and firefighting equipment from the 19th century.

And of course, you can't forget the 1950s-era Southern California beach-boardwalk-meets-diner kitsch. Los Angeles is full of these little gems, most notably the Tail o' the Pup (329 North San Vicente Blvd) hot dog-shaped hot dog stand in Beverly Hills, and Randy's Donuts (805 West Manchester) with its huge doughnut-shaped sign in Inglewood near the Los Angeles International Airport.

Of course, you can't visit Los Angeles without a trip to Rodeo Drive. Keep reading to learn more about LA's upscale shopping scene.