LA's Cutting Edge Architecture

Walt Disney Concert Hall | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic

From sleek and modern to spiritual, the Los Angeles skyline features some of the world's great buildings, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects. Whether you're an architecture geek or simply want to admire these stunning buildings, read on for LA Tourism's guide to LA's cutting edge architecture.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Photo courtesy of Space-wanderer, Flickr

Architect: Frank Gehry
Opened: 2003
Address: 111 S. Grand Avenue
Features: There aren’t many buildings in Los Angeles as recognizable as the Walt Disney Concert Hall at the Music Center. The stainless steel skin covers a framework of steel beams erected in the shape of billowing sails or flower petals, depending on your point of view. Inside, the building houses one of the best concert venues in the world, with an auditorium known as much for its acoustics as its stunning design.

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters

Photo courtesy of John Kim, Flickr

Architect: Thom Mayne/Morphosis
Opened: 2004
Address: 100 S. Main Street
Features: This building is guaranteed to elicit strong reactions from viewers. But love it or hate it, the building can’t be ignored. Perforated metal panels create a skin that covers exposed structural elements, visible from inside the building’s walkways and interior spaces. At night, the exterior panels open up to reveal windows. The south wall has a photovoltaic system capable of producing up to 5 percent of the building’s energy. Many of the building’s features are meant to evoke the state’s highway system, including the environmental art installation by Keith Sonnier in the outdoor lobby. The area consists of red and blue neon lights meant to suggest automobile head and tail lights.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

Photo courtesy of Derek Cross, Flickr

Architect: José Rafael Moneo
Opened: 2002
Address: 555 W. Temple Street
Features: A contemporary cathedral designed with virtually no right angles, this building breaks the mold of the classic European cathedral of the Middle Ages. As the third largest cathedral in the world, the significance of this building is tied to more than just its architecture; it’s the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, serves more than 4 million Catholic worshipers and is the site of the Archbishop’s major liturgies. The exterior is sand-colored concrete, with an interior lit during the day by sunlight shining through thousands of alabaster panels. The large bronze doors by sculptor Robert Graham, the tapestries by artist John Nava and other works of art complete the building, making it well worth close inspection.

U.S. Bank Tower

Photo courtesy of evolvo, Flickr

Architect: Henry Cobb
Opened: 1989
Address: 633 W. Fifth Street
Features: Formerly known as the Library Tower, the U.S. Bank Tower is one of LA’s most iconic structures: it's the tallest building in California, the tallest west of the Mississippi River, and the tenth tallest in the United States. The U.S. Bank Tower was designed by Henry Cobb, a founding partner (along with Pritzker Prize-winner I.M. Pei) of the architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. The U.S. Bank Tower is 73 stories tall, reaches a height of 1,018 feet, and has 1.3 million square feet of floor space. The design of the building features interlocking sets of granite planes and curves that step down in a series of terraces and ledges, creating a building that’s neither round nor square. A large glass “crown” on top of the building is illuminated at night, and in the lobby a giant mixed-media mural entitled Unity depicts the history of Los Angeles. Movie fans will recognize the U.S. Bank Tower as the first building destroyed by the alien invaders in Independence Day.

Broad Contemporary Art Museum

Photo courtesy of Vicente A. , Flickr

Architect: Renzo Piano
Opened: 2008
Address: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Features: Since its February 2008 opening, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) became an instant star on LA’s architectural Hall of Fame. Standing three stories tall, BCAM serves as the focal point for arriving visitors as it welcomes guests to the acclaimed cultural institution. Clad in travertine panels joined as a sheathing over a steel skeleton, the building fits perfectly into the existing surroundings. On the third level, a louvered roof system brings natural light to interior spaces in a way that also protects the art. The entire LACMA expansion project was overseen by Renzo Piano, including the design for BCAM.

Getty Center

Photo courtesy of Albert Valles, Flickr

Architect: Richard Meier
Opened: 1997
Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive
Features: Home to the J. Paul Getty Museum, this building took more than a decade to build, and sits above LA as a $1.2 billion investment in the Los Angeles art scene. It occupies two ridges in the Santa Monica Mountains, with a series of interconnected buildings built of concrete and steel with travertine cladding. The surrounding landscape provides a welcome complement to the building’s grandeur, with sprawling gardens, plazas and terraces created to prevent erosion but also to integrate the building with its natural setting. The Getty Center has installed 28 major sculptures from the collection of the late Fran and Ray Stark. Works include masterpieces by many of the 20th century’s greatest artists, including Calder, Magritte and Miró, among others.