The LA Conservancy does amazing work to preserve the architectural history of this youth-obsessed metropolis. They recently launched a fantastic interactive map on their website that guides the curious to over 500 historically significant buildings in the greater Los Angeles area.
You can search by geographical area or decade, or filter the map by the style of architecture you fancy: Mid Century Modern, Moorish or Mayan Revival to name a few. What a great way to explore history and to refresh your perspective on the city of Angels.
Many of my favorite buildings are Spanish Colonial revival, a classic California vernacular rooted in the state’s missionary past. Built in the early 20th century, these warm red-roofed structures dot the landscape I see daily, their shadowy porches inviting you for a break from the California sun. While a 100 year old building may be laughably junior in another city, LA will never have street cred if we don’t appreciate and preserve what we have that’s unique.
A few of my favorites are below. With so many buildings on the map, why not choose your own adventure?
Plummer Park in West Hollywood was home to the 1874 ranch of Colonel Eugenio Plummer, whose home was situated on 160 acres of open land. West Hollywood recently decided this would make a good spot for a parking structure. Dios mio!
A few months ago I attended a meeting of the Institute of Classical Architecture at the Beverly Hills Civic Center. It was my first time inside William Gage’s 1930s buildings: the dark wood ceiling’s original painted decoration is stunning and the lofty proportions of the room like a breath of fresh air.
I drive by the Beverly Hills Waterworks / Center for Motion Picture Study on La Cienega at least once a week. The lighting design picks out the details of the grand façade beautifully on an evening. As it happens, the Moorish styled bell tower actually housed part of the water purification system. What a great example of function and purpose in harmony.
Reading over the Conservancy map I was reminded of the 1932 Astrophysics Lab at Caltech in Pasadena. It’s been recommended to me by a number of friends not only as a fantastic example of Spanish revival, but because the star themed lighting fixtures originally designed for the lab are still there. A visit to the lab is on the top of my list. Consider it a new year’s resolution.
-Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles
PS – the oldest buildings on the map are from the 1840s, when California was still Mexican ranch land.