A Guide to Los Angeles’s Wildly Inventive New Architecture


park takes a wild detour in the Hayden Tract of Culver City, once a dilapidated industrial area, now a high-end creative-industries enclave.

Pterodactyl. Photo: Tom Bonner

Pterodactyl. Photo: Tom Bonner

Pterodactyl, Culver City Eric Owen Moss Moss, who has been tinkering in the area since the 1980s, has gradually turned Hayden Avenue into a permanent exhibition of his most outlandish work, a symphony of wavy towers, bulbous protrusions, teetering forms, and interwoven planes. In his latest, a deconstructed advertising-agency headquarters, he drapes a layer of tilted cubes over a three-story parking garage, simultaneously glorifying and disguising one of car culture’s principal architectural artifacts.

Beats by Dre. Photo: Jasper Sanidad

Beats by Dre. Photo: Jasper Sanidad

Beats by Dre, Culver City Bestor Architecture The headquarters of the company, which was recently bought by Apple, are an upscale, high-design version of the playground-as-office. Barbara Bestor creates what could pass for an idealized student center, outfitted not with the usual perks of pool tables and nap rooms but with bright colors, clublike scarlet nooks, zebra-walled staircases, and a café with a giant helicopter view of L.A. printed on the double-height wall. The effect is an illusion that this is not so much a humdrum workplace as a nerve center for elaborately choreographed fun.

The New Commute A bus depot that is actually attractive

District 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations Facility near Union Station. Photo: Chang Kim

As the public-transit network spreads, L.A. is building new functional monuments, like the District 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations Facility near Union Station. Green, light, sleek, and appealing, it suggests that the city is facing a post-peak-car future with pride.

The Future of Work

The site of a former 1960s office park in Playa Vista is being transformed into a tech hub by Gensler architects. Facebook has signed a lease to occupy 35,000 square feet of the complex.


Leisure in L.A. is not traditionally a public matter. Lately, though, the city has started to develop a new civic identity with open, shared facilities for culture and relaxation.

Petersen Automotive Museum. Photo: Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum

Petersen Automotive Museum, Miracle Mile Kohn Pedersen Fox Googie architecture — the mid-century L.A. look of speed, space, and car culture — is reborn in the cherry-red box topped with steel swirls. Diagonally across Wilshire Boulevard from the famous, space-age Johnie’s Coffee Shop, by Armet & Davis, the museum nods to the glory days of running boards and fins, without actually looking old-fashioned.

Tongva Park. Photo: Tim Street Porter

Tongva Park, Santa Monica Field Operations L.A. spent much of the 20th century stinting on downtown public space; now it’s trying to make amends. This sumptuously landscaped park in Santa Monica includes palm-lined allées, ramps that clamber over a drought-defying fountain, and a pair of egg-shaped stainless-steel arbors from which to watch the sun set over the Pacific.

Annenberg Community Beach House. Photo: Peter Figen

Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica Frederick Fisher The Northridge Earthquake of 1994 damaged the beachfront estate built by William Randolph Hearst. The white Colonial guesthouse still stands, though, and the 1920s pool is now the centerpiece of a very un-Hearst-like community beach house. The design is both nostalgic and exuberantly contemporary, a monument to the tasteful democratization of play.

Broad Museum. Photo: Benny Chan

Broad Museum, Bunker Hill Diller Scofidio + Renfro The new Broad sits between a row of century-old olive trees and Gehry’s Disney Hall. The porous concrete veil fitted over the boxlike museum evokes a host of SoCal associations: the 1964 American Cement Building, Gehry’s early experiments with chain-link fences, and the screens that cover parking garages all over the city.

The Old Vernacular Johnie’s Coffee Shop

Johnie's Coffee Shop. Photo: Wonho Frank Lee

Intact but vacant, Johnie’s Coffee Shop sits at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire like a monument to L.A.’s joyful years. Opened in 1956 as Romeo’s Times Square and now a city landmark with an uncertain future, the restaurant sports a butterfly-wing roof and neon signage that crystallize Googie architecture.

The Future of Play

Los Angeles River, imprisoned in concrete and frequently forgotten, may one day be liberated. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Frank Gehry have joined a longtime group of activists and planners working to turn the 51-mile drainage ditch back into a beautiful and useful urban waterway.

Learn more at New York Magazine