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The Best LA Buildings of the Decade!

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With Curbed LA's new look, what better time to take a look at the... past? Here, a round-up of the 10 best new—and rehabbed—buildings of the decade.

To compile the list, we asked local architects, media types, Curbed readers, and various other experts for their opinions. We tallied the votes and then cast this list, which weighs such factors as architecture, neighborhood influence, and cultural impact. Not all these are beauties--this list contains at least one structure that'll burn your eyes out. And overall, half are rehabs/renovations of existing buildings, ironic given that California was at the center of the nation's recent building boom. But whether they're architectural rehabs or shiny new structures, all these buildings impacted the city--and for the better.

The buildings, it should be noted, are in no particular order. Disagree with the selections? Did we leave something out? Make your voice heard in the comments. And now, without further ado...

Building: Standard Hotel
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Year completed: 2002

The background: An early pioneer in the neighborhood, Andre Balazs’ renovation of the architect Claud Beelman’s Standard Oil building not only was a great example of adaptive re-use in downtown, but it introduced a new crowd of locals and tourists to downtown.

The experts: “With a pirate flag flying atop the building and those vibrating rooftop waterbeds, many didn't know what to make of Andre Balazs' Standard when it opened in 2002. Nor did I when he gave me a tour for an article a few days before the debut--the giant black foot in a bathroom was especially perplexing. In a way, the building kicked open the door for those wondering if the young, hip and monied would hang out Downtown. Much of what has followed shows that Balazs was ahead of his time."---Jon Regardie, executive editor, Downtown News

Building: Disney Hall
Architect: Frank Gehry
Year completed: 2003

The background: An engineering feat, an acoustic wonder, Gehry’s Disney Hall arrived after years of delays (cue the parallels to the Grand Avenue project). Internationally recognizable, the music hall now rivals the palm tree in terms of ID'ing Los Angeles.

The experts: "It's become an icon for the city. But its image is almost separate from its purpose as a music hall because in an abstract sense, it represents something that is free, risky and loose--it’s an attitude for the city. It's shows an opening and a willingness to do a major product like this. It also reinvents the building type.---Sci-Arc Director and architect Eric Owen Moss [Photos via The Age]

Building: Arclight/Cinerama Dome
Architect: Gensler on Arclight
Year completed: 2002

The background: Movie-going got swanky again. And it was about time. The restoration of the concrete geodesic Cinerama Dome, and opening of the ArcLight Cinemas theater also marked a new chapter in Hollywood development.

The experts: “This was the culmination of another multi-year preservation battle for ModCom. This was very nearly a gory accident as the plans swerved all over the road from using the dome as a lobby, arcade and any number of indignities. A huge round of applause to Pacific for seeing the light and embracing Welton Becket (and Pierre Cabrol's!) 1963 geodesic dome as the centerpiece of a groundbreaking complex that changed the way we see movies in Los Angeles. Overnight, every other multiplex became second rate and now we all think a chicken apple sausage with bbq watermelon sauce is a completely normal thing to expect at a snack bar.”---Chris Nichols, Associate Editor, Los Angeles Magazine [Photos: top left image via LA Office of Historic Resources; top right image via Arclight Cinemas; bottom left image via Film School Rejects; bottom right image via Los Angeles Foodie]

Building: Inner City Arts
Architect: Michael Maltzan
Year completed: 2008

The background: Housed on the site of a former auto body shop, the third phase of this campus (this round added a library, learning center, theater and more), earned Maltzan numerous awards. It's also one of a handful of new architecturally-minded projects to open in the Skid Row neighborhood.

The experts: “Inner City Arts fuses its admirable purpose -- arts for the underserved -- with exemplary architecture, landscaping (by Nancy Goslee Power) and environmental graphics (by Michael Hodgson).---Dwell editor/KCRW host Frances Anderton

Building: Caltrans District 7 Headquarters
Architect: Morphosis
Year completed: 2004

The background: Oppressive, innovative or brilliant? All or none may describe your feelings about Pritzker Prize-winning Thom Mayne’s 2006’s office building. We prefer "battleship." But it's an instant landmark for downtown, an inspiration to young architects.

The experts: "It makes a strong case for engaging progressive architects to shape the city. Morphosis designed a massive government building that is sustainable, beautifully executed, on time and on budget. Its commonplace to think that designers who challenge convention will cause delays and increase costs, but here the architect turned this cliché around by bringing technology and innovation to the building process itself."---Jeffrey Allsbrook, Standard-LA Via Kansas Sebastian and RPA 210

Building: Kodak Theater/Hollywood & Highland
Architect: Ehrenkrantz Eckstut + Kuhn Architects, Rockwell Associates - Design Architect, Kodak Theater
Year completed: 2001

The background: Ugly brings the money, honey. Yes, the winner of our Ugliest Building Contest is also one of the Best Buildings. Opening in November 2001, the Kodak Theater hosted the Oscars in 2002, bringing the Academy Awards back to Hollywood. More importantly, the elephant-clad development (truly god-awful to look at, there's no way around it) would eventually bring all those other new Hollywood buildings, too.

The experts: "Hollywood and Highland was the critical first project in the neighborhood, it was a major catalyst for Hollywood development. The opening of Hollywood and Highland convinced other developers to come to the area."---Leron Gubler, President & CEO, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Photos: Via Phil Dragash and Reto Kurmann and ningtan

Building: Griffith Observatory
Architect: Pfeiffer Partners/Levin & Associates
Year completed: 2006

The background: It took a 2007 wildfire to make many people realize just how fond they were of the Griffith Observatory (which almost turned into a giant marshmallow in that blaze). Just a year earlier, the building had finished a $93-million expansion, a renovation of John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley's original design.

The experts: “One of L.A.'s most visible and beloved landmarks, it received a first-rate restoration, and creative expansion that provided much-needed space and upgrades while preserving its iconic appearance. The project also represents the most private funding ever raised for a preservation project in Los Angeles.”---Linda Dishman, Executive Director, LA Conservancy
[Construction and interior shots via Pfeiffer Partners Architects]

Building: Van Nuys Civic Hall
Architect: Kennard Design Group/Tetra Design
Year completed: 2005

Background: City Hall MiniMe, orginally designed by architect Peter K. Schaborum was restored for about $22 million, a meant partially meant to mollify backers of the secession movement and give a stronger political voice to the Valley.

The experts: “Restored to its 1930s-era phallic glory, it's a great building, albeit a much less impressive one than the downtown version?.one of the great things about the refurb was that it included a virtual-meeting link up for Valley residents. That way they could gripe to the city council without driving the 20 miles to downtown!”---Mariel Garza, Editorial Page Editor, Los Angeles Daily News. [Photos: Big Orange Landmarks and gjew828@pacbell]

Building: Camino Nuevo High School
Architect: Daly Genik
Year completed: 2006

The background: You can’t live in Los Angeles without noticing the number of hulking schools being built around the city. But rising on an inhospitable intersection, this charter high school is an example of school architecture that bucks the LAUSD tear-down mentality and overspending.

The experts: "It's a memorable response to a ridiculously tough and tight site. The facade gives the school a futuristic silhouette that captures the whirring craziness around it, and works to blocks the area's harsh noise and light. Inside, a carefully protected courtyard supports an intimate sense of community. It's a brave approach that's sorely lacking in LA's public architecture."---Sam Lubell, Architects Newspaper [Photo: World Architecture News ]

Building: Getty Villa
Architect: Machado and Silvetti Associates (renovation and expansion)
Year completed: 2006

The background: Among lawsuits filed by homeowners and a contentious battle at City Hall, the Villa re-opened following an eight-year renovation and expansion. And despite the Getty adopting the name Malibu, this one’s in Los Angeles, people.

The experts: “There was a lot of community controversy over the Getty’s remodeling and expansion. The neighbors feared the expansion would encroach on the neighborhood, they figured they'd heard the rock music from the ampitheater. But from the beginning, we at the Post thought it was a great project. We thought it would add to the community’s cultural place, that it would be a great place to go to that was right in your back yard . And it is.---Bill Bruns, Managing Editor, Pacific Palisadian Post [Photo: Christopher Chan]


And now: Meet the Runner-Ups.