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In the foreground is a house with a glass room that is situated on a cliff edge. The view in the distance is of a cityscape.
The Stahl House.
Mbtrama/Creative Commons

The 20 most iconic buildings in Los Angeles, mapped

From the Stahl House to the Watts Towers, these structures help tell the story of LA

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The Stahl House.
| Mbtrama/Creative Commons

The Los Angeles skyline might not be as famous as Chicago’s or New York’s. But thanks to Hollywood and the movie business, LA’s got plenty of buildings that are instantly identifiable (regardless of whatever role they play on screen).

The most iconic buildings are the ones that most signify Los Angeles. They give Angelenos that back-home feeling when they return from vacation. They’re the places locals bring out-of-towners. They help tell the story of Los Angeles.

Here are the 20 most iconic buildings in LA, from Googie architecture to celebrity haunts to folk art to grand old movie palaces.

Obsessed with architecture? Check out these maps too:

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Griffith Observatory

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Once called “probably the most recognizable and beloved building in Los Angeles,” this 80-year-old structure is named for Griffith J. Griffith, who gifted the land for his namesake park to the city. Designed by John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley, the observatory has appeared in numerous films (from Rebel Without a Cause to Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) and probably tens of millions of selfies.

A large white building with multiple domed towers. In the front of the building are various lawns. In the background is a cityscape. russellstreet/Creative Commons

Watts Towers

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Okay, so the Watts Towers are more like art than they are buildings, but they are iconic nonetheless. This collection of 17 towering sculptures—two of which rise to almost 100 feet tall—are their own state park and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (They are one of just nine folk-art pieces on the list.)

Three tall towering metal structures, Underawesternsky/Shutterstock.com

Chateau Marmont

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This established celebrity hangout on the Sunset Strip as famous for its discretion as it is for its long history of celebs behaving badly here. The Chateau has been around since the 1920s as apartments; it became a hotel in the 1930s. So it's understandable that in all that time it would have so many incredible stories associated with it, like the time Led Zeppelin rode through the lobby on motorcycles, or Scarlett Johansson and Benicio Del Toro maybe hooked up in an elevator. 

A large white house with a brown roof with a tower. Courtesy of Michael Locke

Eastern Columbia Building

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This freaking fantastic Claud Beelman-designed Art Deco building stands out even in Downtown, where there are plenty of very lovely restored buildings. The building's exterior is covered in striking teal terra cotta and all sorts of fun embellishments (golden chevrons, sunbursts), all topped off by a clock tower and neon "Eastern" sign. The building now holds fancy lofts and equally fancy ground-floor retail. It's part of the rapidly-fancifying section of Broadway near Ace Hotel.

A post shared by Mitch (@citykidclub) on

Walt Disney Concert Hall

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Designed by Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and its shiny exterior are synonymous with Los Angeles. Perched atop Bunker Hill, the bold and curvaceous building was named on a 2012 list of buildings that changed America. It opened in 2003. 

A large building with angled metallic structures. Galina Savina/Shutterstock.com

The Getty

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The Getty Center's hilltop location (the most valuable property in the whole county) gives it a lot of visibility. The sprawling compound of the museum, designed by architect Richard Meier, includes gardens and offers some stunning views of the whole city.

A large white building. In the front of the building is a large pedestrian plaza where people are walking. Michael Gordon/Shutterstock.com

LAX Theme Building

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This example of Googie architecture, is one of LA's most exciting and futuristic, looking like a cross between a spacecraft from The Jetsons and some kind of intergalactic beast. The Theme Building opened at LAX in 1961; now, it's only really open on the weekends, and then, only the observation deck. The view of it is probably better than the view from it anyway.

In the foreground is a structure that has many curves. In the distance is a towering structure.
Theme Building
Wikimedia Commons

Hollywood Bowl

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Picnic baskets at the Hollywood Bowl's summer concerts are an LA tradition, as is trying to see the fireworks from the Fourth of July show from various adjacent locations. Built in the early 1920s, the venue has kept up-to-date with additions like a cool wine bar and upgraded bathrooms.

A post shared by Kevin Koehler (@kevrockcity) on

The Stahl House (Case Study House #22)

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Designed by Pierre Koenig, the 1960 Stahl House has been called “a superlative architectural statement in steel and glass cantilevered over the broad expanse of Los Angeles.” It's probably the best known LA example of the Case Study House program, which aimed to create affordable houses for post-war families.

In the foreground is a house with a glass room that is situated on a cliff edge. The view in the distance is of a cityscape. Mbtrama/Creative Commons

Capitol Records

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The Capitol Records building in Hollywood apparently was not intended to look like stacked records but that's definitely what it looks like. The building's been around since 1956; it was designed by architect Louis Naidorf in Welton Becket's office. It was, for a while, set to be joined by two giant towers; that project is still battling to get built.

A building with a curved shape. The top of the building has a sign that reads Capitol Records. By Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock

Dodger Stadium

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Dodger Stadium is often found at the top or near the top of those most Instagrammed places lists. The baseball venue has inspired at least one incredibly detailed head tattoo and is one of a few centralized place where all of LA comes together to cheer for something.

In the foreground is a sports stadium with a baseball field. The stadium is surrounded by trees and a parking lot. In the distance are many city buildings and tall skyscrapers. David Sucsy/Getty Images

Dolby Theatre

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The Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) on Hollywood and Highland has been the permanent home of the Academy Awards since 2002, and, when it got renamed as the Dolby, part of the deal was that the Oscars would continue to be held there for 20 more years. Before they took up in the Dolby, the Oscars ceremony hadn't been held in Hollywood proper since 1961, when it was hosted at the Pantages.

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles

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The shiny towers, rotating rooftop lounge, and thrilling exterior elevators of the Bonaventure are firmly lodged in the hearts of many Angelenos. Love it or hate it, it's supposedly one of the most photographed buildings in the whole world. Designed in the 1970s by John C. Portman Jr., it’s wonderful inside, where there are fountains, lots of concrete, and little lounging pods.

A post shared by Kyel (@airkow) on

Bradbury Building

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Famous for its roles in movies, including Blade Runner and countless others, the Bradbury building's timeless interiors have been cast as foreign hotels, futuristic abandoned industrial spaces, and the kind of office building where a person might find a private eye from a noir film.

It was completed in 1893, and it features ornate railings, cage-style elevators, and marble stairs. It was designed by George H. Wyman, but the Los Angeles Conservancy says that maybe it was more of a team effort with Wyman (then not actually an architect) and architect Sumner Hunt, who was originally hired to draw the building.

The interior of a building with very high ceilings and a skylight. Photo by Liz Kuball

The Beverly Hilton

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The Beverly Hilton is famous for many reasons, both positive (it's been the home of the Golden Globes since 1961) and the negative (Whitney Houston died here in 2012), but ups-and-downs should probably be expected in a hotel that's been around since 1955.

TCL Chinese Theatre

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Everybody wants to get their photos with the Chinese Theatre when they come to LA—so much so that they sit on the dirty ground posing next to the cement footprints of some famous person without giving a second thought to how gross that is (or maybe thinking about it and just not caring). That's the amazing power of the Chinese Theatre.

The exterior of a building which has an elaborate entrance with red columns and a green roof. Traveljunction.com/Creative Commons

Los Angeles City Hall

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The image of City Hall is on official paperwork for the city, and the structure has become the centerpiece of LA's New Year's Eve celebrations at Grand Park, LA's version of a “warm-weather Times Square” and a city-wide tradition since 2014. The building, designed by John Parkinson along with Albert C. Martin and John C. Austin, has been around since 1928.

A white building with a tall tower. The front of the building has an arched entryway. Shutterstock

Randy's Donuts

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This giant, lumpy donut atop a donut shop “represents the postwar optimism and whimsy of the city in a way few other places can,” says the LA Conservancy. Randy's, designed by Henry J. Goodwin, was made for the Big Donut Drive-In chain and was completed in 1953. It became Randy's in the 1970s.

Los Angeles Prepares For Ground Transport Of Shuttle Endeavour
A shop with a sculpture of a large donut on top of the shop. The words on the donut sculpture read: Randy’s Donuts.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Rose Bowl Stadium

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The Rose Bowl has been many things to LA: the long-time home of a much-watched New Year's Day football game, once a possible NFL venue (though the Rose Bowl did not want to have anything to do with that), and a place to go for the famously great flea market of the same name. The horseshoe-shaped venue was completed in 1922 and was designed by architect Myron Hunt. 

The front of a stadium. A sign above the entrance reads: Rose Bowl. Jeff Turner/Creative Commons

Union Station

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The transit hub of Los Angeles, Union Station has been an icon since it opened in 1939. Union Station is considered the last “grand” railway station in the U.S., as it was built as the train began to lose popularity to other types of transportation, like cars.

Now, it's at the center of a huge-scale master plan to grow the station that will involve the preservation of this landmark.

A large tan building. There are tall palm trees in front of the building. Getty Images

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Griffith Observatory

A large white building with multiple domed towers. In the front of the building are various lawns. In the background is a cityscape. russellstreet/Creative Commons

Once called “probably the most recognizable and beloved building in Los Angeles,” this 80-year-old structure is named for Griffith J. Griffith, who gifted the land for his namesake park to the city. Designed by John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley, the observatory has appeared in numerous films (from Rebel Without a Cause to Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) and probably tens of millions of selfies.

A large white building with multiple domed towers. In the front of the building are various lawns. In the background is a cityscape. russellstreet/Creative Commons

Watts Towers

Three tall towering metal structures, Underawesternsky/Shutterstock.com

Okay, so the Watts Towers are more like art than they are buildings, but they are iconic nonetheless. This collection of 17 towering sculptures—two of which rise to almost 100 feet tall—are their own state park and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (They are one of just nine folk-art pieces on the list.)

Three tall towering metal structures, Underawesternsky/Shutterstock.com

Chateau Marmont

A large white house with a brown roof with a tower. Courtesy of Michael Locke

This established celebrity hangout on the Sunset Strip as famous for its discretion as it is for its long history of celebs behaving badly here. The Chateau has been around since the 1920s as apartments; it became a hotel in the 1930s. So it's understandable that in all that time it would have so many incredible stories associated with it, like the time Led Zeppelin rode through the lobby on motorcycles, or Scarlett Johansson and Benicio Del Toro maybe hooked up in an elevator. 

A large white house with a brown roof with a tower. Courtesy of Michael Locke

Eastern Columbia Building

This freaking fantastic Claud Beelman-designed Art Deco building stands out even in Downtown, where there are plenty of very lovely restored buildings. The building's exterior is covered in striking teal terra cotta and all sorts of fun embellishments (golden chevrons, sunbursts), all topped off by a clock tower and neon "Eastern" sign. The building now holds fancy lofts and equally fancy ground-floor retail. It's part of the rapidly-fancifying section of Broadway near Ace Hotel.

A post shared by Mitch (@citykidclub) on

Walt Disney Concert Hall

A large building with angled metallic structures. Galina Savina/Shutterstock.com

Designed by Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and its shiny exterior are synonymous with Los Angeles. Perched atop Bunker Hill, the bold and curvaceous building was named on a 2012 list of buildings that changed America. It opened in 2003. 

A large building with angled metallic structures. Galina Savina/Shutterstock.com

The Getty

A large white building. In the front of the building is a large pedestrian plaza where people are walking. Michael Gordon/Shutterstock.com

The Getty Center's hilltop location (the most valuable property in the whole county) gives it a lot of visibility. The sprawling compound of the museum, designed by architect Richard Meier, includes gardens and offers some stunning views of the whole city.

A large white building. In the front of the building is a large pedestrian plaza where people are walking. Michael Gordon/Shutterstock.com

LAX Theme Building

In the foreground is a structure that has many curves. In the distance is a towering structure.
Theme Building
Wikimedia Commons

This example of Googie architecture, is one of LA's most exciting and futuristic, looking like a cross between a spacecraft from The Jetsons and some kind of intergalactic beast. The Theme Building opened at LAX in 1961; now, it's only really open on the weekends, and then, only the observation deck. The view of it is probably better than the view from it anyway.

In the foreground is a structure that has many curves. In the distance is a towering structure.
Theme Building
Wikimedia Commons

Hollywood Bowl

Picnic baskets at the Hollywood Bowl's summer concerts are an LA tradition, as is trying to see the fireworks from the Fourth of July show from various adjacent locations. Built in the early 1920s, the venue has kept up-to-date with additions like a cool wine bar and upgraded bathrooms.

A post shared by Kevin Koehler (@kevrockcity) on

The Stahl House (Case Study House #22)

In the foreground is a house with a glass room that is situated on a cliff edge. The view in the distance is of a cityscape. Mbtrama/Creative Commons

Designed by Pierre Koenig, the 1960 Stahl House has been called “a superlative architectural statement in steel and glass cantilevered over the broad expanse of Los Angeles.” It's probably the best known LA example of the Case Study House program, which aimed to create affordable houses for post-war families.

In the foreground is a house with a glass room that is situated on a cliff edge. The view in the distance is of a cityscape. Mbtrama/Creative Commons

Capitol Records

A building with a curved shape. The top of the building has a sign that reads Capitol Records. By Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock

The Capitol Records building in Hollywood apparently was not intended to look like stacked records but that's definitely what it looks like. The building's been around since 1956; it was designed by architect Louis Naidorf in Welton Becket's office. It was, for a while, set to be joined by two giant towers; that project is still battling to get built.

A building with a curved shape. The top of the building has a sign that reads Capitol Records. By Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock

Dodger Stadium

In the foreground is a sports stadium with a baseball field. The stadium is surrounded by trees and a parking lot. In the distance are many city buildings and tall skyscrapers. David Sucsy/Getty Images

Dodger Stadium is often found at the top or near the top of those most Instagrammed places lists. The baseball venue has inspired at least one incredibly detailed head tattoo and is one of a few centralized place where all of LA comes together to cheer for something.

In the foreground is a sports stadium with a baseball field. The stadium is surrounded by trees and a parking lot. In the distance are many city buildings and tall skyscrapers. David Sucsy/Getty Images

Dolby Theatre

The Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) on Hollywood and Highland has been the permanent home of the Academy Awards since 2002, and, when it got renamed as the Dolby, part of the deal was that the Oscars would continue to be held there for 20 more years. Before they took up in the Dolby, the Oscars ceremony hadn't been held in Hollywood proper since 1961, when it was hosted at the Pantages.

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles

The shiny towers, rotating rooftop lounge, and thrilling exterior elevators of the Bonaventure are firmly lodged in the hearts of many Angelenos. Love it or hate it, it's supposedly one of the most photographed buildings in the whole world. Designed in the 1970s by John C. Portman Jr., it’s wonderful inside, where there are fountains, lots of concrete, and little lounging pods.

A post shared by Kyel (@airkow) on

Bradbury Building

The interior of a building with very high ceilings and a skylight. Photo by Liz Kuball

Famous for its roles in movies, including Blade Runner and countless others, the Bradbury building's timeless interiors have been cast as foreign hotels, futuristic abandoned industrial spaces, and the kind of office building where a person might find a private eye from a noir film.

It was completed in 1893, and it features ornate railings, cage-style elevators, and marble stairs. It was designed by George H. Wyman, but the Los Angeles Conservancy says that maybe it was more of a team effort with Wyman (then not actually an architect) and architect Sumner Hunt, who was originally hired to draw the building.

The interior of a building with very high ceilings and a skylight. Photo by Liz Kuball

The Beverly Hilton

The Beverly Hilton is famous for many reasons, both positive (it's been the home of the Golden Globes since 1961) and the negative (Whitney Houston died here in 2012), but ups-and-downs should probably be expected in a hotel that's been around since 1955.

TCL Chinese Theatre

The exterior of a building which has an elaborate entrance with red columns and a green roof. Traveljunction.com/Creative Commons

Everybody wants to get their photos with the Chinese Theatre when they come to LA—so much so that they sit on the dirty ground posing next to the cement footprints of some famous person without giving a second thought to how gross that is (or maybe thinking about it and just not caring). That's the amazing power of the Chinese Theatre.

The exterior of a building which has an elaborate entrance with red columns and a green roof. Traveljunction.com/Creative Commons

Los Angeles City Hall

A white building with a tall tower. The front of the building has an arched entryway. Shutterstock

The image of City Hall is on official paperwork for the city, and the structure has become the centerpiece of LA's New Year's Eve celebrations at Grand Park, LA's version of a “warm-weather Times Square” and a city-wide tradition since 2014. The building, designed by John Parkinson along with Albert C. Martin and John C. Austin, has been around since 1928.