Often called the “Nobel Prize of Architecture,” the international Pritzker Prize is given to one living architect annually to honor his or her body of work. Follow this itinerary to explore LA's architectural masterpieces designed by three Pritzker Prize-winning architects.
Start at the southwest corner of Main and First sts. in Downtown LA at the CalTrans District 7 Headquarters building, which sounds like a snooze until you discover that Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis, designed this modern wonder. The 13-story structure is futuristic with a design that goes beyond merely providing a functional workplace for almost 2,000 people.
On the Main St. side, the building’s street number “100” rises four stories over the entrance. The main lobby, in typical LA style, blurs the boundaries between inside and outside space. Notice the neon tubes that grace the façade and comprise the massive environmental artwork — appropriately named Motordom — by artist Keith Sonnier. The tubes evoke taillights streaming down the freeway. Also look inside the lobby up to the third-floor conference room. Visitors are not permitted beyond the front desk without authorization but are welcome at Begin’s Café on the first floor.
It’s a five-block walk west on First St. to Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The first glimpse is breathtaking. The stainless steel curved exterior unfolds like rose petals or the sails of a ship. The interior is a stark contrast, with Douglas fir in an abstract, tree trunk arrangement. Here, Frank Gehry has designed one of the most architecturally sophisticated concert venues in the world, with perfect acoustics designed by Yasuhisa Toyota. Audio tours and guided tours are offered when they do not conflict with performances. Audio tours are 10 a.m.–2 p.m. most days. Guided tours occur less frequently; check their website. The auditorium itself is not included in the tours when performers are rehearsing there. More often than not, you’ll have to attend a performance to see that.
Walk about a 1/2 mile northeast on N. Grand Ave. and take
a right on Temple St. to see Jose Raphael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels(left). A contemporary cathedral designed with virtually no right angles, this building breaks the mold of the classic European cathedral of the Middle Ages. And, 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.
For lunch, choose from two choices at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Patina is a fine dining spot (reservations advised), or there’s also the Concert Hall Cafe, a more casual choice tucked inside the majestic lobby.
Take the 110 Freeway south from Downtown LA to the 10
Freeway going west, then the 405 Freeway north to Getty Drive to reach The Getty Center. Pritzer Prize winner Richard Meier designed this breathtaking cultural center with views of the city and the sea. Visitors park ($15 per car, but admission to the Getty Center is free) and then take a tram up the mountainside.
This $1 billion complex actually contains six buildings — far more than just one museum. Meier captured the essence of Southern California living with the open spaces and stunning gardens. He used Italian travertine marble (16,000 tons imported from Tivoli) for The Getty Center's massive façade because he liked how light plays off the finish. Architecture tours are offered Tues. to Sun., 10:15 a.m.–3 p.m. Closed Mon.
Ready for an early dinner? The choices here range from food carts to a self-service indoor/outdoor café to the elegant Restaurant (reservations advised for that one).