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Great Architecture in Los Angeles

Sorry, New York, you may offer the best of the best in other categories, but when it comes to groundbreaking new architecture, Los Angeles takes the prize (the Pritzker, that is).

Amid the patchwork of California bungalows and stucco Caliterraneans that dot the cityscape dwell some of the last century's most notable architectural feats.

Here are a few examples that no architecture buff should miss.

Downtown

A stone's throw from the blaring ranchero music of South Broadway, the circa 1880s Bradbury Building (304 S. Broadway, Downtown) designed by George H. Wyman lays testament to downtown's halcyon days.

This Victorian-style office building, best known for the intricate cast iron metalwork that details its soaring, light-filled atrium, is a mecca for architecture students. Don't be surprised if you see a few artsy types soaking up the ambience.

Just a short walk away, join the horde of photographers snapping photos on Grand Avenue. No, it's not a celebrity-fueled paparazzi gathering, just the day's crew of people snapping photos of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 S. Grand Ave., Downtown 323/850-2000 www.laphil.com). Wrapped in curving stainless steel, the music hall possesses a clothlike quality reminiscent of a ship's sails billowing in the wind.

And then there's L.A.'s other major Gehry favorite, the Geffen Contemporary (152 N. Central Ave., Downtown 213/626-6222 www.moca-la.org), which opened in the early ''80s as a temporary space for works housed inside the Museum of Contemporary Art (250 S. Grand Ave., Downtown 213/626-6222 www.moca.org), designed by Arata Isozaki. MOCA, located on Grand Avenue, retained the Geffen as an exhibition space and also has the Pacific Design Center, located on Melrose Avenue.

Echo Park

Resembling a street from another era (if not another city entirely), the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights claims the city's highest concentration of Victorian houses.

After a series of major renovations in recent years, the homes lining both sides of the block are textbook examples of the intricate, brightly painted styles popular at the turn of the last century.

Considering that several of the houses are designated historical monuments, it may come as no surprise that they are often rented for film shoots. Look for the Sessions House (No. 1330) and the Haunted House (No. 1345) —the latter seen in Michael Jackson's Thriller video.

To get to Carroll Avenue from Downtown, take Temple Street west to Edgeware Road, turn right onto Edgeware, and go over the freeway. Carroll Avenue is on the left.

Hollywood, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake

A fine example of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, the '20s-era Hollyhock House (4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz 323/644-6269 www.hollyhockhouse.net) can be found in scenic Barnsdall Art Park.

These hilly neighborhoods also feature countless examples of work by Richard Neutra, such as his 1928 ode to steel columns and casement windows, the Lovell House (4616 Dundee Dr., Los Feliz), and his former studio space on Glendale Boulevard.

Other must-sees are Rudolf Schindler's hillside W. E. Oliver House (2236 Micheltorena St., Silver Lake) and the much-photographed Stahl House, Case Study House No. 22 (1635 Woods Dr., Hollywood Hills www.stahlhouse.com) by Pierre Koenig.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach

Aside from his heavy-hitters downtown, Frank Gehry spread his architectural talent all over the city of Los Angeles, including buildings along the coast. Two of note are the Gehry House (1002 22nd St., Santa Monica), built in 1978 in Santa Monica, and the colorful Venice Beach House (2509 Ocean Front Walk, Venice www.stahlhouse.com), which was completed in 1986.

Pasadena

Home to countless examples of the California Craftsman, Pasadena lays claim to the quintessential example, Charles and Henry Greene's Gamble House (4 Westmoreland Pl., Pasadena 626/793-3334 www.gamblehouse.org). Built in 1908, the house is heavy on stained glass and teak woodwork.

If the Gamble House doesn't satiate your appetite for all things Greene and Greene, check out the Castle Green (99 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 626/793-0359 www.castlegreen.com), a seven-story Moorish Colonial and Spanish-style building on a palm-tree lined site in Old Town Pasadena.

South Los Angeles

Few tourists make it to the neighborhood formerly known as South Central Los Angeles (the City officially changed its moniker to South Los Angeles in 2003), thanks in large part to the infamous Watts Riots of 1965 and the well-documented gang violence of the early '90s.

But those who do will not be sorry. Simon Rodia's Watts Towers (1761-1765 E. 107th St., Watts www.wattstowers.us) consist of 17 sculptures constructed of steel and covered with a mosaic of broken glass, seashells, and pieces of 20th-century American ceramics.

Other architectural highlights are the Bailey House, Case Study House No. 21 (9038 Wonderland Park Ave., Los Angeles) in the Hollywood Hills, and the Eames House (203 Chautauqua Blvd., Pacific Palisades www.eamesfoundation.org) in Pacific Palisades.

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