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Visitors to Los Angeles often miss the literally biggest stars because they’re looking for names on the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. Somehow, L.A.’s buildings, with their fantastic details, construction innovations, astonishing variety, and colorful pasts haven’t put it on the map of architecture aficionados (though tours to celebrity homes are more popular than ever).
As Borislav Stanic, author of the best guidebook to the area’s many overlooked features, Los Angeles Attractions, puts it, “Builders never hesitated to experiment, creating a staggering diversity that makes it unique among American cities.”
It’s like living inside a film studio that has hundreds of movies being shot at the same time about different eras (in early Hollywood, top set designers even dabbled in creating original homes for the stars). There are ornate movie palaces, homes that look like flying saucers or castles, a shopping mall that appears to be an Assyrian fortress, offices with Art Deco facades, and design styles from Queen Anne to Craftsman (not to mention mausoleums for luminaries grand enough to be habitats for the living).
Architectural historian and author Laura Massino of Architecture Tours L.A. www.ArchitectureToursLA.com (323/464-7868) is working hard to raise the city’s profile by conducting intimate tours of the places that even residents often don’t notice or fully appreciate. In a small van, she can get visitors excited who think they only have a casual interest in buildings by pointing out easily-overlooked details and telling stories about their history, from murders to movies. She offers quite a variety of options, from a focus on local architectural genius Frank Gehry‘s work to an overview of the glamorous past and thriving present of Downtown. […]