I love Los Angeles, it might be because of the weather or the palm trees, it might be because of the myth itself but it’s definitely because of the architecture. And more specifically the Art Deco buildings. I have been obsessed with the 1920’s and 1930’s since I was a small kid and my love for the design and architecture of the time keeps on growing. Be it the decadent, lavish life style with silk, velvet, exotic woods and gold details or the austere Bauhaus minimalism and practicality. So of course I had to go downtown.
We decided to do the tour by ourselves but you can find organised ones with a guide who will walk you through the history of the buildings. It all starts in Pershing Square and rather than drive from West Hollywood where we were staying, we simply took the metro. It is very easy and fast and we didn’t need to worry about parking. Also, Los Angeles metro is the brightest, biggest and cleanest I’ve ever seen!
It was a scorching hot August day with a perfect blue sky and all the buildings dramatically stood out. It was Art Deco heaven. There are so many incredible buildings with such details and colours, nothing like I had seen before. What I loved is that they are still normal buildings in use, a lot of them are jewellery shops. In Europe it feels like that the few Art Deco buildings we have are museum or administrative buildings, here you could live in one.
The Eastern Colombia Lofts was one of the most impressive. It’s massive and emerald green with a colourful terrazzo sidewalk. That’s right even the sidewalk is Art Deco. It opened in 1930 and took less than a year to build (!) and now if you can afford it you can live in a luxury apartment. As tempting as it could be if I won the lottery, I don’t know how enjoyable it is to live downtown though.
The same architect, Claud Beelman, then went on to design the Los Angeles Jewellery Centre which is also emerald green and impressive in size!
Los Angeles Public Library is not as big but I liked its demure appearance. It was built in 1926 and I think I prefer earlier Art Deco buildings compared to heavier 1930 styles. There are so many different styles of buildings within a fairly small area, there is something for everyone!
One of my favourites was the Oviatt Building built in 1928. It is not the most striking on the outside but the entrance hall is what I love about Art Deco, I couldn’t have done it justice so I focused on one of the many details of the gate.
It was constructed as the headquarters of the city’s most prestigious haberdasheries – and I have learnt a new word there – Alexander & Oviatt. The design was influenced by the 1925 Paris Exposition (if I could time travel this would be my first stop) and was decorated in a new style which involved literally tons of Lalique glass. I am lucky enough to own a couple of Laliques, they could afford to have the whole of the building and penthouse’s glass work designed by the man himself. There is a restaurant on the ground floor where the shop was and the rest is now mostly office space apart from the penthouse that is still owned by the Oviatt family. What I would give to see inside the penthouse! But the restaurant itself is pretty grand.
So, is it worth it? I can’t say for the guided tour but going downtown to see those buildings is worth it. Even if you are not obsessed with Art Deco like I am. But if you are then you can’t miss it. It was incredible and sad for me, sad I can’t live in that time and place.