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Win-Initiative/Getty Images

Architectural Gems

Marvel at Mid-Century Modern masterpieces, Arts and Crafts classics, Mission Revival works and other landmark buildings.

Start:Getty Center, Los Angeles
End:California Tower - Balboa Park, San Diego
3 - 5Days,13Stops,296Miles
Getty Center, Los Angeles
f11photo/Shutterstock
Stahl House, Los Angeles
Hollyhock House, Los Angeles
Education Images/Getty Images
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Renaud Visage/Getty Images
The Broad Contemporary Art Museum
Iwan Baan/The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Gamble House, Pasadena
John Crowe/Alamy
Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
Courtesy of The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
Elvis's Honeymoon Hideaway
Pascal Shirley
Parker Palm Springs Hotel
Pascal Shirley
Sunnylands
Pascal Shirley
Havana Kitchen
Grandriver/Getty Images
The Salk Institute
Dreamyscapes/Getty Images
California Tower - Balboa Park, San Diego
Dancestrokes/Shutterstock
Stop 1

Getty Center, Los Angeles

1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles

Perched in the hills above the Westside of Los Angeles in Brentwood, the Getty Center looks like an elevated modernist city, its pearl-beige walls as compelling as the art collection they enclose. Park your car and take a five-minute tram ride to this glorious six-building compound with extensive city-skyline and ocean views. Designed by Richard Meier as a tribute to culture and landscape, the Getty was constructed with 16,000 US tons/14,500 metric tonnes of Italian travertine. You’ll need half a day to take in the hundreds of pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and photographs, as well as the outdoor sculpture gardens and fountains.

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Stop 2

Stahl House, Los Angeles

1635 Woods Dr, Los Angeles

In the Hollywood Hills, where mansions overlook the glittering city below, the cliff perched Stahl House is a shining example of super modern minimalism by architect Pierre Koenig. Built in 1959, the rectangular residence has three sides made of glass, which capitalise on its cityscape view. The house became the poster child for modern architecture during the 20th century, thanks to the work of renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman. With a tour ticket (book in advance) you can view the streamlined interior, a popular location for film and fashion shoots.

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    Stop 3

    Hollyhock House, Los Angeles

    4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles

    Tucked between Little Armenia and Thai Town in Los Angeles, this National Historic Landmark was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall in 1919. Described as a harbinger of California Modernism, Hollyhock House reflects a melting pot of design influences including Mayan, Aztec, Asian and Egyptian. (Lloyd Wright called the style 'California Romanza'.) The house is constructed solely of geometric cast-concrete 'textile blocks' and is adorned with Barnsdall’s favourite flower, the hollyhock. Book ahead to join a volunteer-led tour.

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    Stop 4

    Walt Disney Concert Hall

    111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles

    Located in Downtown Los Angeles, this gleaming, stainless steel edifice was inspired by architect Frank Gehry’s love of sailing. Walk the stairways and catwalks that lead up to and around its multiple exterior walls, which curve like billowing sails. Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is much more than a state of the art music venue. Take a self guided or guided tour (both complimentary) to explore the garden, where you’ll enjoy sweeping city views and the rose shaped Lillian Disney Fountain, a tribute to the woman who made the concert hall possible.

    Stop 5

    The Broad Contemporary Art Museum

    221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles

    This 120,000-square-foot/11,150-square-metre contemporary art museum in Downtown Los Angeles is visually captivating with its unusual geometric shape and honeycomb-patterned exterior. What began as Eli and Edythe Broad’s small collection of post-war and contemporary art is now a treasure trove of more than 2,000 pieces, including classic works by artists such as Ed Ruscha, John Baldessaire and Jeff Koons. In addition to the two floors of exhibition space, architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro—known for designing Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and renovating New York City’s Lincoln Center—devised a large collection storage space, dubbed the 'vault', as a central feature of the $140 million building. Its 'veil' exterior lets natural light flow inside while protecting the art from direct sun. While admission is free, you still need a ticket for the specific day and time of your visit, which can be ordered online in advance.

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    Stop 6

    Gamble House, Pasadena

    4 Westmoreland Pl, Pasadena

    Situated on a leafy, meticulously manicured private street in upmarket Pasadena, The Gamble House is an iconic example of early 20th-century Arts and Crafts architecture. Built in 1908 by Mary and David Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble fame), the house was designed by architect brothers Charles and Henry Greene, the masterminds behind the notable Californian bungalow style. Take a volunteer-led tour of this three-storey wooden mansion and swoon over the exquisitely crafted cabinetry, panelling and furniture designed by the inventive architect brothers.

    Stop 8

    Elvis's Honeymoon Hideaway

    1350 Ladera Cir, Palm Springs

    Amid the white-walled mansions of Palm Springs’s Movie Colony neighbourhood, the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway is the 5,000-square-foot/464-square-metre residence where The King and Priscilla enjoyed post-nuptial bliss in 1967. Constructed in four concentric circles and without a single square room, this home was featured as 'The House of Tomorrow' in a 1962 Look magazine centrefold and is still one of the more notable examples of Palm Springs’s Mid-Century Modern character. Nab tickets to check out the 64-foot/19.5-metre built-in banquette sofa, straight out of The Flintstones and other era-defining elements.

    Stop 9

    Parker Palm Springs Hotel

    4200 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs

    This chic hotel opened in 1959 as California’s first Holiday Inn, and today the groovy retro vibe is cooler than ever. Recently given a $27 million makeover by interior designer Jonathan Adler, the Parker Palm Springs stands as one of the 'it' spots for seclusion-seeking celebs who love the privacy of its high white walls, dense hedges and subtle entrances. Grab a table on the cheerful terrace at Norma’s, known for its decadent all-day breakfast menu and then explore the meandering gardens and grounds to soak up the property’s Mid-Century Modern panache. Sample a flight from the curated wine list at the low-key bar, Counter Reformation. Better yet, book an overnight stay in a Deluxe Room adorned with Old Hollywood décor.

    Stop 10

    Sunnylands

    37977 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage

    In the Coachella Valley’s Rancho Mirage, this 200-acre estate and former home of philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg is a Mid-Century Modern masterpiece that also houses an impressive art collection (think Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh). Take a guided tour of the pink roofed mansion designed by A. Quincy Jones or meander around the Sunnylands gardens and 11 man-made lakes. While you can wander along the 1.25 miles of garden paths for free, you must book well in advance for a ticket for a guided tour of the house. (It’s worth the wait.) A museum, theatre and an indoor/outdoor cafe (with stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains) are also housed in striking glass buildings.

    Stop 12

    The Salk Institute

    10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla

    This historical site (and active biomedical sciences research campus) in San Diego County’s upmarket La Jolla was established by Dr Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine, in 1960 (it was completed in 1965). Salk believed that having unobstructed views of the beautiful coastal San Diego environs would inspire the creativity of the researchers working inside his labs. Today, visitors can also savour the sweeping vistas and stunning architecture during a self guided tour (tickets are $7.50 and must be booked online in advance). Start at the institute’s centrepiece, a pair of six storey structures flanking a light filled courtyard, then explore the 29 building campus, designed by architect Louis Kahn to showcase the Salk’s oceanfront perch.

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      Stop 13

      California Tower - Balboa Park, San Diego

      1549 El Prado, San Diego

      Dating back to the early 19th century, San Diego’s Balboa Park is one of the oldest public parks in the nation, with more than 20 art, culture and science museums. Much of the park’s Spanish Renaissance architecture has been impeccably preserved and while each building has its merits, the Museum of Man's California Tower is exceptional. Climb seven floors to the top of this ornate 200-foot/60-metre-tall structure for a dazzling 360-degree view of the park and beyond.

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      Road Trip Snapshot

      Find out more about the amazing locations featured in this road trip. Ready to plan your trip? Print the itinerary or map your adventure to get started.

      Stop 1Getty Center, Los Angeles
      1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles
      Stop 2Stahl House, Los Angeles
      1635 Woods Dr, Los Angeles
        Stop 3Hollyhock House, Los Angeles
        4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles
        Stop 4Walt Disney Concert Hall
        111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles
        Stop 5The Broad Contemporary Art Museum
        221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles
        Stop 6Gamble House, Pasadena
        4 Westmoreland Pl, Pasadena
        Stop 8Elvis's Honeymoon Hideaway
        1350 Ladera Cir, Palm Springs
        Stop 9Parker Palm Springs Hotel
        4200 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs
        Stop 12The Salk Institute
        10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla
          Stop 13California Tower - Balboa Park, San Diego
          1549 El Prado, San Diego

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