Books on Cities

20 Books About Los Angeles

...and Environs

December 16, 2014

We revisit our original list of books—now with 10 additional titles—about the city of Los Angeles and its design, past, present, and future. New additions to the list include L.A. [Ten]: Interviews on Los Angeles Architecture, 1970s–1990s by Stephen Phillips, 2013 (Lars Müller Publishers); Sense of Place: Elements of California Modernism, 2014 by Michael Webb and Kovac Architects (ORO Editions); and Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936–1986 by Louise Sandhaus, 2014 (Metropolis Books).

From Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936–1986 by Louise Sandhaus, 2014 (Metropolis Books)
An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles David Gebhard
Robert Winter

From the Publisher. Known as “the bible” to Los Angeles architecture scholars and enthusiasts, Robert Winter and David Gebhard's groundbreaking guide to architecture in the greater Los Angeles area is updated and revised once again. From Art Deco to Beaux-Arts, Spanish Colonial to Mission Revival, Winter discusses an impressive variety of architectural styles in this popular guide that he co-authored with the late David Gebhard. New buildings and sites have been added, along with all new photography. Considered the most thorough L.A. architecture guide ever written, this new edition features the best of the past and present, from Charles and Henry Greene's Gamble House to Frank Gehry's Disney Philharmonic Hall. This was, and is again, a must-have guide to a diverse and architecturally rich area.

Arts & Architecture: The Entenza Years Barbara Goldstein Editor

From the Publisher. This anthology brings together seminal articles from one of America's most distinguished architecture magazines, copies of which are now extremely difficult to locate. Published and edited by John Entenza from 1938 until 1962, when he left to direct the Graham Foundation, Arts & Architecture played a significant role both in Los Angeles's cultural history and in the development of American modernism in general. Arts & Architecture was the first American magazine to popularize the work of Hans Hofmann, Craig Ellwood, Margaret DePatta, George Nakashima, Bernard Rosenthal, Charles Eames, Konrad Wachsmann, and many others. It also embodied the highest standard of graphic design attained by an American art magazine of its time, employing the talents of such designers as Alvin Lustig, Herbert Mattes, and John Follis.

Arts & Architecture: The Entenza Years maintains the large format of the magazine and includes many full-scale reproductions of the original pages. It brings together articles from the years 1943 through 1959, publishing them exactly as they appeared. In keeping with Entenza's tireless advocacy of modernism in all its aspects, the articles cover design, architecture, photography, music, and visual arts. They explore the culture that led to the famous Case Study House program, and feature industrialized and postwar tract housing, as well as houses designed by the Case Study House architects during the same era as the program.

There is an introduction by the editor Barbara Goldstein and an essay on John Entenza by Esther McCoy, who wrote for Arts & Architecture through most of Entenza's period as editor.

Bohemian Modern Barbara Bestor

From the Publisher. Bohemian Modern explores the unique structural and interior designs that have put California's ultra-chic Silver Lake neighborhood at the forefront of a new style phenomenon…there is no limit to the creativity and beauty of Silver Lake style. Both modern and classic, refreshing and inviting, Bohemian Modern will delight readers with its breathtaking, vividly photographed tour of Silver Lake.

Case Study Houses (25th Anniversary) Elizabeth Smith
Peter Goessel

From the Publisher. The Case Study House program (1945-1966) was an exceptional, innovative event in the history of American architecture and remains to this day unique. The program, which concentrated on the Los Angeles area and oversaw the design of 36 prototype homes, sought to make available plans for modern residences that could be easily and cheaply constructed during the postwar building boom. Highly experimental, the program generated houses that were designed to redefine the modern home, and thus had a pronounced influence on architecture-American and international both-during the program existence and even to this day. This compact guide includes all projects featured in our XL version, with over 150 photos and plans and a map of where all houses are (or were) located.

Classic Homes of Los Angeles Douglas Woods

# 1 Design Best Seller at Book Soup, Los Angeles (November 2013). From the Publisher. A luxurious showcase of the finest homes in the oldest neighborhoods of Los Angeles and environs. This volume offers an exclusive look into the classic homes and gardens in the legendary neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles. Famed for its lavish homes and celebrity residents, one finds here a panorama of richly detailed architectural styles, from Craftsman, Tudor and Georgian to Spanish Colonial and Tuscan examples. Shown here is the estate of the great Hollywood producer and director Cecil B. DeMille, the former Danny Kaye house in Beverly Hills, and the wonderful Arts and Crafts masterwork by Greene and Greene—the Gamble House—in Pasadena. These works and others illustrate the wide range of period-revival styles popular in Southern California during its "Golden Age of Expansion" from 1899 to 1932. Lush, all-new color photographs capture the grandeur of these homes and their exquisite gardens in the present day.

Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986 Louise Sandhaus

From the Publisher. Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots is the first publication to capture the enormous body of distinctive and visually ecstatic graphic design that emanated from this great state throughout most of the twentieth century. Edited and designed by graphic designer Louise Sandhaus, this raucous gathering of smart, offbeat, groundbreaking graphic design from the “Left Coast” will amaze readers with its breadth and richness. The fruit of more than a decade of research, the volume is arranged in four sections: “Sunbaked Modernism,” “Industry and the Indies,” “60s Alt 60s” and “California Girls.” Included are books and magazines designed by Merle Armitage, Alvin Lustig, Herbert Matter and Sheila Levrant DeBretteville; posters for Disneyland, Cream and Herman Miller; Marget Larsen’s print ads for Joseph Magnin; title cards or title sequences for Lassie, The Smothers Brothers and other hit TV shows; title sequences for films from Taxi Driver to Tron; motion graphics from the earliest animated abstractions to the classic 7-Up “Bubbles” ad and Atari video games; immersive live shows of Bill Ham and Single Wing Turquoise Bird; architectural supergraphics by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon and Alexander Girard; print and environmental designs by Gere Kavanaugh and Deborah Sussman; and much, much more. With contributions by Denise Gonzales Crisp, Lorraine Wild, Michael Worthington.

Everything Loose Will Land Sylvia Lavin Editor
Kimberli Meyer Editor

Published on the occasion of an exhibition of the same name organized by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, at the Schindler House, May 9-August 4, 2013, as part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. Essays by Sylvia Lavin, Margo Handwerker, Alex Kitnick, Suzy Newbury, Peggy Phelan, and Simon Sadler; and period documents by Robert Ballard; Reyner Banham; Billy Al Bengston; Denise Scott Brown; Judy Chicago; Barry Commoner; Peter de Bretteville; Environmental Communications; Victor Gruen and Claudia Moholy Nagy; Rem Koolhaas; Leonard Koren; Jan Martin Lester; Peter Plagens; and Bernard Tschumi.

A Guide To Contemporary Architecture In Southern California Alvin Lustig
Julius Shulman

From Modernism 101. This fragile volume was designed to educate the public on the wide varieties of modern architecture being practiced in Southern California (circa 1951) and it survives as a phenomenal design object of the era. Alvin Lustig’s design and Julius Shulman's photography combine to make a booklet that truly embodies the spirit of the age.

Houses of Los Angeles, vol. 1 Sam Watters

Houses of Los Angeles, 1885-1919, the first of two volumes, profiles 38 of the early Los Angeles houses with over 400 archival color and duotone photographs and landscape and floor plans.

Houses of Los Angeles, vol. 2 Sam Watters

This volume brings together for the first time house and garden plans with over 400 archival color and duotone photographs of downtown residences and mountainside estate houses, built by Hollywood celebrities and Los Angeles innovators including movie stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies and publisher William Randolph Hearst, radio innovator and Packard dealer Earle C. Anthony, Union Bank Chairman Ben R. Meyer and Native American art dealer Grace Nicholson.

Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles Stephen Gee

From the Publisher. Architect John Parkinson died in 1935, and the Los Angeles Times praised him: "Future generations have only to walk through the streets of Los Angeles to be reminded how much John Parkinson in his lifetime contributed to the city that grew up under his hand." In Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles, author Stephen Gee proves that this singular visionary created the look of America's most dynamic metropolis, long before the world recognized the city's importance.

Iconic Vision, the first biography of the master architect, documents—in remarkable detail and images—Parkinson's monumental contributions to the city he loved. Although other architects' names have become synonymous with the city, John Parkinson designed more landmark buildings in Los Angeles than any other architect, living or dead. And, while other architects may have taken credit for Parkinson's designs, Stephen Gee's penetrating biography establishes the truth. He tells the story of a man who envisioned tomorrow.


Julius Shulman, Los Angeles Sam Lubell
Douglas Woods

From the Publisher. The renowned architectural photographer shares seven decades’ worth of images of the city he loved, celebrated, and made iconic. With a life and career spanning nearly a century, Julius Shulman is credited with furthering the midcentury modernism movement through his flawless photographs of the pioneering architecture of Richard Neutra and Charles Eames, among others. While Shulman’s pictures comprise the most published images of the modernist movement, this new monograph presents many never-before-seen images on a subject closest to Shulman’s heart: Los Angeles and its environs—including Palm Springs and other suburbs. These affecting photographs show Los Angeles as a living organism, simultaneously vibrant and volatile depending on the neighborhood. This tension is apparent in Shulman’s documentation of then-emerging areas like Century City, Wilshire Boulevard, and Echo Park, as well as his studies of landmarks like the Watts Towers and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Many of the Los Angeles buildings and neighborhoods photographed by Shulman have since been overhauled, torn down, or otherwise altered beyond recognition, making these images some of the only lasting testaments to their existence. Selected from his personal collection as well as his official archives, the photographs included in this book represent not only lesser-known and never-before-seen material, but also some of Shulman’s own personal favorites.

L.A. [Ten] Stephen Phillips

From the Publisher. Catapulted to fame by the international media in and around the 1980s, a loosely affiliated cadre of architects – the so-called L.A. Ten – emerged to define the future of Los Angeles architecture. In this book, L.A. Ten architects Neil Denari, Frederick Fisher, Ming Fung, Craig Hodgetts, Coy Howard, Franklin Israel (posthumously), Wes Jones, Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, and Michael Rotondi offer a casual, witty, and approachable retrospective on the characters, environment, and cultural history of L.A. architecture as they remember it through a series of oral history interviews conducted by Stephen Phillips alongside Wim de Wit, Christopher Alexander, and the students of the Cal Poly LA Metro Program in Architecture and Urban Design. Touching upon the intrigue and development surrounding the Los Angeles architecture scene from Postmodernism through Deconstructivism, this book reveals deeply personal and moving stories and events about many of the formative conferences, exhibitions, pedagogical developments, and formal and material strategies of the avant-garde Los Angeles architecture community from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies Reyner Banham

Examines the built environment of Los Angeles, looking at its manifestations of popular taste and industrial ingenuity, as well as its traditional modes of residential and commercial building. This title also examines "four ecologies" in the ways Angelenos relate to the beach, the freeways, the flatlands, and the foothills.

Los Angeles in the Thirties David Gebhard
Harriette Von Bretton

From the Publisher. A seminal study of the architecture of Los Angeles in the decade when the city came of age. The built environment reflected the optimism of the age and the place, where streamlined public architecture, the freedom and mobility of homeowners, modernist work by the likes of Neutra and Schindler combined in the glow of the Hollywood Dream Machine to create the fabric of Los Angeles.

Never Built Los Angeles Sam Lubell
Greg Goldin
Foreword by Thom Mayne

#1 Design Seller from Skylight Books, Los Angeles (January 2014).

From D.A.P. Never Built Los Angeles explores the “what if” Los Angeles, investigating the values and untapped potential of a city still in search of itself. A treasure trove of buildings, master plans, parks, follies and mass-transit proposals that only saw the drawing board, the book asks: why is Los Angeles a mecca for great architects, yet so lacking in urban innovation? Featured are more than 100 visionary works that could have transformed both the physical reality and the collective perception of the metropolis, from Olmsted Brothers and Bartholomew’s groundbreaking 1930 Plan for the Los Angeles Region, which would have increased the amount of green space in the notoriously park-poor city fivefold; to John Lautner’s Alto Capistrano, a series of spaceship-like apartments hovering above a mixed-use development; to Jean Nouvel’s 2008 Green Blade, a condominium tower clad entirely in cascading plants. Through text and more than 400 color and black-and-white illustrations drawn from archives around the U.S., authors Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin explore the visceral (and sometimes misleading) power of architectural ideas conveyed through sketches, renderings, blueprints, models and the now waning art of hand drawing. Many of these schemes--promoting a denser, more vibrant city--are still relevant today and could inspire future designs. Never Built Los Angeles will set the stage for a renewed interest in visionary projects in this, one of the world’s great cities.

Also see “Building on Never Built.”

A New Sculpturalism Christopher Mount Editor
Foreword by Jeffrey Deitch

From the Publisher. This is the first critical examination and history of what was first identified as the “L.A. School” in the 1990s, which has influenced much of American architecture in the last twenty-five years. This expansive new book examines contemporary Southern California architecture from 1987 to the present, exploring its experimental nature, sculptural tendency, and exciting evolution. This volume complements a major exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and is part of the Getty Research Institute exhibition initiative “Los Angeles Architecture, 1940–1990.” Contributions by leading architectural historians coupled with a stunning collection of images present recent works in terms of sculpturalism and urbanism, and consider the impact of the history and environment of Los Angeles, as well as the creative and working processes.

Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990 Wim de Wit Editor
Christopher Alexander Editor

From the Publisher. From 1940 to 1990, Los Angeles rapidly evolved into one of the most populous and influential industrial, economic, and creative capitals in the world and the region was transformed into a laboratory for cutting-edge architecture. This book examines these experiments and their impact on modern design, reframes the perceptions of Los Angeles's dynamic built environment, and amplifies the exploration of the city's vibrant architectural legacy.

The drawings, models, and images highlighted in the Overdrive exhibition and catalogue reveal the complex and often underappreciated facets of Los Angeles and illustrate how the metropolis became an internationally recognized destination with a unique design vocabulary, canonical landmarks, and a coveted lifestyle. This investigation builds upon the groundbreaking work of generations of historians, theorists, curators, critics, and activists who have researched and expounded upon the development of Los Angeles. In this volume, thought-provoking essays shed more light on the exhibitionÆs narratives, including Los Angeles’s physical landscape, the rise of modernism, the region’s influential residential architecture, its buildings for commerce and transportation, and architects' pioneering uses of bold forms, advanced materials, and new technologies.

Los Angeles's ability to facilitate change, experiment, recalibrate, and forge ahead is one of its greatest strengths. Future generations are destined to harness the region's enviable resources to create new layers of architectural innovations.

Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader Susan Morgan Editor

From the Publisher. Esther McCoy (1904–1989) is one of the 20th century's foremost architecture historians, and one of the greatest chroniclers of the architecture of midcentury southern California. Her 1960 book Five California Architects has long been acknowledged as an indispensable classic, and as Reyner Banham famously observed of her, "no one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all." Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader is the first anthology of McCoy's writing. It features a selection of some 70 pieces--ranging from her 1945 article "Schindler, Space Architect" to "Arts & Architecture: Case Study Houses," a 1989 essay commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. From fiction for The New Yorker to seminal essays on new architectural forms, McCoy charts the progressive edge of American idealism, from the collective utopian spirit of Jazz Age Greenwich Village, through the Depression and the war years, to the optimism of the 1950s and 1960s. In preparing this volume, writer and editor Susan Morgan extensively researched the McCoy papers at the Archives of American Art. Her editorial decisions were based, in part, on McCoy's original selections for an unrealized anthology solicited by W. W. Norton in 1968. Expanding on that project, Morgan has included essays, articles, lectures, correspondence, memoirs and short stories that illuminate the breadth and complexity of McCoy's writing and the southern California region that inspired her groundbreaking work.

Rebels in Paradise Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

From the Publisher. Los Angeles, 1960: There was no modern art museum and there were few galleries, which is exactly what a number of daring young artists liked about it, among them Ed Ruscha, David Hockney, Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, Judy Chicago and John Baldessari. Freedom from an established way of seeing, making, and marketing art fueled their creativity, which in turn inspired the city. Today Los Angeles has four museums dedicated to contemporary art, around one hundred galleries, and thousands of artists. Here, at last, is the book that tells the saga of how the scene came into being, why a prevailing Los Angeles permissiveness, 1960s-style, spawned countless innovations, including Andy Warhol's first exhibition, Marcel Duchamp's first retrospective, Frank Gehry's mind-bending architecture, Rudi Gernreich's topless bathing suit, Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider, even the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Doors, and other purveyors of a California style. In the 1960s, Los Angeles was the epicenter of cool.

A Sense of Place: Elements of California Modernism Michael Webb

From the Publisher. A Sense of Place is a collection of built and un-built residences by Los Angeles-based firm Kovac Architects. Over the past twenty-five years, firm principal Michael Kovac has quietly built a number of idiosyncratic, modernist residences from rural Maine to Baja California; A Sense of Place primarily looks at homes built in the foothills of Los Angeles.

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