14Paradise Pool

One of America’s most beautiful displays of Art Deco hotel architecture soars from the Phoenician desert, attracting architecture enthusiasts, celebrities and sun worshippers for the past 85 years. The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Biltmore Hotel has recently undergone an architectural revitalization, bringing its grand architecture and Hollywood legacy back to life. Uniquely, the Arizona Biltmore features Art Deco architecture built using indigenous materials and integrated into the Arizona desert.


Biltmore Hotel facade Downtown LA Untapped Cities

Over 3,000 people were in attendance at the Biltmore Hotel‘s opening party on October 2, 1923. In the ninety years since its opening, the Biltmore has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs and plenty of celebrities including Walt Disney, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West and Carmen Miranda have graced its halls. It has played host to a nightclub during Prohibition, the Academy Awards, the 1960 Democratic National Convention, and some rather unfortunate redecorating during the ’70s, to name a few.  We learned all about the Biltmore Hotel with the LA Conservancy and now we’re taking you inside and sharing the hotel’s secrets.  (more…)

Los Angeles is a vast, sprawling city, and neighborhoods on the coast, like Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Malibu, have historically gotten much more attention than Downtown. Yet there’s a remarkable amount of history and many architectural styles represented in Downtown LA, including some Beaux-Arts and Art Deco gems. We joined the LA Conservancy for a walking tour of Historic Downtown and learned about some of LA’s most important architectural sites.

1. Pershing Square

Pershing Square Title Guarantee Building Downtown LA Untapped Cities

Though Pershing Square (originally called Plaza Abaja) has always been the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, the downtown area was not always a safe or desirable part of the city. Plaza Abaja was a Spanish land grant from 1781–one of two that remain in city hands. It underwent several transformations, including a redesign in the 1880s, when the railroad created a building boom in LA, another one in 1910-11, when there was a real estate boom. A parking garage was added under the park in 1951. In the ’70s and ’80s, Pershing Square fell into disuse and became a seedy area, but was redesigned once again in 1993.  (more…)

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Terminal, we will be exploring all aspects of the terminal, from its most famous attributes to its hidden treasures. Last week, we showed you what Grand Central could have been if other architects had built it. Now, we will explore the City that was created alongside Grand Central Terminal.

unbuilt grand central terminal 6 Reed & Stem’s original design for Grand Central Terminal

For the past century, New York City has been graced by Warren & Wetmore’s Beaux Arts masterpiece. However, most people are unaware that Grand Central Terminal does not stand on its own. The original plans by Reed & Stem, along with William John Wilgus, called for an entire city to accompany their train station.


As an urban planner, we’re brainwashed that Los Angeles is “bad” and San Francisco is “good” because of anti-urban sprawl and mass-transit mantras that have taken over ever since planning backpedaled against the car-centric Modernist heritage it had once promulgated. In planning school we learn how the planning profession is still reeling and trying to make sense of its mistakes, so much so that you wonder if they’ll ever get over it.

As a born and bred New Yorker, my conceptions were even more skewed because for our “kind,” there’s New York City and then there’s the rest of the world. A Manhattan Mini Storage ad sums it up best: “Remember, if you leave the city, you’ll have to live in America,” it proclaims in yellow Helvetica font plastered over an entire side of a building. But LA has become my second favorite city in America.