William Pereira’s sharp spire, Julia Morgan’s attention to grand detail, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s dramatic archways. California’s list of architectural achievements is long and diverse. And while many structures have played important parts in the Golden State’s built history, a handful stick out for the sheer awe they inspire.
From the stately state capitol building in Sacramento to the sweeping views framed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, California’s most striking designs capture their surrounding environment and purpose in a variety of meaningful ways. Here are a few buildings that strike an impressive Cali chord.
California’s first Mission Church was established way back in 1769, and though the simple white building that now stands on the San Diego grounds was actually rebuilt in 1931 according to historical research of an earlier structure, the church and its setting have a deeply-rooted history—it’s even been called the Plymouth Rock of the West Coast. The Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá gets its name from Spanish explorers who traveled to what would become California in the late 18th century. Today, the Mission serves as an active Catholic parish.
Tucked into a cove of redwoods, the stone and glass chapel Frank Lloyd Wright’s son Lloyd Wright built on a bluff in Palos Verdes, California is a popular destination for weddings. The Wayfarers Chapel is an example of organic architecture that aims to include nature in its essence and sees its spaces as sacred. The younger Wright designed the place of worship for the members of the Swedenborgian Church and it was officially dedicated in 1951. The chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The national and state-designated historical landmark, Marin County Civic Center, sits across three separate hills in San Rafael, California. Designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the massive building is lined with circular cut-outs and exterior balconies, dotted with gold spheres along its rooflines, and includes a substantial pre-cast concrete barrel-arched roof. The site is still the seat of Marin County civic affairs. Wright, unfortunately, didn’t live to see the project completed in the 1960s. “We know that the good building is not the one that hurts the landscape, but is one that makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before that building was built. In Marin County you have one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen, and I am proud to make the buildings of this County characteristic of the beauty of the County,” Wright said while working on the building.