Taking a critical look at public space in Los Angeles

Religion as Architecture Part Three











Click a picture above to start a slideshow. It’s easier to view the photos that way, I didn’t really have time to organize them though.


And we’re back. Ok so here is part three. This one starts in Downtown Los Angeles and heads east towards historic Boyle Heights then swings back towards Downtown Los Angeles near the USC area.

1. Cathedral of Saint Vibiana 1876

Ah, such a pretty building. Although simple in design, the history of this cathedral is complex. Built in 1876, the Cathedral has seen the city of Los Angeles outgrow her. In fact, the Cathedral at one point was at risk of being demolished! Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Now, it isn’t used as a church (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is the successor) but instead, it is often rented out for special events.

lapl circa 1920






2. Union Church 1922

I couldn’t find any older pictures of this simple church. Built in Little Tokyo, it was meant to be the main hub for the Japanese/Japanese-Americans associated with Christianity. The picture below shows the building in a sorry state in the 1970s. Luckily, now it houses the Union Center for the Arts and appears to be highly activated and well maintained.

union church 1972 lapl



3. Koyasan Buddhist Temple (高野山米国別院), 1940

Originally, a Buddhist temple was built in Little Tokyo as early as 1912. As the population grew, the need to build something bigger was evident. This current building was built in 1940. Tragically, the Japanese/ Japanese American population in Los Angeles and their cultural institutions suffered via the Japanese American Internment Camps established in 1942. The older picture on the right, was taken in the second half of the 1940s upon the return of much of the population back to Little Tokyo.

1940s via amst130.files.wordpress koyasan 1945 lapl






4. Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple (ロサンゼルス東本願寺別院) 1976

I couldn’t too much info on this temple.  This temple is situated right on the border of Little Tokyo and Skid Row. Here is an interesting piece of info off their website:

“The Honganji tradition traces its beginning to Shinran Shonin (1173-1262), a priest of the Kamakura Period and a student of Honen Shonin, the founder of the Jodo Sect. The central practice of listening to the Buddhadharma (teachings) was Shinran’s conviction in opening a path to enlightenment for all.” 1976





5. Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (1925)

I absolutely love this building. Home to the temple from 1925 to 1969, it played an early key role in the unification of this community. It is the oldest standing temple in Little Tokyo now. The picture directly below, sadly depicts Japanese/Americans being bused to the internment camps. The photo below this one, shows the desolate temple in the 1940s. In the 1970s, the building was brought back to life by housing the Japanese American National Museum. In 1999, the museum moved to a new facility built right across from this building.

1940s via

Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple 1944 lapl





6. Nishi Hongwanju Temple, 1969

So when the temple left the building above, it moved into this building. Not only is this a beautiful building, but the landscaping is really nice. Bordering the Arts District, this area seems pretty dead but has a lot of potential.






7. Ivy Chapel (Receiving Vault), 1882

Located at the Historic Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, the Ivy Chapel has seen the demographic in the neighborhood change quite drastically. This area of Los Angeles is known as Boyle Heights – one of the first suburbs of Los Angeles. Now home to a large Latino population, this area has a diverse history. As you walk along the rows and rows of headstones, you’ll notice a large variety of people from different backgrounds. Simply amazing to think that some of the individuals buried here were born while Los Angeles was still a European city. This is probably one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. Pretty creepy.





8. United Baptist Church, ????

I couldn’t find any old photos or any historic information on this church. Neat looking church, not a common style of architecture seen in Los Angeles. I’ll have to do some investigating on this one later on.





9. St. Mary’s Catholic Church, ????

Again, not much info on this one. Seeing that Boyle Heights has so much history, I thought it would be easier to find some old photos of this building. I’ll keep on trying. But for now I’ll guess and we’ll see how close I am. I’m going to guess that the building was built in 1929 and did not originally look like this. The facade seems to have a recent stucco added to it. More precisely, I’m going to guess that the tower has been altered substantially.





10. St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 1925

Many of you have probably been inside this church all ready without knowing it!. Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s “End of Days” and  Keanu Reeves‘ “Constantine” have scenes that were filmed here. Not great movies but not bad. Anyways, this has to be one of my favorite churches in Los Angeles.


Via LAPL 1926


Via LAPL 1929


Image courtesy of Mario Herrera Photography



20130611_205634[1] 20130611_205847[1]

11. St. John’s Cathedral; 1925

This church is just down the road from St. Vincent de Paul’s. Interesting bit of information is that it was modeled after a church in Italy. Below, you’ll see the strong similarities.

imagevia doug santo

Image courtesy of Doug Santo


San Pietro Tuscani, Italy

San Pietro Tuscania, Italy


image via the

Image via The Source

Ok folks that’s it. Next public architecture post will be churches in Hollywood, SF Valley or City Halls found in the Los Angeles area.



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