The Los Angeles Skyline in Context

For all of the hype and bombast that Hollywood pumps out about it, Los Angeles isn't that big a city once you get there and size it up in person.

Similar to cities like Milwaukee, Los Angeles is a sutured-together amalgamation of suburban neighborhoods punctuated with the occasional high density business or retail district. But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to appreciate.

Los Angeles' skyline glitters in a way that its rivals in New York and Chicago don't. This is largely because even though the glass-and-steel skyscraper was born in Chicago and grew up in New York, money and space have allowed it to thrive on the West Coast.

Indeed, the majority of Los Angeles' tallest buildings are fairly new. 60% of its top ten were built in the 1980's and 90's. By contrast, with the exception of its new Trump tower, Chicago's top ten hail from the 1960's through 1990. And New York? For the most part, we're talking deep last century. Half of its ten tallest buildings were put up in the 1930's -- before you know it, they'll be a hundred years old. Sure, any capable interior decorator can kit out the inside of a building to make it look modern, but exterior of a 1930's skyscraper will never be mistaken for modern construction.

Unfortunately, even though it has many of its own architectural merits, Los Angeles will also be the "little" brother of Chicago and New York. The conventional wisdom is that this is because of seismic conditions. Tokyo suffers a similar problem, with no skyscrapers taller than 814 feet. New York has five buildings over 1,000 feet, as does Chicago. Los Angeles manages to beat Tokyo, however, with one skyscraper topping out at 1,018 feet -- the U.S. Bank Tower.