Crossroads of the World | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Laura Dominguez/L.A. Conservancy

Crossroads of the World

Designed by local architect Robert V. Derrah, Crossroads of the World is one of Los Angeles' most recognizable properties. The Hollywood complex was completed in 1936 and conceived as a cosmopolitan shopping center featuring merchandize from around the globe. 

Oriented around a centralized Streamline Moderne structure, Crossroads of the World was envisioned as a hub of pedestrian activity.

The complex features a programmatic nautical theme, paired with architectural styles found around the world.

Derrah designed the central building, which faces Sunset Boulevard, in the form of a ship, which "sails" down an international street lined with shops. 

In addition to Crossroads, Derrah was responsible for a number of significant commissions in Los Angeles during the 1930s. Many of his buildings were designed in the Streamline Moderne style, including the Coca-Cola Building (1939). He also designed an addition to John and Donald Parkinson's Southern California Gas Company Complex (1942) and contributed to the Fairfax Farmers Market (1934). 

In the 1940s and '50s, Crossroads began its transition from shopping center to office complex, housing such tenants as the Screen Actors Guild, Standard Oil, and American Airlines. It was threatened with demolition in the 1970s, but was rescued and revitalized when an investor stepped forward. It subsequently attracted a new wave of creative tenants, including music producers, record companies, screenwriters, costume designers, and casting agencies. 

Crossroads of the World is composed of nine distinct elements. Its most iconic structure - the Streamline Moderne ship - features smooth, curved corners, red railings, porthole windows, rounded doors, and numerous sleek, horizontal surfaces. A central pylon supports a rotating globe with neon letters spelling "Crossroads of the World."

The buildings that surround the central stucture were designed in a variety of North American and European revival styles, including Spanish, Mediterranean, Italian, French, Moorish, and Cape Cod. Two additional buildings form a small, traditional European village, and a lighthouse with a functioning revolving light faces Selma Avenue. 

Cobblestone walkways, mature trees, extensive landscaping, fountains, outdoor seating, and a wishing well enhance the village setting, underscoring the feeling of being transported to another world. 

Crossroads of the World is emblematic of Hollywood's development during the 1930s, from its cosmopolitan ambitions to its architectural spectacle. The juxtaposition of styles evoked the feeling of an international bazaar, as might be found on a movie set in a nearby studio.

The assembled village gave Angelinos a highly glamorized taste of the world at the height of the Great Depression, one that might otherwise be inaccessible, and its Streamline Moderne centerpiece embodied the optimism of the era's technological growth. Its boosters envisioned it as a permanent World's Fair facility, transporting shoppers to exotic settings while offering them a variety of wares and services. 

When Crossroads officially debuted in 1936, the press covered the event as it would a movie premiere. The complex was hailed as "an outstanding landmark and civic attraction" and featured in numerous architectural journals. The combination of high end retail, coffee shops, and professional offices made it a gathering place for international celebrities and Hollywood movers and shakers, and its subsequent life cycles mirrored Hollywood's evolution throughout the twentieth century. 

Photo courtesy KFA Architecture and Jim Simmons Photography

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