Landmark THIS!

Designating a building or site as a local landmark is one way to recognize and protect a historic resource. It is a proactive tool, and often something that owners and members of the public can do before a property is threatened.

Landmark THIS! is a Los Angeles Conservancy initiative to help you with local landmark designation. Designation through the local city or county government is often the most accessible and the most likely to provide protection from demolition or inappropriate alterations. Other designation options are available at the state level through the California Register of Historic Resources and at the federal level with the National Register of Historic Places.

Our Landmark THIS! guides provide an overview and answer questions about local landmark designation. They also offer tips on research, writing an architectural description, making a case for your site’s significance, and navigating the political process. We use the City of Los Angeles’s designation process for Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCM) as an example throughout, but the process, as well as the kinds of information required, applies to other communities and types of landmark designation.

The Conservancy has offered Landmark THIS! as a workshop, often in partnership with the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources. It lets the public learn more about the local designation process, including how to fill out the forms, write an architectural description, and understand how best to make the case for a site.

Best of luck with your nomination!

Writing an Architectural Description

As part of a landmark nomination, you are asked to describe the building’s physical description. This is an important documentation of the building (or structure, object, or site) that helps to determine the character-defining features that will be protected through landmark designation.

Here are some tips for writing an architectural description from the Landmark THIS! guide, as well as a step-by-step illustrated guide to help you. It may also be useful to see the architectural descriptions in successful nominations, such as the Gould-LaFetra House, the Plymouth Apartments, and the Golden State Mutual Insurance Building.

Practice describing what you see and crafting a concise but comprehensive architectural description using a modern house or a coffee shop as examples.

There is no single correct description, and you’re working with just the images in front of you, so don’t worry about the areas you can’t see. For your nomination, you will want to visit the site in order to write a complete description, including the rear, sides, and significant character-defining details. You can see how the Kramer House and Johnie’s Coffee Shop were described in their HCM nominations.

Landmark THIS! Guides

  •  Landmark THIS! Workshop Presentation: West Hollywood

    September 26, 2015

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  •  Landmark THIS! Workshop Presentation: The Cultural Edition

    July 18, 2015

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  • Landmark THIS! Guide to Local Landmark Designation: The Cultural Edition

    July 17, 2015

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  • Landmark THIS! Guide to Local Landmark Designation: The Modern Edition

    August 22, 2013

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  • Tips for writing an architectural description

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  • Illustrated Guide to Writing an Architectural Description

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  • Writing an Architectural Description Worksheet – Modern Restaurant

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  • Writing an Architectural Description Worksheet – Modern House

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  • Landmark THIS! Guide to Local Landmark Designation,

    October 20, 2021

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