Copper-Clad Domes Offer the Best Views of L.A.

Copper-Clad Domes Offer the Best Views of L.A.
08 Aug 2017

Travels with Larry: Griffith Observatory – Los Angeles, California

The nine white, over-sized letters that are featured in films, on postcards and even in billboard hit songs usually come to mind when thinking of California. But as I gazed up at Mount Hollywood, three copper-clad domes caught my attention instead.


Atop of the Hollywood Hills, approximately 1,134 feet above sea level, sits one of Los Angeles’ most iconic landmarks, the Griffith Observatory. It is a cultural icon that offers extraordinary views into space as well as views of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest.

Since its opening on May 14, 1935, the structure has hosted millions of visitors and has appeared in movies and television shows, such as “The Terminator,” “The Rocketeer,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and most notably, “Rebel without a Cause” – a bust of James Dean was placed on the grounds of the structure following the release of the film.


The main materials used for the Art Deco style structure include copper, concrete and steel. Copper sheets wrap around the central dome that houses a planetarium; as well as the other smaller domes that hold the observatory’s public telescopes. Copper was also used for several ornamental components of the structure as well.

The durability and longevity of copper is represented by the bright green color of the copper cupola in the middle of the roof; it reflects the patination of the building since it opened in 1935. The cupola is the only copper roof surface that has not been cleaned or replaced.


The natural weathering of copper to the characteristic blue-green or gray-green patina is a direct consequence of the mild corrosive attack of airborne sulfur compounds. As natural weathering proceeds, the metal exposed to the atmosphere changes in hue from the natural salmon pink color through a series of russet brown shades to light and dark chocolate browns and finally to the ultimate blue-green or gray-green patina.

Admission to this the observatory is free of charge, so next time you are in L.A., take a trip up the mountain to the copper-clad structure. If your travel companions are only interested in seeing the Hollywood Sign, remind them that the observatory offers the best vantage points of L.A. and the iconic sign.



  1. Gibby Bazinet Says: August 11, 2017 at 10:26 am

    What a beautiful building,1935 is not that old for copper, are the domes still original?

  2. Eddie Chesterton Says: August 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Mounted in the copper – clad domes on either end of the building, the Zeiss and solar telescopes are free to the public every day and night the sky is clear.

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