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Hugo Ballin's rotunda for Griffith Observatory named as one of the world's best ceilings

May 29, 2009 |  3:49 pm


It may not be a work by Michelangelo, but the central rotunda at the Griffith Observatoryin Los Angeles is striking enough to be named one of the top 10 ceilings in the world.

The editors and members of admittedly not the most illustrious group of art experts ever assembled -- have bestowed Hugo Ballin's fairy-tale inspired designs for the Observatory with the No. 8 spot on its list, beating out Chicago's Macy's Department Store and the Opera Garnier in Paris.

Ballin was a noted muralist who also worked in Hollywood as an art designer, producer, director and screenwriter. (He served as a sketch artist on "The Wizard of Oz.")

His murals adorn several prominent buildings in L.A., including the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Burbank City Hall and the Los Angeles Times' Globe Lobby.

The Virtualtourist ranking inexplicably excludes Michelangelo's mural for the Sistine Chapel, calling it "the granddaddy of the ceiling world."

So, who won the top spot on the Virtualtourist list? Keep reading to find out...

(1) Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas: The multicolored designs that adorn the hotel's ceilings are actually hand-blown glass flowers.

(2) Debre Berhan Selassie Church,Gonder, Ethiopia: The angels that are depicted on the ceiling are said to be unique.

(3) Grand Central Station, New York: Restored during the 1990s, the aqua-green ceiling is decorated with gold-leaf designs.

(4) Galeries Lafayette Department Store, Paris: The glass-domed ceiling is one of the most recognizable designs anywhere.

(5) Khai Dinh Tomb, Hue, Vietnam: Hand-painted dragons adorn this mausoleum of the infamous Vietnamese despot.

(6) Sant'Ignazio Church, Rome: A short walk from the Sistine Chapel, this Renaissance creation is noted for its three-dimensional optical effects.

(7) Sagrada Familia, Barcelona: The famous Gaudi-designed church is most famous for its exterior, but its interior is equally impressive.

(8) Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles.

(9) Macy's Department Store, Chicago: The ceiling is made from genuine Tiffany crystals and glass.

(10) Opera Garnier, Paris: Marc Chagall decorated the ceilings of this opera house in 1964.

-- David Ng

Photo: The rotunda at the Griffith Observatory. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times