Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

What Do You Think of the New Petersen Museum Design?

Petersen Automotive Museum
The Petersen has been taking time lapse images (one every half hour) of the museum under construction. This image is dated July 13, 2015 at 10 pm. A time-lapse movie of construction can be seen on the Petersen website.

By now most of us have caught a glimpse of the new facade of the Petersen Museum on Wilshire at Fairfax. It’s hard to miss the stunning red box being wrapped with ribbons of stainless steel evoking the aerodynamics of wind rushing around a speeding car. It makes a statement, it begs attention, it is unforgettable.  And that is just what a dynamic, driven remodel of a once-stodgy museum is looking to gain with their $125 million redesign.

Petersen Automotive Museum 3But it also begs the question: how well does this design work for Wilshire Boulevard? Does it add to the character of the boulevard, facing the elegant May Company building and adding to the historic streamline moderne structures down the block? Or is it a flash-in-the-pan attempt that will look whimsical in the moment, but not add to the long-term grace of LA’s “Main Street”?

Will it become another iconic image of LA, much like the streetlamp installation across the street at LACMA has become?

Beth Dunlop,  architecture authority and editor in chief of MODERN Magazine, had additional questions for us in the Miracle Mile. “Does Wilshire need a beacon?” she asked. “Is it any good in person? What are the implications for birds, and for thermal transfer (reflecting heat out)? Should buildings on streets like Wilshire be showstoppers?”

On the other hand, Dunlop noted, the design is truly in the “googie” tradition, seen throughout LA, of having a building be more literal and look like what it is and does.  And that’s precisely how the architects, KPF, describe how the wrapped steel structure is is much like the body of a car mounted to it’s frame:

Unlike most museum renovations, which involve complete building teardown, this is a repositioning project. To use the metaphor of a car, if the existing building is a car’s chassis, KPF’s design is the body. The bones of the structure remain, and the existing concrete portico on Wilshire is removed. The rooftop becomes converted into a party space which can be rented out. A corrugated aluminum rain screen outboard wraps around the building on each of the three street frontages, giving the museum an entirely new look and feel. “Ribbons” made out of angel hair stainless steel on the front and top, and red painted aluminum on the back and bottom, flow and wrap the building, maneuvering the existing entry vestibule and other apertures. Sitting atop the existing structural system like the body of a car mounted to its frame, the steel “ribbons” evoke a sense of speed and movement and are brushed to avoid creation of glare.

What do you think of the Petersen’s new design? Fun and fanciful? Or disruptive and conspicuous? Take our one-question poll below and / or weigh in on the comments section. Not for the record, just for some fun.

[polldaddy poll=8978640]

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Julie Grist
Julie Grist
Julie co-founded the Larchmont Buzz with fellow buzzer Mary Hawley in 2011 and served as Editor, Publisher and writer for the hive for many years until the sale of the Buzz in August 2015. She is still circling the hive as an occasional writer.

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  1. Wilshire Boulevard is much too small to be a venue for such permanent egomaniac statements. The intersection has a historic landmark and the Petersen Blvd. clashes with it horribly. Perhaps it is good for the birds , but they will probably be locked out of these endless perches.

    The images may be conceptually interesting, but the impact is awful to the public.

    Just wait until the art museum’s new black blob oozes southward in a decade! The Page Museum will be the only place where the eyes can rest.

  2. Love, love, love the new Peterson Museum design. It screams out for attention: Look at me, I’m in LA!!! Great “new” building that will once again show others that LA is a hip, modern city willing to take chances.

  3. Ugliest bldg in the land. Doesn’t fit the gentrified atmosphere of Wilshire and is apparently built on lies. I understand it was proposed to be a bacon-wrap. Plans obviously changed and the city granted one if it’s many pea-brained exceptions.


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