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Petersen Automotive Museum

Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF)

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

Petersen Automotive Museum


Petersen Automotive Museum



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Project Description


– International architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) is pleased to share its exciting design for the new Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The museum will mark its 20th anniversary in 2014 by commencing a complete exterior transformation and a dynamic redesign of the interior, resulting in a world-class museum that will showcase the art, experience, culture, and heritage of the automobile.

Opportunely located on “Museum Row” of the famed “Miracle Mile”, the building actually started out as a department store in 1962. Its new design will transform the Petersen building into one of the most significant and unforgettable structures in Los Angeles – an appropriate home for such an impressive collection of automobiles.

Unlike most museum renovations, which involve complete building teardown, this is a repositioning project. The existing building is like a chassis without a body. By keeping the bones, but removing the existing concrete portico on Wilshire, and installing a corrugated aluminum rain screen outboard of the current facade on each of the three street frontages, the museum will have a whole new look and feel. New “ribbons” made out of angel hair stainless steel on the front and top, and red painted aluminum on the back and bottom, flow over and wrap the building. Acting as beams that support their own weight, these evoke the feeling of speed and movement, sitting atop the existing structural system much like the body of a car mounts to its frame. At night, the color and forms will be lit from within to accentuate the steel sculpture and act as a beacon on The Miracle Mile.

According to KPF co-founder and Chairman A. Eugene Kohn, the new design was “intended to express constant motion, suggesting speed, aerodynamics and the movement of air. While its other museum neighbors are the gentlemen in black tie, this is a ballerina.”

KPF Design Principal Trent Tesch adds, “The Petersen Museum is a rich cultural deposit of the most interesting and compelling automobiles in the world. Housed in a converted department store, the museum finds itself without a deserving image. While the ‘bones’ of the building work well for the display of cars, the expression of the structure lacks imagination. Our goal was to find a way to inject life into the building, with minimal intervention that would produce the maximum effect. The design offers an abstract veil of flowing ribbons, meant to invoke not only the spirit of the automobile, but also the spirit of Los Angeles architectural culture."

Los Angeles is a city that was brought to life by the automobile. The idea of Los Angeles architecture invokes thoughts of the mid-century modern movement led by Architects such as John Lautner, and Wayne McAllister. This modern and space age architecture, known as “Googie”, is characterized by upswept roofs, curvaceous shapes, and bold use of glass, steel, and neon. This style of architecture was influenced by car culture, suburban life, and the Atomic age. Because of increasing car ownership, cities no longer had to rely on a central downtown and business could therefore be interspersed with residential areas.
Work on the museum is expected to take 14 to 16 months and to be completed in early 2015.
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