KPF to wrap steel ribbons around
LA's Petersen Automotive Museum

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Petersen Automotive Museum by KPF

News: architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox has unveiled plans to surround the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles in a cloak of steel ribbons as part of major refurbishment.

Housing one of the world's largest automotive collections, the Petersen Museum occupies a former 1960s department store on Wilshire Boulevard. In 2014, the museum will celebrate its twentieth anniversary and to tie in with this landmark it has commissioned Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) to upgrade its outdated facilities.

Petersen Automotive Museum by KPF

"The Petersen Museum is a rich cultural deposit of the most interesting and compelling automobiles in the world," commented KPF design principal Trent Tesch. "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."

Set for completion in early 2015, the renovation will involve stripping back the existing concrete portico and replacing it with a red aluminium rainscreen, over which the stainless-steel ribbons will be mounted. Integrated lighting fixtures will highlight the details at night.

Petersen Automotive Museum by KPF

"Our goal was to find a way to inject life into the building, with minimal intervention that would produce the maximum effect," said Tesch. "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."

KPF co-founder and chairman A. Eugene Kohn compares the new facade to the shapes made by a dancing ballerina. "[It is] intended to express constant motion, suggesting speed, aerodynamics and the movement of air," he added.

Petersen Automotive Museum by KPF

The architects will also overhaul the building's interior, adding an extra 1400 square metres of exhibition space for the museum's growing collection.

Other projects underway by KPF include an extension to a 30-storey tower in London and a skyscraper proposal for a new business district in South Korea. See more architecture by KPF »

Here's more information from the architects:


KPF designs Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles

Firm's exciting repositioning project on Museum Row of The Miracle Mile

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 aluminium 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 aluminium 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 colour and forms will be lit from within to accentuate the steel sculpture and act as a beacon on The Miracle Mile.

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 characterised 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.

  • KPF #1 Fan

    “The expression of the structure lacks imagination” – no kidding…

  • amsam

    Well it does strongly connote car-ness and LA-ness. Which is probably why I just threw up in my mouth.

  • faan

    Monster, like a giant bug.

  • Dan

    An embarrassing 90s joke.

  • joe

    The strips need to be smaller.

  • takedesignseriously

    Can’t someone please make this stop.