The redesigned Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles was unveiled to the public on December 7 after a $125 million renovation project that transformed the formerly boxy building into a work of modern art.
The museum houses hot rods and vintage cars. According to Terry Karges, the museum’s executive director, it is the largest and most valuable collection of vehicles ever assembled. The collection includes two Aston Martins used in the James Bond films “Spectre” and “Goldfinger.”
The museum’s original façade was nondescript and did not serve to attract visitors. The building housed a department store before it was converted to a museum. The Petersen Foundation wanted to create a sharper architectural design for the building. They wanted the building to appear fast and chose red to convey that.
The architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox developed a flowing façade with a canopy made from aluminum and steel panels. The canopy wraps around the museum and over the roof. It was inspired by streams of smoke that flow over a car’s nose and hood in wind-tunnel tests. The building beneath the canopy is covered with a red corrugated metal rain screen to create a backdrop for the canopy.
Steel fabricator A. Zahner Company turned the architectural plans into reality. The Kansas City company had worked on creative metal jobs for Frank Gehry and other architects.
The Petersen Museum canopy was the most difficult project the company had ever undertaken. They used 3-D modeling and design software to produce 310 uniquely shaped panels that together created a rippling design.
The redesigned interior has 25 new galleries on three floors. The galleries are grouped by the themes of automotive history, industry, and cars as art. Interior design company The Scenic Route tore out much of the interior to give the museum a more open feel and make it easier to navigate. They had to retain the support columns on each floor and used them to help visitors find their way. They also installed a circular staircase in the center of the museum and made the interior bright white.