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August 2013

“This proposed new facade for the Petersen Automotive Museum is one of two similar designs that has received preliminary approval from the Los Angeles Planning Department.

Petersen Automotive Museum's car sales criticized

From The Los Angeles Times:

“This proposed new facade for the Petersen Automotive Museum is one of two similar designs that has received preliminary approval from the Los Angeles Planning Department. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, it would be built from a series of stainless-steel, curved ribbons meant to evoke Art Deco themes.”

This is the part that gets me: meant to evoke Art Deco themes. Say, what?

If Kohn Pedersen Fox is so crazy about Art Deco, why the fuck don’t they just design a beautiful Art Deco building (neoclassicism, trimmed for speed)?
This monstrosity actually bears no relation to Art Deco. They just say that because speaking bullshit has no consequences anymore. The LA planning officials are prompted to hark back on the now-historical architecture of the city’s flowering, but they are just being hosed psychologically. And even if they get the falsehood of it, they probably don’t want to be branded as un-hip, behind the curve, not sufficiently up-to-date, backward-gazing ninnies. 

Notice: this time the renderers didn’t even bother to photoshop in crowds of people moiling on the sidewalk. They just left it looking as despotically empty and incoherent as it really would be, in all its wasteful, vacuous glory. The kicker, of course, is that it is a museum for cars, the instrument of destruction of our cities.


About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

18 Responses to “August 2013”

  1. Lindsay Curren August 2, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    It looks like a very angry building, too. Like the work of the kind of demon spawn littering the landscape of our lives these days. Like a giant steel version of those horrific and totally unsuitable monster dolls that have been the darling of boutique baby and child shops in recent years. The building is an eyesore and a soul sore.

  2. anti dod August 4, 2013 at 1:17 am #

    Bigger is better.

  3. flyover country August 5, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Vroom! Vroom! Drive it off the road, into the ditch.

  4. doggersize August 5, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    there is so much art deco or similar built in the first half of this century….architects and the committees that choose designs are at a loss to not simply find copies of the old blue prints, make minor modifications for existing power and water standards, and leave it at that. there is no prestige in it. until it becomes fashionable for such a practice to be the new prestige.

  5. kiwehtin August 7, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    To compound their vapid incompetence, whoever it is who dreamed up the “Art Deco” reference seems to neglect a basic distinction in art history. The undulating, windblown ribbon-like design covering the façades of the building copies a signature motif of Art Nouveau, the style of the very early 1900s that preceded Art Deco (with its own very different signature geometricality and imitation of machines) by two decades.

    These undulating ribbonlike fillers were disparagingly called “noodles” by one critic. Three examples of what the architect is “alluding” to while getting the allusion completely wrong:




    Actually, to me this is reminiscent of a red cabbage after you slice through it.

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  6. alka August 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    It looks like something out of a Japanese monster film! Smog monster perhaps… lurching through the streets, destroying cities. Oh, the irony.

  7. Eldorado August 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    My very first impression was that it looked like a big spew of vomit. Really. Like somebody had eaten a huge sundae made of raspberry sherbet with marshmallows. It actually does make me kind of queasy looking at it.

  8. Tupper August 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    To me, it looks like a giant mound of dog poop. Probably, not what it’s designer intended in their rush to be, oh so unique.

    • GoLightRail September 6, 2013 at 1:00 am #

      Good one!

  9. hiruitnguyse August 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Would make a great Sarcophagus to toss over the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster Area. Already comes complete with appropriate Hazard Warning Colors.

  10. James Kuehl August 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I like it. It looks melted. Nuclear mishap, perhaps? Maybe it stood to close to a shiny Frank Gehry building and got toasted by the reflection. Another perfect monument around which we can gather to celebrate the absurdity of our times.

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  11. davidreese2 August 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    There is one portion of this rendering that is beautiful: the sky.

  12. ozone August 19, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Hey, let’s call it the “Wind Tunnel Smoke” building!
    It’s the perfect melding of ‘form’ and ‘function’. (IOW, “Illusory lifestyle? Meet illusory life.”)

    I say they should build the damn thing and blow a HUGE wad of dough on it while they’re at it. It’s the only way people will learn what insane waste is really about. Plus, it will help speed the demise of Car City. If you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I mean; it’s truly a horrific place without any real meanings, just a papier mache facade of movie wishes and endless driving from hither to the far-flung yon.

  13. Neon Vincent August 19, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    The sustainability blogger Hipcrime Vocab’s day job is as an architect, and he hates this sort of building. He has a couple of great rants on the subject, one of themost recent of which is this.


  14. Wells August 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    It looks like a network of roads engulfing a landscape. I’m reminded of Jimmy Neutron when his makeshift arcade armada first landed on the planet of his “advanced alien civilization” in the 2001 animated feature. The sight of an urbanist landscape with overhead freeway networks filled with egg-shaped mobility pods (like our cars) zipping along in pollution-free perfection was impressive, but as it turned out, the alien race had devolved into ameobic blobs so they could live entirely 24/7 inside these mobility devices. A metaphor for car-dependency and subsequent, debilitating obeisity? Technological perfection without bodies, the alien race became cruelly misanthropic as they celebrated human sacrifice to their mighty god, a giant 3-headed chicken.

  15. TL Jr August 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Looks to me like nothing so much as a quarter head of purple cabbage in profile…
    Inspiration can be found in many places I guess? Not sure what cabbage and cars have in common… stink? (wink)

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  16. GoLightRail September 6, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    Good lord! I’ve known Kohn Pedersen Fox to do some really good work in the past – what happened?!? This design, I am sure, would have got someone an ‘A’ where I went to undergrad architecture school.

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