A year after completion of its $90 million remodel that changed the skyline of Los Angeles’ “Museum Row,” the Petersen Automotive Museum has been honored by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design as one of the most significant building projects in America owing to its radical exterior design by architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox.
The Petersen’s renovation was unique among museum projects in that it was a retrofit, rather than a complete knock down or new building. The design has been the subject of much debate. It finds few defenders among car enthusiasts, but it has been touted as sensational by many from the art and architecture fields for its bold use of a façade and lighting that functions like a mask, transforming an otherwise nondescript Mid-Century box. It shows best at night with the back lighting. Love it or hate it, the design has accomplished several goals, bringing attention to the museum not only in Los Angeles, but around the world. A minor renovation would not have brought attention from so many non-automotive people.