Selling Real Estate in Pasadena and surrounding areas, I get to view some wonderful architecturally significant properties about which I feel passionate. I’m also passionate about cars; after all in the first decade of the 20th century Pasadena had more cars per capita than any other city in the nation. (photo courtesy of Pasadena Heritage)
Two weeks ago, I was thrilled to tour a new Los Angeles architectural wonder, the new Petersen Museum. There are varied opinions regarding the merits and new appearance of the former Orbach’s Department Store building. I was initially lukewarm from photos I’d seen, but found it far more provocative in person. The undulating ribbons of steel that wrap the red background of the building play with reflected light in rather exciting ways that are impossible to discern from a photo. It’s worth stopping by to experience this effect.
What’s even more exciting are the cars now on display in the museum. Although I loved and never tired of the ‘Walk Through Time’ format of the museum’s former incarnation, the new galleries offer a very unique perspective on automotive design that the average car enthusiast is rarely, if ever, exposed to. I sympathize with those who feel the new museum is in conflict with Mr. Petersen’s original directive regarding what the museum was to be, but I loved an opportunity to experience a class of automotive design I’d only briefly encountered beforehand.
There are currently 6 exhibitions, including an interactive display where museumgoers can simulate driving high powered race cars. Undoubtedly for me, the exhibition entitled ‘Rolling Sculpture’ was the jewel in the crown of the current offerings. The automobiles displayed in this retrospective are a departure from what was being built and sold to the masses in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. These cars are examples of the influence of broader stylistic design movements of those times. There is a direct correlation to the architecture and interior design of statement real estate that was erected in that period such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building (New York), the Eastern Columbia Building (Los Angeles), the Samaritaine Department Store, the Grand Rex Movie Palace (Paris) and the interiors of the great ocean liners of that time such as the Queen Mary, the Mauretania and the exquisite Normandie.
The autos on display were produced in extremely limited numbers for connoisseurs who had the financial means to own these’ moving works of art. These are the Bugatti’s, Delahaye’s, Rolls Royce’s, Peugeot’s, Voisin’s and Hispano-Suiza’s that the ultra-rich could collect like a bauble on their wives’ wrists that made an unquestionable state about their wealth and position. But they are more than just very expensive autos of their time. Few American cars offered the extremely chic styling that sets these fine automobiles above the Duesenbergs, Cords or Auburns. These cars are sculpturally exciting, moving architectural wonders that are design counterparts to the finest real estate found in Los Angeles., New York, Paris or London of the period.