The Petersen Automotive Museum first opened in 1994 in a former department store building at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, across the street from LACMA and the forthcoming Academy Museum. It is one of the largest automotive museums in the world with a collection of more than 300 vehicles and other objects relating to the history of automobiles. Last summer, the Petersen announced a capital project to redesign its building to mark its 20th anniversary in 2014.
The building was designed by the LA-based architect Welton Becket, whose notable projects included the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Capitol Records Building, Los Angeles Music Center, and the former Pan-Pacific Auditorium. The Petersen building opened in 1962 as a Seibu department store and was an Ohrbach’s department store from 1965 to 1986. It was vacant until 1992, when it was acquired and renovated to become the Petersen Automotive Museum.
The Petersen has four floors and a basement that comprise a total of 300,000 square feet. The basement vault contains about half of the museum’s permanent collection of automobiles, and the other half are on exhibition in first and second floor galleries. The third and fourth floors contain an educational center and special events spaces.
Details are limited, but the Petersen plans to reconfigure the building’s interior to increase exhibition space by 15,000 square feet. The reconfigured galleries will feature upgraded lighting, digital displays, and interactive learning stations to extend a more immersive visitor experience.
The exterior makeover of the Petersen is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, a global architectural firm whose cultural projects include the forthcoming renovation and expansion project for MoMA in New York. Rather than a restoration of the facade, as the Academy Museum has planned for the historic May Company building across the street, the Petersen building will feature a dramatic new exterior. The entire building will be wrapped in ribbons of stainless steel that suggest the curvy sheet metal of automobiles. The deep red building and its surrounding steel sculpture will be lit from within at night.
The project was announced in 2013 with a $20 million campaign goal. There has been no announcement regarding the campaign or a construction date as the Petersen Museum’s 20th anniversary approaches this week.