The Delahaye is the epitome of Art Deco on wheels, particularly the two models shown above from the late 1930’s. Those voluptuous fenders known as the French curve reflected the periods fascination with flight, strongly resembling the fairings on the wheels of Rene Couzinet’s Rainbow Plane.
Emile Delahaye founded his automotive manufacturing company in France in 1894, creating vehicles for 60 years until they closed their doors in 1954. It’s remarkable that a company could produce such stunning cars for over half a century, and yet be unknown to the general public by the turn of the millennium. It seems the French government levied punitive taxes aimed at luxurious non-essential products after World War II, making life very difficult for all luxury auto-makers in France. Thus most Delehaye autos were allocated for export to French colonies, including those in Africa. The exception to the rule being military vehicles, which they also produced. During the early 1950’s a jeep-like vehicle known as the VLRD was created to compete with the ‘traditional’ American jeep built during the same period…. we all know how that turned out. By the way, the American Jeep was founded in 1941 and has continued to be a strong brand for 75 years, with a little government help during the great recession of 2008.
As I’ve mentioned before, Art Deco is the celebration of speed and joyous movement, particularly in regards to planes, trains and automobiles. The stunning red Delahaye above personifies art deco, and if I were to place money on the one car in the museums collection that could have inspired the exterior of the new Peterson, this would be the car. The bold candy apple red color combined with voluptuous curves and strong visceral bands of chrome, make a strong argument for the sexy exterior of the museum.
Check out this great video I found with British sex symbol Diana Dors, posing with her Delahaye, as well as footage that lets you hear how amazing this car sounded.
I’m having so much fun watching the development of the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA’s Miracle Mile. Some of my friends have said, the 90’s called and want their architecture back, or it’s fugly. I however, disagree. I used to live just a few blocks from the museum, and had no idea it even existed. With this new skin, there will be no denying the museums existence.
One of the main arguments I’ve heard levied against this proposed building over the years is: It’s not Art Deco. And the Miracle Mile is about preserving it’s Deco roots. Well, wander down to La Brea and Wilshire and you’ll see how miserably the monstrosity on the southeast corner failed to meet the design standards of Neo- Deco. I’ve written about it previously, and it’s no secret that BRE Properties Essex apartment building is a major design flop. Everyone had to have a say in it’s development that it got so watered down, with no clear vision or point of view. It lacks innovation and is an architectural mish-mash that’s so pedestrian and communal, that it leaves nothing to aspire to. I call it communal architecture, and I don’t mean that kindly.
Art Deco can be defined in many ways: rich colors, bold geometric shapes, lavish ornamentation, an embrace of technology, machine age imagery, the luxury ocean liner and the skyscraper, the fantasy world of Hollywood, a new modernism, a silhouette that’s more horizontal than vertical… a celebration of speed and joyous movement, particularly in regards to planes, trains and automobiles. Doesn’t the structure above meet those definitions in a new and modern way? True, there’s no zig-zag patterns or geometric motifs, but this building certainly looks like a joyous celebration of movement. One of the initial descriptions I read about this building described it as the flames on a 50’s hot-rod, but I think it goes much much deeper. It’s visceral, it’s powerful, and it’s undeniably bold. Yes, maybe it looks a bit like a Diet-Coke can, but I guarantee you there’s no way that you can drive by it and not notice it. If you’re a tourist visiting LA, you’re going to be asking: what’s that? I think ultimately it will be recognized as one of LA’s most outstanding buildings, much like Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall. Love it or hate, you’ll know it’s there. And to quote Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction… I won’t be ignored. So says the new building on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax.