“Fill’erup with Specialness!”
This post is a collection of gas/petrol stations designed by famous architects. It’s not an original topic since the same theme is explored by a few slideshows and articles floating around the internet. Here’s one, for example. What interests me is that many of these articles and blogs excuse or apologise for the architect involved by saying that the gas station was probably designed by someone else in the office and that the design was probably just “signed off” by the architect. Now hold it just there!
This sustains the myth that creativity and functionality are incompatible, that creative architects don’t do functional, or that functional is not creative.
THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ARCHITECTS WHO ARE FAMOUS – OR EVEN NOT FAMOUS – DESIGNING BUILDINGS THAT ARE USEFUL. IT IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.
Here’s one attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1958 FLW was busy with the Guggenheim that was just about completed, and also on the Marin County Civic Center that he almost lived to see completed in 1960.
This gas station turned out to be the only part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s fanstastical Broadacre City designs that made it into reality. But did he actually design it? Or did he just sign it off? We will never know.
Or how about this ESSO one, attributed to Mies Van Der Rohe? Does it matter if he didn’t design it? Do we even care if he did? If he did, then it was probably his last completed building as he died the same year.
Some sexy modern photography is keeping the dream alive over at archilovers!
The current Repsol petrol stations in Spain, designed by Foster + Partners, have that whimsy-tarted-up-as-high-tech feel that’s characteristic of the brand but I find it hard to believe The Great Man had anything to do with them. However, much as NF is central to the Foster+Partners brand, he’s not marketed by his people as some sort of creative genius. Verdict: Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. That’s just how architectural brands work.
When automobiles had just become affordable to rich people, “service” stations did other things back then like check your oil and clean your windscreen. They were glamorous and objects for architectural expression as well. The Fiat Tagliero Building in Asmara, capital city of Eritrea, was designed by the Italian architect Giuseppe Pettazzi and completed in 1938. (Thanks W.) Why a petrol station should look like an aeroplane I don’t know, but Pettazzi wasn’t ashamed of designing one.
I don’t think Arne Jacobson would have been ashamed of this petrol station he designed in 1938, in Copenhagen.
Bertrand Goldberg was very proud of this rather wonderful one in Chicago in 1938.
1938 seems to have been a golden year for petrol station design. I’m surprised Buckminsater Fuller didn’t have a go. Oops – what’s this? Nope, doesn’t count.
All in all, it seems that to take credit for designing a gas/petrol/service station the norm rather than the exception. It’s only when an architect or the keepers of his reputation try to sustain the myth of creativity that there seems to be a problem. I suspect this is because creativity of the artistic kind is the actual product being sold. It sells for more when it’s not compromised by function. It sells for more when there are no competing criteria by which success or failure can be judged.
Archpaper says this one was designed by Kanner Architects but I can’t find it on their website. (Don’t be shy, Kanner! It’s okay to design useful buildings, even if they are a bit retro and recalling L.A.’s happy days.)
This one’s by Damilano Studio. They’re proud.
This one’s by Johnston Marklee. L.A. again! It’s LEED certified. (Thanks Azure!)
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As far as I know, Antonio Gaudí never designed a petrol station. I hope I’m proved wrong.