Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990

During the mid-twentieth century, Los Angeles rapidly evolved into one of the most influential industrial, economic, and creative capitals in the world. With its benign climate, diffuse development patterns, and car-oriented culture, L.A. attracted new residents with the promise of an informal, independent lifestyle. At the same time, the city was emerging as a hotbed of cutting-edge architecture, supported by ambitious patrons, innovations in building materials and technology, and bold investments in infrastructure.

Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940–1990 traces the city’s transformation into an internationally recognized destination with its own design vocabulary, canonized landmarks, and coveted way of life. Organized by the Getty Research Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum, the exhibition features hundreds of original drawings, photographs, and models drawn from the collection of the Getty and dozens of other institutions. These artifacts offer new perspectives on familiar L.A. landmarks and reveal some fascinating, lesser-known works, while illuminating the critical factors that led to the city’s rise as a design mecca.

Overdrive refers to the extraordinary pace and global impact of L.A.’s impressive growth. The term also alludes to the fact that an engine churning at top speed may overheat. In the face of complicated civic, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges, L.A. has continuously recalibrated and adapted, frequently leading to bold new cycles of architectural exploration. This exhibition offers a rare, broad-based look at the development of one of the world’s most complex cities—ecologically precarious, often frustrating, and yet undeniably alluring.

Exhibition Opening

Event Details:


  • When: 

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

  • Where: 

    National Building Museum
    401 F Street NW
    Washington, DC

  • More information: 

    Event website.

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