Metropolis II, opening at LACMA on January 14, is installation artist Chris Burden’s action-packed, raucous, optimistic view of Los Angeles sometime in the not-to-distant future. Eleven-hundred custom-made, die-cast cars, about twice the size of a Matchbox car, race through a multilevel system of 18 roadways that twist and turn and undulate amid buildings that seem vaguely familiar but are not replicas of any specific landmark (although, strangely, there is what looks like an Eiffel Tower). The cars whip along on a plastic roadway at fantastic speeds, producing an enormous din that echoes off the gallery walls like the incessant roar of real-life freeway traffic. HO-scale trains and 1930s-era trolley cars roll along tracks of their own, adding a cheerful nostalgia to the mix.
Buried deep in a New York Times article on Fiat’s proposed alliance with sad old Chrysler is a detail that will make many architects happy. As part of the deal, Chrysler will build small cars for the American market, like the Cinquecento-styled Fiat 500. But more to the design point, Chrysler will also start building Alfa Romeos for the domestic market. As it has long been the favorite of architects—from the Italian Futurists to Craig Hodgetts—let’s hope the design of the new Alfas remains in Italy with Bertone and Pininfarina. And not in Detroit.