Best New Building: LeMay-America’s Car Museum

Frank Gehry’s EMP Museum is now 13 years old. Since then, what new building has made an impact on our city? None. Instead, turn to Tacoma, where the LeMay-America’s Car Museum opened last year. Designed by Los Angeles architect Alan Grant to feature the 3,000-vehicle collection amassed by South Sound trash-hauling baron Harold LeMay (1919–2000), the giant, aluminum-clad tube has a commanding view of Commencement Bay from its hillside site. It almost doesn’t matter what it holds. Like a huge metallic slug out of some sci-fi movie (Dune, perhaps), the building makes you curious about what’s inside. It could be a sports stadium, a blimp hangar, or the hideout for a James Bond villain. With only two light portals at either end, the museum’s dramatically lit main level really could be used for anything; the smooth floors would make it the world’s most deluxe roller rink, for example. As it is, the vintage cars encourage you to wander (the collection continues on descending ramps below), but I almost prefer to appreciate the mysterious design from the outside. And, wishfully, I try to imagine where it might’ve fit into our own cityscape.

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