Sunset Car Wash
This Sunset Boulevard gem is a low concrete monument to Late Modern architecture, with a tip of the hat to Brutalism.
When you think of a Modern-style car wash, you probably think of a Googie extravaganza with pylons, starbursts, and metal grilles, or perhaps the ubiquitous, utilitarian canopy with no decoration other than a sign or two. Sunset Car Wash in West Hollywood is neither of these, to a glorious extent.
Completed in 1972 for owners Bill Bush and Bert Myerson, this Sunset Boulevard gem is a low concrete monument to Late Modern architecture, with a tip of the hat to Brutalism. It was designed by architect Robert Barnett to be a car wash unlike any other, more similar to the impressive concrete banks and civic centers rising across Southern California at the time than the colorful car washes dotting the landscape.
The building is dominated by a massive sloping concrete wall along Sunset, hiding the actual operation from view and providing a shelter for an enclosed customer waiting area. The wall has built-in planters and an overhanging flat roof that hovers above it all like a ceremonial platform atop the ruins of an ancient pyramid.
In 1973, Los Angeles Times architecture critic John Pastier raved, “For a Volkswagen it’s a preview of Valhalla, and for a human being, it’s a deliciously concentrated dose of the Los Angeles automotive mystique.”