NGV 2016 Architecture Commission: [email protected]’s Pink Car Wash!


visionThe NGV 2016 Architecture Commission Winner [email protected] STUDIO Architects vision for their twenty three metre long ‘Car Wash’ entry …haven’t you always wanted to run through all that foam… is now on display in the delightful back garden area at NGV International on St Kilda Road Melbourne until April 2017.

design-teamThe instillation is quite surreal, a blinding neon pink playful re-invention of the suburban ‘car wash’, one inspired by an existing car wash in Blackburn, one of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs settled by Europeans in the 1840’s.

car-wash-4Replete with hanging curtains of red plastic and able to diffuse mist at regular intervals, this car wash is a fantastical version.

It has been taken out of the context of everyday life to be transformed into an environment where it can be considered as extraordinary, perhaps even a work of art!

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said: ‘The NGV Architecture Commission has quickly become an iconic space for Melburnians, and this year’s design by [email protected] STUDIO Architects is sure to ignite the imaginations of visitors.

A dreamlike interpretation of the suburban car wash, it will offer an interactive structure for all to enjoy over spring and summer’ he said.

car-wash-5car-wash-detailThe structure, which is topped with a mirrored ‘car wash’ sign, has a lightweight steel body with porous walls.

They are made up of layered cricket netting, which shimmers and shifts from different perspectives dependent on the time of day, when the sun is either falling into the garden or bouncing off glass buildings nearby.

There are five neon pink Astro turf car lanes that come complete with rubberised waves and road markings and look amazing.

While it all looked totally fantastic at the media preview and quite fun all new, I couldn’t help my thoughts straying to imagine how it might look by the middle of summer unless the ‘powers that be’ replace the ‘real’ grass and great patches of dirt surrounding it with green Astro turf too.

car-wash-3The automated American Car Wash’ was a phenomenon when I was growing up, having arrived on the scene in 1946 in the mid-west city of Detroit, Michigan, replacing pail and sponge type operations where the cars were manually pushed through an assembly line like tunnel

This was like hard labour and by the early 40’s in California someone had added a winch system to pull the car through as men scrubbed, wiped and dried cars.

Archie, Dean and Eldon Anderson of Seattle fully automated their car wash in 1951, inventing a hands-free car wash.

Cars would be pulled through the tunnel as machines sprayed soap, big brushes scrubbed them, nozzles rinsed them, and giant blowers dried them.


We knew about these things in our family because of my mother’s brother Uncle Jim, who was on the design team for General Motors and was often back and forth to America.

He was part of the team who produced Australia’s first Holden car and used to delight in coming to tell my brother who was wheel chair bound, and I stories about Detroit when he came home from visits there

By 1909 no less than 272 US car manufacturers were based in the city of Detroit, which was renowned for being the home-town of Henry Ford of later Model T fame and Ransom Eli Olds, whose fabulous Oldsmobile arrived on the American scene in 1896.

car-wash-2During the early years of the car industry Mr. Olds invented the modern ‘assembly line’ to produce his Oldsmobile ‘Curved Dash’ in 1901.

General Motors purchased his Olds Motor Works in 1908 co-incidentally the same year Henry Ford launched his Model T, an automobile whose economic viability enabled the average American to own one.

Following World War II from the late 50’s – 70’s the local car wash often had a milk bar attached, and it became a cool place for teens in cars and on bikes to hang out.

car-wash-1When they won the commission back in April, [email protected] STUDIO Architects commented, ‘We are thrilled to be selected as the winner of the 2016 NGV Architecture Commission. Open competitions such as this provide a vital platform for architects to experiment and facilitate public discourse around the broader ideas that motivate the specific design explorations.’

yank-tank-cars-cubaAt the NGV International media preview on October 13 the only thing missing was a great ‘Yank Tank’ car!  Perhaps they have all gone to Cuba!

Hopefully they may be able to add one into the mix by summer, when the space will be used for events, talks, live music performances and much more.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

NGV 2016

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