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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Driving at the Salk

Recently I saw a car commercial that struck me for the way it ended in the plaza of Louis I. Kahn's Salk Institute:

Here is a GIF of the car screeching to a halt on the travertine plaza:

If you're like me, you're wondering, "Where is the fountain?" Compare the above with a photo of the plaza:
Louis Kahn, Salk Institute

On watching the commercial the first time, I figured the car was superimposed onto a photo of the Salk's famous plaza, but the omission of the fountain doesn't make sense in this regard. The makers of the commercial must have covered the fountain – as well as the pieces of travertine flanking it, as they appear different than the rest of the plaza – with something else that would not be damaged by the car coming to a stop. Whatever the case, this commercial is just another example of how architecture is used to sell cars; see also my earlier posts on the subject.

Actually, this Mercedez-Benz spot is not the first time the Salk has been used as a set for a car commercial. That honor goes to, as far as I know, a 2010 commercial from Lincoln where Mad Men's John Slattery drives the car, for some reason, on a lab floor rather than in the plaza:


  1. No architecture will make me buy a car and I am an architectural Designer. Just another example of CGI I guess. What isn't in this world of movie trickery?

  2. I too was struck by it. I'm pretty convinced that the entire background was digitally created.

    1. It wouldn't surprise me, especially since I figure the Salk would have some sort of no-skid policy for car companies that would use their plaza.

  3. As an architect who (somehow?) managed to spend 10 years making TV commercials before returning to the profession, I can tell you that no film location is ever the same after a shoot. The Salk Institute, as would any other property owner to be honest, would be out of their minds to let them drive a car in that plaza. I guarantee they shot the background and then digitally matted the car into the foreground in post.

  4. I can't decide if these commercials are worse than the Mazda commercial that uses FLW's "ability to do the unexpected":


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