HENRYJUSKEVICIUS WAS ALWAYS crazy about cars. When he was 10, he built a three-wheel vehicle powered by a lawn-mower engine. His weekends as a teen-ager were spent helping friends customize their cars. To Juskevicius, nothing could be grander than becoming a designer of cars.
His mother, trying to steer her 16-year-old son in the right direction, gave him "Wheels, " Arthur Hailey's novel about the automobile industry. One passage in particular stuck in his mind: "The ranks of auto company designers were heavy with expatriate Californians whose route to Detroit . . . had been through the Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles." If Art Center was half as important to becoming an auto designer as Hailey suggested, then, Juskevicius thought, "that's the place to go." He wrote for information.
No other school of design has had such influence in the field of auto design during the past four decades as Art Center. Throughout the industry it is known as the No. 1 school for auto design. Auto companies look to it as a major supplier of imaginative, young talent. In fact, half of the designers working for Detroit's Big Three in 1984 were Art Center graduates. As Tom Gale, Chrysler's vice president of product design, says, "Art Center is very, very special in our mind."
Yet Art Center maintains a relatively low profile. There are those who live just down the street from its secluded, 176-acre Pasadena campus who don't even know it exists. First-time visitors, winding their way up the quiet, residential, two-lane road to the college, are likely to miss its entrance. The college's main facility is a single, striking, long rectangular structure spanning two hilltops. Diagonal steel struts support exterior walkways, giving the building a skeletal appearance. (Art Center leases additional classroom and studio space in Pasadena's Old Town neighborhood.) To the east and south, beyond the school's grassy sculpture garden, is a sweeping view of Pasadena cut up by freeways.