Right Coast, Done Right pix
For the New York satellite of Los Angeles editing studio Spot Welders, Work AC built an office within an office.
Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
At Spot Welders in New York, film and video editors ply their trade in four suites that Work AC walled off, in a loose X configuration, on one side of the wedge-shape floor plate.
In the workplace, natural light is usually an asset of the highest order. Just ask anyone who has ever toiled, Dilbert-style, in a cubicle illuminated by dreary fluorescents, seemingly miles from the nearest window. For designers, moreover, there are few greater joys than creating spaces suffused with sunshine: Le Corbusier famously called architecture the "masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light." Work AC's husband-wife principals, Dan Wood and Amale Andraos, decided that light can even be the chief element, an idea based on their affinity for unlikely materials-picked up working at Rem Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture in the Netherlands.
Over nearly a decade at the Rotterdam office, Wood was a lead designer on the Prada "epicenters" in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles; a campus center at the Illinois Institute of Technology; and the ill-fated additions to the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Andraos was a principal designer on the three Prada stores and a theater at the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. But a stint together at OMA's New York outpost was fate. "Rem started spending less time there, so we got a taste of independence," Andraos recalls. A year after relocating, the couple left to launch Work AC. Without a single project in the bag.
Their first commission wasn't even fit for human occupancy: For a charity auction benefiting Puppies Behind Bars, they designed an experimental doghouse with a treadmill and video screen. Then Target called and asked for a temporary Isaac Mizrahi boutique at Rockefeller Center. The architects designed the store in six weeks and built it in another six-eight weeks later, it was history. Now, with 12 employees, Andraos and Wood are still far from landing the kind of internationally significant building job they were accustomed to with the master of provocative design. But they're working on Diane von Furstenberg's new headquarters, and they've just completed their largest office ever, the New York satellite of the Los Angeles editing studio Spot Welders.
It was here that they discovered that natural light could actually become a liability. The 5,000-square-foot penthouse loft's 52 windows, wrapping all four exposures, and its 40-foot-long sawtooth skylight, facing north, were exactly what Spot Welders employees didn't want. They prefer to splice footage for TV commercials, music videos, and feature films in darkened edit suites. Meanwhile, their clients-who often wait around for hours to preview clips-might enjoy a little sunlight and ' some skyline views. As Wood summarizes the problem, "One of the main functions is about dark. The other is about light."
The solution that he and Andraos came up with involved one side of the wedge-shape floor plate, where they placed four edit suites clustered around the studio's digital archives. This freestanding nucleus is wrapped in curving walls painted traffic-light yellow. Outside them, open space extends to the window-lined exterior walls.
Edit suites, ranging in size from 175 to 350 square feet, all contain a single gray-lacquered desk to hold the special editing-control keyboard and video monitors, and each suite has a large plasma screen on which clients can preview their commercials and videos. The rooms are carpeted in different colorways of the same cheerful pattern inspired by Andy Warhol's series of Flowers silk screens. Though the carpet is off-the-shelf, the architects customized it by "editing out" six of the nine standard thread colors to create palettes dominated by dusty blue, hot pink, acid yellow, and apple green.
Flooring outside the suites shifts to a shiny deep-purple resin, which reflects the blobby forms of lounge seating at each suite's door. "These areas needed to feel relaxed, to take you from work to light, bright, and cozy," says Spot Welders CEO David Glean. The lounges are hidden by the edit pod's front wall, which anchors a reception area with a hefty walnut desk and bench. To one side, beneath the tall skylight, sits the main client lounge-dubbed "the park" for its outdoorsy teak tables and chairs, tree-trunk segment, and turf-colored floor.
Andraos and Wood dropped the ceiling on the other side of the space, home to a corner office for the executive producer, a support-staff work area, and a conference room-all bathed in natural light. Plain white plasterboard conceals the chaos of pipes overhead. In most parts of the studio, though, the architects hardly touched the existing concrete structure. "It's about keeping everything as rough as possible," Andraos says. Everything except the films and videos.