The Firm's Firm
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 5/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
When Adrien Brody got up to accept his Oscar for best actor in a leading role, whom did the Pianist star thank? No, not his mom. The Firm. A talent-management company so hot that its phone number is unlisted, the Firm is said to represent the likes of Vin Diesel, the Dixie Chicks, and Limp Bizkit in addition to Brody. The company also owns Pony, the street-smart sports-apparel label, and was handling all this activity on the cramped fourth floor of a 1950s savings bank in Los Angeles.
Once the Beverly Hills bank building's ground floor became available, the Firm engaged talent from another genre: Shubin + Donaldson Architects. The idea, says partner Russell Shubin, was to transform the staid 8,000-square-foot space into a dynamic setting for entertainment and clothing concerns—or "show a hot company with staying power." To accomplish these tasks, S+D designed work areas for Firm talent managers and the Pony sales team, a shared conference room, a showroom for Pony merchandise, and the Firm's screening lounge. Other specifications involved illuminating the interior better and housing major mechanical and electrical equipment discreetly.
After demolishing the interior, the architects revealed a dramatic 28-foot-high space with a floor and massive columns of concrete. Steel up-lights and down-lights, ringing the columns at the 18-foot mark, address the lack of daylight. Most furnishings are custom, starting with the reception desk, a 24-foot-long monolith clad in mottled aluminum panels.
Pony's sales force and the talent managers' support staff conduct business from an open central area with paneled-MDF workstations. The workstations' 6-foot-high translucent acrylic privacy panels reiterate the surrounding storefront system of translucent and transparent glass panels clipped to an aluminum frame. "There's no disconnect between the furniture and the environment," says partner Robin Donaldson, comparing the storefront system to a "backlit billboard." Behind it, senior talent managers occupy private offices, which measure either 15 by 16 feet or 16 by 20 feet.
The storefront system furthermore serves to conceal part of a mezzanine catwalk where S+D installed mechanicals and lighting. As a result, no ducts or cable trays are exposed. "The design is as stealth as possible," says Shubin. The partial mezzanine houses the conference room and Pony showroom, too.
For the former, S+D cloaked the ceiling in MDF slats to help control noise and create a sense of enclosure. MDF bleachers and a mahogany-topped table together seat up to 100 for the company's weekly pep-rally meetings. The showroom is more street than suit, with a graffiti mural and chain-link fence that allude to the label's gangsta cachet and sister showroom in New York.
One vestige of the 1950s savings bank remains. The former vault is now a lounge with shag carpet and acoustical walls made of post-consumer wastepaper. And if talent managers screening a demo get complimented on the lounge design? They'd have to say, "We'd like to thank Shubin + Donaldson."