Band of brothers
HLW consolidates Warner Music Group's diverse labels in Los Angeles
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Naughty Missy Elliott, baritone Josh Groban, tattoo-covered Kid Rock. On the music-image spectrum, these artists couldn't occupy further points. Yet all three are represented by the Warner Music Group in Los Angeles. Their diversity is emblematic of the challenges that HLW faced in designing WMG's new space: multiple client groups, one corporate entity, and 200,000 square feet grouped around one elevator lobby on six floors. HLW's design consolidated the 700-person staff of Elektra Entertainment Group, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Latina, Rhino Records, and corporate arm WEA, among other divisions formerly spread out in three far-flung locations.
HLW, led by managing partner Michael White, began by devising a similar configuration for floors two through six. (Service functions occupy the first floor.) Each upper floor's reception area adjoins large and small conference rooms, with the larger capable of opening directly into reception to create party space.
With that concept in place, each public area could reflect the personality of a particular label. "We created architecture that relates to sound," says White. In other words, HLW pumped up the volume.
Elektra Entertainment Group, which largely handles hip-hop and R & B, shares the second floor with Warner Music Latina. "We chose a high-energy dynamic with a pop of color," says White of the orange accent wall behind the curved reception desk, constructed of translucent acrylic wrapped with steel. Polished-concrete flooring addresses the hip factor. When sheer polyester draperies are pulled closed on a circular track, the space inside becomes an acoustically controlled listening room—suitably spunky and technologically savvy. A domed speaker assures that sound doesn't escape.
For Atlantic Records on the third floor, White says he drew on the label's "history of legendary artists." The sounds of Led Zeppelin, Phil Collins, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are channeled into cold-rolled steel flooring and a freestanding conference room. Framed by crimson-painted drywall, the structure is fronted with glass panels and a heavy velvet curtain for sound absorption. During parties, the panels slide into a storage closet, freeing up 700 unobstructed square feet.
On the fourth and fifth floors, Rhino Records, whose stable includes Ray Charles, the Ramones, and Carly Simon, hooks up with a mod-squad aesthetic immediately apparent in reception's glass-bead curtain. The curtain backs a painted-steel stairway connecting both floors, where lounge spaces have mustard-yellow walls and era-appropriate Eero Saarinen tables.
Corporate arm WEA occupies the sixth floor. When newly signed artists encounter reception's soaring maple-veneer canopy and acrylic light pole, they know they've hit the big time.
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