Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects create a new space for M2L's international design collection.
Julia Lewis -- Interior Design, 2/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
" DESIGN COMES FIRST," says Michael Manes, who founded the New York showroom M2L in 1993. A 30-year veteran of the modern furniture industry, Manes maintains a business philosophy that reflects his deep respect for Florence and Hans Knoll, Charlie Stendig, and other early champions of modern design. Like these progressive figures, Manes views his showroom as a resource for modern furniture as well as an educational environment that provides an ever-changing international survey of 20th-century design.
With a thriving operation that represents authorized and licensed furniture by approximately 250 international designers and architects-amounting to some 1,200 products-Manes has recently expanded his outfit to include a new flagship showroom. Just around the corner from M2L's original space in the D & D Building, the newly-opened "gallery," as Manes calls it, offers an additional 5,000 sq. ft. of contract and residential furniture and accessories. Designed by Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel (GKV), the New York-based architects who were also responsible for M2L's D & D location, the second-floor showroom demonstrates the depth of Manes's commitment to design.
A clean, neutral space, the gallery's contemporary architectural details and inventive use of materials readily suggest "the culture of design" that Manes has nurtured at M2L. "Programmatically, the client wanted to show and use furniture in the space," says GKV principal and project spokesman Richard Kronick. Consequently, the plan offers a large, uninterrupted volume without enclosed offices or a conventional conference room. Instead, explains Manes, the staff makes liberal use of the gallery's collection. Employees might sit at a Piero Lissoni work station, or gather around, say, a Convivium table by Innio Arosio for meetings. A segmented, fluted glass partition bisects the gallery and anchors furniture vignettes on either side. The translucent, angled divider "creates a series of intimate spaces," says Kronick, while at the same time accentuating the volume's open expanse of space. Rectangular slots in the ceiling house recessed lighting and establish a rhythmic, ribbed pattern overhead. The gallery's natural maple floor is enlivened by an inset of custom-cast glass tiles that runs underneath the glass screen. The glass tiles are used even more prominently at the gallery's entrance where there is also a large dropped ceiling made of backlit translucent fabric. These unexpected gestures create a dramatic first impression.
Richard Kronick extends credit to architect Poh Sing Low and Claudia Deitert, who selected finishes for the space.