Under The Desert Sun
Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 3/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Firm: Merz Project
Site: Scottsdale, Arizona
Throw dozens of dishwashers, refrigerators, and cooktops into one space, and you run the risk of looking like a big-box retailer. That was something Merz Project was hired to avoid when retained by BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte—one of the world's largest appliance manufacturers—to design a showroom and training center in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Having caught BSH's attention for sourcing so many of its products for Arizona's first LEED for Homes—certified development, the much publicized Galleries at Turney, this young firm turned the typical showroom on its head—selling the experience rather than the product. "You're not here just to look at appliances. You're here to feel them in an environment," principal Joe Herzog says. "It's a more subtle way of pushing you toward a purchase." A far cry from Best Buy, the 12,000-square-foot space showcases multiple appliance options without losing the cohesiveness of real kitchens, albeit ones that may come with three refrigerators apiece.
Merz Project, named after a cultural movement begun in 1918 by German painter Kurt Schwitters, cooked up dedicated showroom-studios for BSH brands Bosch, Gaggenau, Siemens, and Thermador; a training center; and a product research lab. "Housing four brands under one roof is no easy feat," Herzog continues. "To make it cohesive, public areas had to feel like a museum."
Walls and ceilings in the lobby and central hallway are painted in eggshell. Flooring is white tile made of a postindustrial glass by-product. Although the project is not a LEED contender, the tile is one of several green products selected, in keeping with BSH's commitment to sustainability.
To immediately expunge the memory of what Herzog describes as a "mundane industrial-park exterior," a dramatic white fabric-wrapped drum of a light fixture, somewhat reminiscent of Isamu Noguchi, hangs directly above the reception desk. Because the enormous, ethereal lantern descends from a recess in the ceiling, Merz director Alison Rainey adds, "It appears to breathe and float."
The reception desk itself is a self-effacing slab of white precast concrete. Behind, a sitting area composed of a concrete bench and a percolating fountain also serves as a transition to the Bosch Eco-Kitchen, the first of three areas dedicated to that brand.
Materials and finishes repeat for unity. All the Bosch areas feature stainless-steel appliances and sustainably harvested wood flooring: bamboo for the Bosch Eco-Kitchen and maple for Bosch at Home and the Bosch Innovation Corridor. The former two are set up like actual kitchens, with counters in a solid-surfacing made from recycled glass and cement, whereas the Bosch Innovation Corridor is indeed a simple corridor, only with rows of dishwashers recessed in the wall so that only the shiny doors are showing. Art installation or comparison shopping?
On the other side of the central hallway, the Gaggenau and Siemens studios have quartz-composite counters and wengé cabinetry. The Siemens studio's floor tile, selected for its faux wood grain and subtle sheen, is actually porcelain; a "window," really a backlit photograph, shows a beach in the South of France. Sunny Marseille gives way to moody lighting in the Gaggenau studio, where Rainey calls the soft glow "appropriately mysterious, in tune with a unique brand." Amid the dark gray glass floor tiles, a swath of vibrant orange epoxy picks up the energy.
The two largest rooms are at the far end of the facility. In the training lounge, rows of chunky club chairs upholstered in toffee-brown leather swivel back and forth on round bases of polished chrome. The Thermador Pro Theater includes a wine bar, a dining area that seats 20, and a living area with a fireplace—in addition to a large demonstration kitchen.
In fact, five of the 11 kitchens at BSH are fully functional. And gourmet chefs regularly provide something else not found in a big-box store: sweet brown rice waffles or Mexican-style ribs.
Photography by Matt Winquist.
Bisazza: Arcadia: Artek: Icestone: Aya Kitchens & Baths: Ecotimber: Lithonia Lighting: Bruck Lighting Systems: Belfer Group: Bernhardt Design: Dornbracht: Caesarstone: Poggenpohl: Iris Ceramica: Keilhauer: Eureka: Throughout Bosch; Gaggenau; Siemens; Thermador: Dunn-Edwards Paints: Caruso Turley Scott: Associated Mechanical Engineers: Renaissance Companies: