At the Moving Picture Company's Los Angeles facility by Patrick Tighe, curves and lights are transformational
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 5/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Ask Tighe Architecture for something different, and you'll get it. In spades. That's what the U.K.'s Moving Picture Company got when it opened a Los Angeles satellite to handle part of a postproduction operation specializing in color-grading, digital effects, and computer animation for such films as Slumdog Millionaire, Watchmen, and the last six James Bond movies as well as commercials for Toyotas and Bacardi.
"Since the Hollywood-based editors and crew always had to go to London, MPC decided it would make sense to have a presence here in L.A.," Patrick Tighe says. So the company took over the 7,800-square-foot top level of a generic four-story building. Prime assets were a roof terrace and proximity to a vibrant street life with coffee, sushi, and fashion boutiques mere steps away.
Unlike the other architects interviewed for the job, Tighe had no prior experience in production facilities. But he nailed this one on the first try. "We gave them the opposite of the typical warehouse space, with the bow-truss ceiling and the huge volume," he explains. His scheme, built virtually unchanged from the initial presentation, was based on a single serpentine form weaving through the space and organizing it. If the swooping white drywall looks vaguely familiar, that's because Tighe made a similar large gesture for a NeoCon West trade-show installation that ended up on the cover of this magazine in 2006. His work has become increasingly sophisticated in the intervening years, as this latest project attests. Floating 18 inches off the floor and lit from below by LEDs, the drywall form establishes a boundary between open areas on the perimeter of the floor plate and closed rooms at the center.
As Tighe explains it, "The outside of the form is client-oriented." That means you can take a seat on a banquette built into a niche in a drywall curve—from a few steps back, it can't help but be anthropomorphized into a smile. Or you can meander to the nearby Corian coffee bar and wait for a cappuccino. The hall that runs along the outside of that curve has more seating: chairs by Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames and round ottomans. Inside the form, Tighe continues, is the kitchen that serves the coffee bar, the managing director's glass-fronted office, a conference room, and the "tech stuff" including a film-tape vault and five edit bays. These, however, are not edit bays as we know them. Instead of pitch-black enclosures with little more than intimidating computer consoles, MPC's versions are friendly sitting rooms. Tighe made the point with upholstered banquettes and corner windows that connect these spaces with outside activity.
Clients and editors go back and forth between edit bays and informal hallway meetings, but eventually people wend their way entirely around that drywall form to reach a pair of color-grading rooms, one housed in the form and a larger one freestanding. "These are where the money's made," Tighe notes. It's also where much of the money was spent. In both rooms, clients and editors watch films and commercials from the vantage point of a C-shape anthracite-gray banquette.
On the most basic level, making movies and commercials is all about light. "The idea of light was a driver for MPC's identity," Tighe explains. "Groupings of LEDs penetrate the serpentine form, emit color, and give movement to the piece." The fixtures are shaped like stylized periscopes, their aluminum tails protruding on the inside of the form and their heads flush with the outside. All the lighting is programmable, so variations in intensities and colors can provide subtle shifts in scenery on the predominantly black-and-white set. Ditto for the play of natural light and shadow that occurs throughout the day. Tighe brought changing chiaroscuro effects to the fore with the help of perforated aluminum screens installed in front of the window walls. (Though the office is just blocks from the beach, most views from here to there are anything but picture-perfect. Garages and office buildings clog up the sight lines.) He derived the pattern of the perforations by manipulating his digital model for the drywall form. "That's what MPC does," he says. "It tells their story."
The facility's economy of materials bears witness to Tighe's ecological concerns, apparent in all his recent projects. Though he opted out of LEED accreditation for MPC, he scored green points by using upholstery fabrics with recycled content and flooring of engineered wood. Slumdog wasn't the only award-worthy performance here.
Lisa Little (Project Manager); Yosuke Hoshina (Project Designer); Risa Tsutsumi; Karla Müller; Jarod Poenisch; Pete Storey; Daniel Innocente: Tighe Architecture. Lumenations: Lighting Consultant. Gilsanz.Murray.Steficek: Structural Engineer. Davidovich & Associates: MEP. Tom Farrage & Co: Metalwork. Synergetics: General Contractor.
From front Panelite: Window Material (Color-Grading Room). Vitra: Chairs (Hall), Stools (Reception), Chair, Desk (Office). Allwood Designs: Custom Ottomans (Hall, Reception, Color-Grading Room), Custom Tables (Hall, Office). Dupont: Bar, Desktop Solid-Surfacing (Reception). Fambuena Luminotecnia: Pendant Fixture. Knoll: Banquette Fabric (Reception, Hall). Mike Fair Custom Furniture: Custom Banquette (Color-Grading Room). Throughout Mafi: Flooring.