Hot Rods, Cool Digs
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Firm: CCS Architecture
Site: Los Angeles
It's a long way from a hippie commune to the showroom of $100,000-plus cars. But that's the road traveled by Cass Calder Smith. He spent four years growing up on a commune in Northern California and recently designed the Los Angeles flagship of Tesla Motors. Named in honor of the pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, this Silicon Valley start-up manufactures a zippy all-electric roadster capable of hitting 125 miles per hour—and leaving the battery-powered car's dinky reputation in the dust.
Known primarily for restaurant design, Smith's CCS Architecture would seem an unlikely choice for a project comprising showroom, service center, and offices. "One of Tesla's board members suggested hiring a restaurant architect, because that's where the most creative work is being done," Smith explains. He scored additional points for prowess in branding, another part of the program: The L.A. facility is envisioned as the prototype for Tesla showrooms nationwide. Factor in Smith's affinity for fast cars and motorcycles, and the job was a match made in automotive heaven.
"This car doesn't need a lot of stuff around to sell it," Smith reasoned. "So the space could be gallerylike, in contrast to typical showrooms with lots of cars on the floor." To make his less-is-more case to the client, his presentation boards featured photographs of Marfa, Texas. "I'm a Donald Judd freak," Smith proclaims. Getting the green light, he kept things raw.
Tesla's property, a busy corner in Westwood, started out with two separate single-story buildings. It was natural that the 3,500-square-foot one be transformed into a showroom, the 4,500-square-foot one into a service center. First, though, they would have to be joined. Smith enclosed the wedge-shape void between and unified the resulting facade by rebuilding exterior walls and surfacing them with painted cement plaster everywhere but the corner where the showcase windows are; here, he went for limestone tile. New concrete floors were poured on both sides of the new building. The two sides' original bow trusses, painted white and partially covered, were exposed and sandblasted down to the wood. Otherwise, empty space rules in the showroom and service center flanking the red-painted connector, which houses a lounge, a conference room, two offices, and a retail nook for Tesla accessories such as baseball caps and sweatshirts.
Smith thought long and hard about what could complement the gleaming cars—and came up with the idea of communal tables that might easily populate a hip restaurant. Walnut with a stainless-steel kick rail, the three of them now found in the showroom, connector, and service center are joined by Lievore Altherr Molina's tall round stools in the same materials. The setup is intended to instill elegant informality in discussions between salespeople and potential buyers. There's also art of a sort, and it comes in three mediums. Looking like a wall sculpture in the Judd mode, the showroom's grid of 12 lacquered panels is actually a display for Tesla's paint colors. Photography of Tesla cars, mounted as full-bleed images, graces the service center, kept spick-and-span and open for all to see. The third genre, video, involves images of Tesla technology and history continuously looping on built-in flat screens in the connector to convey a crucial marketing message: Tesla is green, arty, and a driver's dream.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
Bernhardt Design Through Risa Ogroskin Associates Visible Graphics Jura Lightwild: Herman Miller Through Contract Resource Group: Through Asn Natural Stone: Throughout Benjamin Moore & Co.: Luminesce Design: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger: AC Engineering: Northstar Cabinet Construction: Decon Group:
Limestone Tiles - 2009-10-08 02:02:00 EDT
Limestone Used for the indoor and outdoor decoration with the graceful, unique and classical effect.