In Tune With Zune
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 5/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Site: Los Angeles
Work by day. Party by night. The motto of prerecession twenty somethings is actually the premise behind Zune L.A., where Microsoft's Zune MP3 player is going mano a mano against the mighty Apple iPod.
For added street cred with entertainment insiders, Microsoft opted out of its Pacific Northwest home for sunnier climes—the former studio of a celebrity photographer, to be exact. As MC3 principal Ian Macduff puts it, the two-story building was "funky with a 1960's ranch-style mystique." (Yes, that's MC3, not MP3. McDuff was punning on his own name when he left Clive Wilkinson Architects to make his solo debut with this project.)
Changes start in the front courtyard, where Macduff poured a new concrete slab. On the street side, he inserted LEDs to spark up the concrete screen wall. The remaining three sides got glass garage doors, making the courtyard contiguous with reception in a variety of configurations. Also new are aluminum-framed windows throughout.
Transforming the 5,000-square-foot interior into environments suitable for both work and performances first required demolition and seismic upgrades. A self-imposed addition to the program, Macduff notes, was "creative sustainability" represented by repurposing materials, including turning the flooring in a back room into the VIP room's balustrade and cabinetry. Microsoft's specific requests focused on flexibility and a rough-refined aesthetic.
Half of the ground level is now a double-height performance space, shaped vaguely like an amphitheater but otherwise open to interpretation. The stage is a rectangular plywood box composed of angular modules assembled jigsawlike. Break them apart after the show, and you have seating. On a night when no one's playing, they can be used as display plinths.
The cocktail bar, in the next room, has a day job as a reception desk. Its polished-looking walnut veneer contrasts with white-oak paneling that started life as floorboards. Layer after layer of stain, Macduff says, had made them "look like plastic." He rescued and reconditioned them as visual allusions to Microsoft's Pacific Northwest roots.
Most of the furniture is just as multitasking as the puzzle-piece stage and the bar. A banquette in reception splits into four modules—each with binary code, appropriately enough, woven into the upholstery. But that's nothing compared to the standout conference table upstairs. Its top lowers enough to become the seat of a bench once white cushions are added. The table-bench allows the surrounding space to serve either as a meeting venue or a gallery, thanks to three 8-by-10-foot art-display panels that slide and pivot on ceiling tracks.
Artistic installations play a major role, too. The entry courtyard gets arty with an interactive chandelier comprising LEDs and layers of dark purple organza; Zune users standing below can send a song to the piece and watch as the light pulses in time to the beat. In reception, the main event is a back wall papered with a kaleidoscopic black-and-white graphic commissioned from a Japanese graphic designer. Open a restroom door, and find another crazy wallpaper, this one with wild things inhabiting a fantastic landscape by a Colombian illustrator.
Both wallpapers are the work of contributors to Zune Originals, a series of graphics that customers can opt to have laser-etched into the anodized-aluminum back of their MP3 players. That initiative also sparked staffers' idea to design the tongue-in-cheek trompe l'oeil black vinyl decals that recur all over headquarters. One of these "cling-ons," an elaborate chandelier, seems to hang from the ceiling; Russian nesting dolls appear to line up on top of a console; a cat looks ready to pounce.
So what's been going on in what Microsoft lifestyle marketing director Greg Matuskiewicz calls a "rec center for the entertainment industry?" George Clinton celebrated his 67th birthday there. Jessica Alba graced a lunch before the Golden Globes. A photo exhibit celebrated the genius of Miles Davis. And Don Cheadle just led a roundtable discussion informing entertainment leaders about the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Photography by Tim Street-Porter.
From Front Room Service: Custom Seating (Reception). Maharam: Seating Fabric. Ilan Dei Studio: Custom Table (Conference Room). Herman Miller: Chairs. Ikea: Pendant Fixures. Elegance Exotic Wood Flooring: Flooring (Conference Room, Landing). Bryce Parker Company: Custom Garage Doors (Entry). Throughout Robert Hsin Architecture: Architect of Record. Titanium Engineering: Structural Engineer. Perfect Design & Engineering: Mep. Ink & Wood: Woodwork. Brian Odell's Slab Art: Concrete Work. Treehouse: Project Manager. Jack Russell: General Contractor.