Green Gets Down
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 10/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Eco-friendly site? Check. Efficient energy use? Check. Ditto for materials and indoor air quality. "Equator Books adopts 'green' aspects as a matter of good design," notes the eponymous principal of Rania Alomar Architect.
Located on Venice's Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a Los Angeles epicenter recalling the early days of New York's SoHo, this bookstore and gallery is within walking distance for much of the community. The roll-up front door, a holdover from the 1926 building's garage days, entices pedestrians, Rollerbladers, and cyclists to come on in, a prime example of the community connection that owners Michael Deyermond and Philip Fracassi always planned as part of the picture. It's also easy for salonlike book signings and art openings to spill onto the sidewalk. "Openness," Alomar says, "was a driving force."
When she arrived on the scene, the 3,200-square-foot interior was crammed with the walls, partial loft, and central restroom left by the previous tenant, rock star Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction fame. The black foam covering the floor was Farrell's, too. After clearing everything out, the architect discovered exposed brick walls, four skylights in the truss roof, and concrete flooring, now cleaned, sanded, and polished. All told, she reused 60 percent of the existing building.
Her two primary design moves were simple. One was to break up the typical uptight gallery mode by building a central volume. (No pun intended.) It's defined, above, by an 11-by-24-foot canopy. On the right-hand side, a table-height shelving unit offers a flat top for display—in the glow of a suspended installation of cold-cathode fixtures. (Think Dan Flavin.) On the left, a floating wall provides both a vertical surface for art and horizontal slots for books.
For her second move, Alomar pushed most of the book display to the perimeter. Shelving 10 1/2 feet high spans side elevations. One unit juts out at the bottom to encourage sitting and climbing.
All storage and display constructions are multi-ply birch-veneer plywood, formaldehyde- free and manufactured regionally. "The cheapest stuff available," Alomar says. "It's not about the surface but about the edge, which mimics paper." The shellac she used is nontoxic and organic.
Energy efficiency is another by-product of Equator's location. The south-facing front provides plentiful daylight to supplement MR16 halogen spots. The roll-up door provides natural ventilation, eliminating the need for the existing air-conditioning system.
As a hipster's paradise, Equator is "just like Venice, where very wealthy people walk around in flip-flops," Alomar says. Exhibits by Ed Ruscha and Raymond Pettibon enhance the vibe. So do the books. Where else can you find whole sections devoted to prostitutes or amusement parks?