Art for Life
With the Art Form Gallery in Los Angeles, Patrick Tighe perfects the live-work model on a compact scale
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 8/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Patrick Tighe is adroit with bold gestures. Formerly an associate at Morphosis, seminal advocates of the cutting edge, he founded his own Los Angeles firm two years ago. It was a subterranean San Fernando Valley house that garnered him AIA's national award and the attention of Michael Collins, who saw photographs of the project. Collins, who had just bought a property in West Hollywood and planned to combine a gallery and residence there, looked no further. Tighe Architecture was the first and last concern interviewed.
Collins cites real estate as his vocation but art as his avocation and passion. With no formal fine-art background, the native Angelino embarked on serious collecting 17 years ago, relying chiefly on personal interests sparked by his parents. His collector's eye grew increasingly refined through exposure to and immersion in the local art community. He concentrated on indigenous talents exploring work on paper and canvas as well as photography.
Three years ago, Collins conducted his own mixed-media experiment. To see if his sales acumen in real estate would translate into art, he mounted several shows of contemporary L.A. work in private venues and rented gallery spaces. The shows had proved successful by the time he heard about a house on West Hollywood's residential Dorrington Avenue—minutes away from the established galleries on Robertson Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. Collins immediately grabbed the property. His vision for Art Form Gallery was one step closer to realization.
Physical dimensions were the first factors in program development. The lot encompassed just 4,000 square feet, and the existing house's area and footprint, plus 50 percent of the walls, were to be retained per city codes. Technically, the project would be a renovation. In reality, however, results bear scant resemblance to the nondescript predecessor. But the dramatic solution was, Tighe comments, a "scale-appropriate response to neighboring buildings." The architect packed a wallop of a design punch into a mere 1,400 square feet.
The structure consists of three volumes. Along the street, the gallery component is defined by a storefront system of aluminum and laminated glass and by a tilted roof that creates a full-length clerestory to capitalize on natural light. The residential counterpart, with its butt-glazed corner, is a heavier, jutting form clad in flat-seam, interlocking zinc panels. Between gallery and residence, a recessed entry establishes modern, low-key gravitas via a 5-foot-wide stainless-steel pivot door with a hydraulic mechanism and magnetic locking device. "I took cues from the street. Robertson is commercial, while Dorrington is suburban," Tighe says.
Inside, a single deft stroke resolves organization and perception issues. A diagonal wall neatly bisects the interior, articulating the gallery on one side, living areas on the other. The orientation not only "maxes out the space," the architect explains, but also forces perspective to the backyard. Consequently, the gallery seems to extend beyond its 57-foot length, past the seamless glass end wall to a shimmering black surface: a reflecting pool formed from a custom steel trough on a frame of tubular steel.
"The aesthetic is gallerylike, not houselike," says Collins. Still, while the environment remains pristine, details elevate it from anonymity. The fireplace, conceived as an oversize presentation easel, has a canted front that reflects the slant of the ceiling. Instead of installing baseboards, Tighe marked the distinction between horizontal and vertical planes with a slight reveal, which also gives the walls a floating quality. A barely visible aluminum picture rail running through the interior offers display flexibility. A painted steel armature accommodates both spotlights and up-lights.
When it comes to furnishings, Tighe keeps company with the masters. His steel-and-glass coffee table and adaptation of the classic Mies daybed face two Barcelona chairs. Antonio Citterio's Melandra chairs ring a 14-foot-long custom maple table, with its asymmetrical profile and steel base treatments. Given the small size of the bedroom (12 by 17 feet) and den (12 feet square), built-ins were a foregone conclusion. Tighe took cues from the Case Study Houses for his maple cabinetry, banquette, and bed.
In the best Southern California style, living and work quarters extend beyond the house's boundaries. Bamboo surrounds the rear courtyard, where a redwood deck, steel-grate awning, and concrete pavers create a semi-enclosed room. And a separate garage structure—newly fitted with redwood plank siding, a steel and laminated-glass barn door, and a birch plywood desk—now serves as his office alfresco.