By Invitation Only
During NeoCon West, six Los Angeles firms competed to bring products together for "West Edge: Spaces of Unlimited Creativity"
Jan Belson -- Interior Design, 5/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
CONTRACTOR: INNER SPACE CONSTRUCTORS
The mission of HOK's retail space was to take the piousness out of sustainability and make recycling more mainstream. Vice president Clay Pendergrast says his inspiration came from a real Los Angeles store inside a nonprofit called the ReDiscover Center, which sells surplus and recycled materials to art students and teachers. The place is less like a shop, he says, than a "storeroom full of overflowing shelves and barrels."
Repackaging the ReDiscover concept as a chic boutique, HOK showcased rubber, metal, and glass castoffs as if they were precious jewelry. Salvaged display elements got a polished look, too. Large urns—actually the upended acrylic lenses of industrial pendant fixtures—offered colorful plastic rings and pastalike plastic streamers, both discards from the production of skateboard wheels. Random aluminum spools filled used glass water bottles, which HOK displayed in lozenge-shape niches backlit by LEDs, imparting mystery to common materials. The openings were simply punched in a wall made of gypsum board; their look was decidedly more upscale.
FIRM: LANGDON WILSON INTERNATIONAL
CONTRACTOR: L.E. WATERS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
Given an assignment to demonstrate what the next generation of students will experience, Langdon Wilson International presented the classroom of the future. Nothing looks familiar—everything is wireless and virtual. Where's the paper? And what about the teacher? He or she may be present on the computer monitor overhead, and homework is submitted via e-mail. Laptops replaced pencils; instead of bookcases, CD racks lined the walls. The old-style chalkboard made way for a whiteboard made from specially coated glass, designed for use with erasable felt-tipped markers.
Amazing floor tiles, basically plastic envelopes filled with green and yellow liquids, actually moved under your feet—grabbing everyone's attention and adding playfulness to an otherwise unfamiliar setting. The tiles were one of many eco-conscious products that LWI used for the contest. "We believe recycling should be mandatory in the future," senior associate Reginald Head says. That's definitely a lesson worth learning.
FIRM: HODGETTS + FUNG DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE
CONTRACTOR: GEORGE & GOLDBERG DESIGN ASSOCIATES
To design a spa installation, Hodgetts + Fung Design and Architecture's creative director Craig Hodgetts explains, he and design director Ming Fung "devised a Zen environment inspired by Isamu Noguchi but produced almost completely with industrial technology and modern materials, not craft." The aesthetic was meant to enhance communication with your spiritual side, rather than focusing on the corporeal pampering of a luxury spa.
It was the temporary and mobile nature of the exhibition that allowed the architects to experiment with new materials and production methods. An inventive path of perforated acrylic floor tile, for instance, drew you in. The tub was designed in 3ds Max and sent on a disc to the fabricator, who fed the drawings into the cutting machine that produced the shape in Light Blocks acrylic. The finished fixture was shipped flat to the L.A. Mart, proving extremely cost-effective and efficient. "That's what our firm is about," Hodgetts says. "We're experimental, and we like to push the envelope."
CONTRACTOR: CLUNE CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
Gensler's thought-provoking entry in the category of hospitality explored the term's connotations of generosity and welcome. When you entered the space, you were immersed in a luxurious lounge but also confronted by large-scale projections and a panoramic view of downtown L.A.'s skid row. The clever use of interactive art and contrasting materials let you experience beauty and glamour at the same time as inner-city poverty, creating behavioral parallels between the two worlds.
Designer Alexis Dennis describes the installation as "a box within a box, a metaphor for life in any city." The mosaic-tiled floral-patterned portals made a strong branded environment for the equally strong social message. The portals themselves framed luxurious vinyl-covered banquettes, which simultaneously read as that notorious urban temporary shelter, the park bench. Guests pulled logo-label water bottles from trash cans, while the projection on the wall beyond them showed a homeless man digging through the trash for his dinner. The bottles represented an awakening of consciousness in fair-goers as they left, carrying a symbolic message out to the L.A. Mart's world of design.
FIRM: IA INTERIOR ARCHITECTS
IA Interior Architects's corporate suite took top honors in this year's competition by acing its most challenging requirement: the seamless integration and clever showcasing of all the suppliers' products assigned to the space. Nylon carpeting, maple credenzas, and ceiling panels installed as a floating canopy got equal time in the spotlight. Topping the list of excellent supplier presentations, the crowd favorite was an interactive projection of silhouettes, shown on one wall. The shadowy images were actually photographs snapped as visitors entered the booth; captured by computer, the images were transmitted to a projector that recast them as art.
The parts came together to form a whole that allowed visitors a glimpse into an imaginary company's culture. That's no easy feat when you consider that participating firms are assigned products up front and must then incorporate them into the designs. But principal Leonard Scott learned to turn this limitation into an advantage. "It makes for great esprit de corps among team members," Scott says. "That's more than just good design."
FIRM: GRIFFIN ENRIGHT ARCHITECTS
When Griffin Enright Architects received its list of West Edge suppliers, principal Margaret Griffin was dying to add two more products: 3form's polycarbonate and eco-resin panels. So she and principal John Enright came up with a 3-D landscape made from them. Dramatically looping and folding, the translucent composite panels formed the walls, the ceiling, and the raised floor of the installation, named (Wide)band. The laptop-ready lounge was more sculpture than interior. Or, as Griffin explains, "It was about the exploration of a continuous surface of a transforming material."
Before entering, visitors were first urged to peer through distorting glass panels suspended on tension wire. Beyond them, the strong form of a long table—basically an eco-resin top on eight legs—engaged you as you moved through the installation's arches. Polyurethane-topped stools were provided and gathering encouraged. But the focus was the orange panels, backlit and side-lit to glowing effect. It was easy to imagine (Wide)band transforming before your eyes.