suckerPUNCH: describe your project.
rick GERSBACH: WMercantile lofts is an interior renovation of a 1906 Chicago Style Beaux-Arts building in Downtown Los Angeles. After changing ownership and uses over the course of a century, there are now extreme structural and mechanical constraints to making any further modifications to the building. These limitations provoked a series of questions about building in an environment that can’t be altered: If walls can’t be added or removed, what if design alters the character of existing walls? What if walls appeared to be deep instead of flat? What if graphic and color gets confused with three-dimensional objects? In other words, is it possible to manufacture more space without changing the size of a room?
In response to these questions, The LADG largely restricted design to a graphic pattern that takes cues from op-art to make flat walls appear deep and rich with material qualities. The scheme uses a large number of slightly tapered parallel stripes to produce variable spatial qualities depending on the angle of view. Viewed frontally the stripes look like shading on a flat surface. Viewed obliquely the stripes and the wall blur into a fog; cloudiness is tangible.
Two benches in the building lobby were designed to interface with the wall graphics so that the form appears to occupy both the flat space of the wall graphic and the three-dimensional space of the room. Acrylic globe lights throughout the project are positioned to hover like soap bubbles in front of the optically foggy material of the walls.
sP: what or who influenced this project?
rG: Op-art, obviously, but we were also looking for a way to pose a problem to contemporary architectural discourse. A lot of time and energy are expended attempting to justify the fabrication of complex form (it performs! it’s beautiful! it engages the senses!), but in our estimation, no one has come up with an adequate theory about how form relates to an audience. We are not interested in form-making per-se, but are very interested in the consequences of form: the way it becomes sensational, social, and political. Op-art is a good point of departure because its social and politics effects are immediate and unavoidable: it induces a physical reaction in the audience.
sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
rG: Reading: The Ghost Map, Dhalgren, The Diary of Alice James, The New York Times, White Teeth, The Dirt
Listening: Poison, Prince, Rufus, Ulrich Schnauss, RATATAT, Quadron, Junip, Panda Bear,
Watching: Arrested Development, James Bond (the nonsensical vintage ones), a bunch of Wong Kar Wai movies (especially “In the Mood for Love” and “Chung King Express”), and Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void” (hopefully our mothers will forgive us), Waiting For Hockney, The Great Outdoors (with John Candy!)
sP: whose work is currently on your radar?
rG: Yves Tinguely, Enric Miralles, Diller and Scofidio, Hirsuta, OMA, Frei Otto, OfficeDa, Andrea Palladio (but only the Teatro Olimpico, not those dreary villas), Uwe Bremer, Garchnang