The reputation of graffiti is not what it used to be. Once viewed as a nuisance and a sign of crime and social degeneracy, more and more cities are taking a new approach by putting up welcome areas for street art, or commissioning artists who are proficient with spray paint to decorate old buildings with murals. Of course, graffiti varies heavily in terms of complexity and mass appeal, and many argue that by arbitrarily picking what kind of street art is socially acceptable and should be encouraged by the law is simply creating a sanitized version of the traditional form of expression, as even the simplest scrawls have a purpose of expressing an opinion, frustration, or simply affirmation that one exists and wants to be heard.Most of the graffiti in this post falls into the latter category, but with one common feature: the writer put it there just to make the next person laugh, smile, or think.
Scrawls on bathroom walls are a bit different and fall into a category of their own, a phenomenon that has been the subject of entire academic studies. Officially called “latrinalia,” writing on bathroom walls is something that psychologists have suggested we do because of the potential to express things that may be inappropriate without being suspected, as it’s being done behind closed doors in a space where people usually keep to themselves.
It’s almost like posting on online forums. And much like the modern anonymous comments section, the content often tends toward crude and inflammatory, but this list shows that there are some well-wishers who want to brighten their captive audience’s day.
Some people have even used the stereotypical kind of vandalism that city councils hate for material good. Last year saw an epidemic of Brits forcing their local authorities to prioritize road repairs by painting every uninventive tagger’s favorite body part over the offending potholes.
In 2015, one anonymous chaotic good character became infamous for the practice in Manchester, calling himself Wanksy, and apparently the approach that he pioneered has been repeated with success elsewhere. Locals can complain about this method all they want, but they can’t say it doesn’t get the job done.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of a shark, you know they’re terrifying – just look at all those teeth! But despite the scary appearance, people are gladly taking pictures in front of one on the shores of Palolem Beach, South Goa, India. Now, you might think they’re crazy but relax – the shark isn’t real. It’s actually a beach stone cleverly disguised as a great white shark by American graffiti artist Jimmy Swift back in 2015.
Upon seeing the rock for the first time, the artist instantly knew it was the perfect place for a great white. “It’s truly amazing how mother nature can carve out such a perfect shape,” says the artist.
“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever painted. I was literally beat up by the waves and rising tide and forced to stop before it was finished. I could have done better, but between the blowing sand and wind, splashing waves, burning hot sun and the fact I’ve never painted a shark before or painted on a 3 dimensional surface like a rock…. I think it turned out OK,” writes the artist on his Instagram post. “When I first saw this rock it looked like a perfect place for a great white. Hopefully it doesn’t scare the shit out of people! This was inspired by the movie posters from Jaws…. A movie that scared the shit out of me when I was a kid!”
“Light and movement.” That’s what Sam Gores said he wanted to see upon entering his office in Los Angeles. And when the chairman and CEO of Paradigm Talent Agencyasks for something, that is precisely what he gets—particularly when the project is designed by Rottet Studio. Interior Design Hall of Fame member Lauren Rottet’s firm is itself a fixture in the entertainment business, with credits including offices for United Talent Agency and Viacom.
A powerhouse with eight locations across the U.S. as well as in Toronto and London, Paradigm “understood that architecture does matter,” Rottet Studio founding principal Richard Riveire begins. “They really get that an agency can leapfrog over competitors by bringing everyone under one roof, giving them a great place to work, and making sure that conversations and impromptu meetings happen.” So, employees from the music, literary, film, and TV divisions, previously at three separate L.A. sites, are now together in Beverly Hills.
Notable for a landmark fountain, a monumental pyramid, standing in the front courtyard, the 1980s building had a storied past as the former home of the agency ICM Partners but had been vacant for seven years. Though Riveire and principal Harout Dedeyan term their intervention there “tenant improvement,” that’s just Rottet Studio’s typically understated manner. We call the project a complete gut job, with only the limestone and granite wall cladding and the skylight retained. The 82,000-square-foot U-shape interior was entirely rebuilt. Plus, the courtyard, which previously “leaked like a sieve,” Riveire says, was repaved and replanted around the pyramid.
The greatest challenge was “to figure out new ways of working inside a 30-year-old building,” Riveire continues. “By jamming things together, we could create an exciting design that changes all the time.” The device that “moved the throttle setting toward more common spaces,” he explains, was the insertion of a central stair atrium—obviously the big move. “We had to whack out 1,000 square feet on two of the floors.”
No mere grand staircase, this. It’s not only the people connector between the three levels but also a multitasker. The lower, wider flight can serve as a vertical space for solo work, thanks to theblocky cushions scattered across the steps, or as a venue for all-hands company meetings, when combined with the reception area and an adjacent conference room.
Flights aren’t stacked but slightly rotated inside circular openings that differ in size—difficult to engineer, to say the least. “LED halos accentuate the perimeters,” Dedeyan says. The ensemble presents quite a climb, especially for those with vertigo. A mirrored ceiling produces a dizzying kaleidoscope effect, making the height appear as six stories, not three.
Sharing dramatic creds is the reception desk. Riveire, who’s highly knowledgeable about hospitality projects, too, compares it to “the front desk of a hotel.” He goes on to liken the long, purposely low form in mirror-polished stainless steel to “a squished pickle.” We see inspirations of sculptures by Anish Kapoor. Regardless, it’s an Instagram moment.
Speaking of art, there’s no shortage of spectacular pieces, some of them commissioned. Initiated by Gores, the program was assembled by a DJ-curator, DB Burkeman, in collaboration with a more conventional art consultant. Standouts include the atrium’s colorful text-based screen prints, kinetic black-and-white photographs of figures in the elevator lobbies, and a corridor’s collage inspired by comic books, hip-hop, and graffiti.
Surprisingly, knowing Rottet Studio as we do, furnishings are generally not custom. Widely available residential pieces, they could be found in many a stylish living room. Flooring, consistent with that vibe, is white-oak planks in common spaces. “The wood is a contrast to all that stone on the walls,” Riveire explains.
Carpeted work spaces follow the customary setup. Glass-fronted private offices for agents face assistants at a benching system. Most offices have sit-stand desks. (Many in the stand position during our visit.) Sprinkled among the offices are casual lounges, up for grabs as needed. What’s unusual is the lack of hierarchy among divisions. No single one ranks above any other.
Conference and meeting rooms and the “signing rooms” encircle the stair atrium. Really, though, everything is an ad hoc meeting space, includingelevator lobbies fitted out with chic and super-comfy seating. There are also pantries and coffee bars aplenty, the best, no doubt, being the ground level’s coffee lounge opening onto the courtyard. Pull up a stool to the marble counter, or plop down on a sofa or armchairs anchored by a houndstooth rug that blends with the same pattern rendered in floor tile.
The list of amenities goes on: a screening room with adjacent green room, another room filled with candy. According to Paradigm director of special services and guest relations Rozzana Ramos, clients come just to hang out. Linger long enough, and you might spot Antonio Banderas or Henry Golding reading a script or Chris Martin, Ed Sheeren, or Sia headed to the listening room where, Riveire says, they can “crank it up to 11.”
Keep scrolling to view more images of the project >
Project Team: Chris Jones; Theresa Lee; Pegah Koulaeian, Laurence Cartledge: Rottet Studio. Esquared Lighting: Lighting Consultant. Newson Brown Acoustics: Acoustical Consultant. Cybola Systems Corporation: Audio-Visual Consultant. Lendrum Fine Art: Art Consultant. Thornton Tomasetti: Structural Engineer. Arc Engineering: MEP. AMA Project Management: Project Manager. Clune Construction Company: General Contractor.
As a music exec, Kashy Khaledi made a career out of bringing creative personalities together to bridge culture and corporate strategy for Universal Music Group, Google, and Mazda. In his first foray into the wine business, Khaledi has combined Californian midcentury aesthetics and style of winemaking with a modern, multimedia approach to create a Napa winery very much of the moment.
“Wine is alive and real. I would rather worry about Pierce’s Disease than piracy,” Khaledi says. “Also, there’s nothing more depressing than a creative executive over 40.”
As you turn off Highway 29 just north of Napa city proper onto the Oak Knoll property, Ashes & Diamonds’ two modular white winery buildings—designed by L.A.-based architect Barbara Bestor, who has also designed Beats by Dre’s headquarters, Intelligentsia coffee’s West Coast flagship, and the Palm Springs Hotel—seem to simultaneously emulate the rolling hills of the valley and leap out from them on a complex that feels somewhere between a Silicon Valley corporate campus and LACMA.
Accessed by a sunshine-yellow door and triple floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors which open onto a grassy area crisscrossed by paths (nicknamed the Quad), the rectangular hospitality building is crowned by a custom perforated, corrugated zigzag canopy which creates dynamic shade and an interplay of light and shadow over the course of the day.
Inside, a custom terrazzo bar and eclectic furnishings—a Jean Prouvé desk repurposed as a communal table, Knoll Saarinen lounge chairs in retro-color-pop yellow and purple, a vintage midcentury Cees Braakman sideboard, and scattered North African rugs—create a tasting room that feels like an elevated common room with a variety of places to sit and sip. The most striking features of the taller production building, just behind, are the circular windows set into the cobra-head-shaped first floor, which extends out over an enclosed VIP-tasting-cum-events room and a ground floor breezeway.
Bestor says she was briefed to create a serious production facility with capacity for 10,000 cases of wine per year, as well as hospitality spaces that felt like a comfortable living room recalling the midcentury-home-turned-museum Eames House in the Pacific Palisades.
“While there are nods to Albert Frey in the portholes and Donald Wexler’s folded plate roofs of the midcentury Palm Springs postcard fantasy, we aimed for a lighter and more current take fitting to the industrial nature of wine production and more residential scale of the hospitality,” Bestor explains. Khaledi knew Bestor from his first job, at the Beastie Boys’ record label, and the fanzine Grand Royal, where she was resident architect, and he says he admires her work’s “unwavering spirit of possibility and streak of rebellion.”
When an opportunity arose to buy the property in one of Napa’s most sought-after zip codes, Khaledi, whose father is the eponymous owner of the winery Darioush nearby, felt the aesthetics and mood of midcentury California were a perfect fit for the light-handed wines he loved from the era and wanted to remake.
“The midcentury era isn’t a gimmick for us. It was an era of lightness, optimism, and possibility,” he says. Ashes & Diamonds also pays lip service to Khaledi’s artistic influences. The name is taken from Khaledi’s favorite movie, a Polish film about life’s crossroads and the big decisions people make. The poem printed on each cork, by 19th century Polish poet Cyprian Norwid, is featured in the film in the form of graffiti.
Graphic designer Brian Roettinger, best known for art directing album covers such as Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail and Mark Ronson’s hit Uptown Special, was commissioned to create Ashes & Diamonds’ striking monochrome labels. Here, even viniculture has a collaborative, almost band mentality. Rather than hire one winemaker, Khaledi has signed two and gives them props for both their oenology cred and their taste in music. Steve Matthiasson—whose classic, restrained approach to winemaking won him Winemaker of the Year from Food & Wine and San Francisco Chronicle—enjoys skateboarding and punk rock by Minutemen and Dead Kennedys. When she’s not managing the vineyards or scrubbing tanks, Diana Snowden Seysses—alum of Robert Mondavi Winery, Ramey Wine Cellars, and Domaine Dujac in Burgundy—gets her groove on with A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
How does Khaledi feel about his latest creative project?
“Now more than ever, as we’re mentally mutilated by an overabundance of information and ‘breaking news,'” he says, “I find solace in the notion of disconnecting to go outside and meet people in analog.”