In the textile markets of Lagos, Nigeria, bolts of vividly hued fabric are stacked far as the eye can see. They’re often neatly wrapped, waiting for shoppers to unfurl them and reveal their vibrant geometric patterns. These markets inspired the Color Palace, a new pavilion British-Nigerian designer Yinka Ilori and the firm Pricegorecreated for the London Festival of Architecture and Dulwich Picture Gallery.
The temporary pavilion is an enormous, prismatic slatted cube raised on four stocky red columns that are actually old drainage pipes. The cube’s space frame is composed of wood battens that are all the exact same size. Ilori painted a geometric motif on the facade, with each batten receiving a different color on each side.
This yields an optical illusion: Walking around the pavilion makes it appear like the colors morph, like a lenticular print. When visitors ascend a magenta staircase, they’re totally immersed in the structure and can see, up close, how everything is assembled.
“[The pavilion’s] patterns and shapes calmly welcome you from a distance until you get closer and closer, and you’re blown away with an explosion of color that immediately demands your attention,” Ilori said in a news release.
Ilori is best known for designing upcycled furniture, which he paints with bold colors and reupholsters with Nigerian fabrics to symbolize traditional parables. The Color Palace extends that sensibility to a much greater scale that allows him to communicate with people in a more immersive way.
“The beauty of working on a larger scale is that I am able to tell a more powerful and compelling narrative, allowing the audience to interact and engage with the structure externally and internally,” Ilori tells Curbed.
“Color Palace” is the a jolt of energy architecture needs: It’s a compelling installation that’s both culturally specific and universally expressive, and invites people to learn more about creative engineering techniques. The pavilion is the antithesis of unapproachable, stark, white cubes that have come to be the stereotype of modern architecture—and it’s invigorating.
Leveling the single-story smattering of 1950s garages and factories was one option. Renovating, repurposing, and enlarging them was another. The former would provide a blank slate, the latter more of a challenge—but more character. Rapt Studio CEO and chief creative officer David Galullo, prolific designer of workplaces for such companies as Google, Twitter, and PayPal, opted to retain all but one of the six brick and concrete-block structures for the Marina Del Rey, California, campus now called MDR Truss. Today, it’s home to Zefr digital advertising, the Bouqs Co., an online farm-to-table flower delivery service, and real estate developer the Bradmore Group, the client that hired Rapt for the 130,000-square-foot project. So enamored with the result, president and CEO David Bohn decided to move the company into one of the buildings.
“David was looking to take advantage of what was here before,” begins Galullo, just off the plane from Milan, where Rapt showcased its debut Salone del Mobile installation Tell Me More. “He and his team understood that these little industrial buildings could actually add up to something pretty.” Rapt was tasked with creating the master plan for MDR Truss: Initial meetings with the client illustrated how the 3-acre site would be used, where cars could park, and how Rapt would work with the landscape architect to plant low-water and native species and create pedestrian pathways, among other essential changes. Bradmore was so impressed with the concept that the initial budget was increased. Ultimately, Rapt added a second floor to one building, decks to two of them, cleaned and re-painted all exterior masonry, and relocated entryways and exits and inserted roll-up glass garage doors for more light and better flow in nearly all the buildings. Additional outdoor spaces such as fire pits and a lawn for employee pets even “feel a bit resort,” Galullo notes.
Rapt was then hired again by Bradmore for its interiors and by Zefr for its offices, which occupy 40,000 square feet across four buildings. “We were morphing the exterior design based on what the interiors needed,” Galullo explains. Because all six buildings were leased prior to the completion of construction, the firm was able to deeply customize the design.
Creating an upgraded space for Zefr meant pushing a company with a start-up mentality—it was founded in 2008 and focuses on YouTube content targeting—into a more sophisticated space. “The idea was like Hey, we still want to be scrappy, but let’s have moments where we remind people that we’re heading in the right direction,” Galullo says. “For us, a brand is about the organization’s attitude, personality, and culture.” The result is a mixture of refined custom sectionals and walnut tables with furnishings from the hipper end of mass retailers and unpretentious, locally focused artwork. “It doesn’t feel like a dorm room, more like your second apartment,” Galullo adds, glancing down from the deck off one of the building’s newly added second floor at the rack of staffers’ sandy surfboards and the Zefr-branded skateboard ramp.
In Zefr’s main building, Rapt took advantage of the 16-foot ceiling with site-specific installations. One is at the entry: a cascade of white ribbons designed by art fabrication company Settlers LA that’s akin to an enormous ocean whitecap but that Galullo describes as “kind of flowy.” Neptune Glassworks, another area artisan, pitched its canopy of handblownglass orbs to Rapt and it ended up above the café, where occasional blue walls further nod to sea and sky.
Galullo calls Rapt “transdisciplinary, which is like equal measure on every discipline coming together to form something new.” In the case of Zefr, that meant curating an art and furniture offering “that’s an interesting and eclectic blend,” he says. “The last thing we want is for the office to feel like it was decorated to be perfect. People spend a lot of time here, so we focused on the spaces where people are going to hang.” So, for Zefr’s myriad lounge, meeting, and break-out areas, there’s always a duo of lounge chairs, plus a sofa, coffee table, and rug—a homey configuration that differentiates them from the rows of workstations.
The approach also meant eschewing corner offices (although there are private phone rooms in the core of each building as well as traditional conference rooms). One corner did surprise Galullo, however. It’s that outdoor deck space he created off a building’s new second floor. “I was worried it might feel like a cage because we wrapped it into the structure,” he recalls. “But it turned out to be an unexpected nugget.”
“When we set out on this project, we had to tell the story of both Zefr and the site’s history,” Galullo concludes. “It couldn’t just be about maximizing the number of parking spaces, although we did wrestle with that for quite some time.” In a locale where car culture still rules, that’s saying something.
Keep scrolling to view more images of the project >
Project Team: Sam Farhang (Creative Director); Kristen Woods; Derrick Prodigalidad; Krisada Surichamorn; Glenn Yoo; John Stempniak; Gigi Allen; Andrew Ashey; Scott Johnson; Michael Maciocia; Sasha Agapov; Alex Adamson; Semone Kessler; Rosela Barraza; Daniela Covarrubias; Justin Chen: Rapt Studio. EPT Design: Landscape Architect. Structural Focus: Structural Engineer. KPFF: Civil Engineer. E Engineers: Electrical Engineer. Tarantino Construction: General Contractor.
For more than 20 years Messana O’Rorke has lent its bold minimalism to residences from coast to coast. There’s a good chance that over the decades many of those home owners have stocked their bathrooms and showers with products from Malin+Goetz, the go-to brand for high-design hygiene aficionados. Messana O’Rorke has even designed a few Malin+Goetz shops, including locations on New York’s Madison Avenue and Elizabeth Street, and outposts in Santa Monica and downtown LA.
For their latest collaboration, a shop in Century City’s Westfield Mall, they wanted to go back to the beginning. “Our inspiration was the original store in Chelsea,” says co-founder and principal Brian Messana. “We wanted to create two distinct spaces in one, and specific areas for the product lines, which the Chelsea store successfully achieves.”
As does Century City, with a light and bright entrance area finished in diamond plaster and a rear area in wall-to-wall-to-ceiling fumed oak. Finishes of black granite and marble reference the brand’s black-and-white packaging, which surely will look just as fresh in another 20 years.
When Sheila Hicks first conceived her vibrant, larger-than-life installation Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands for the Arsenale at the 2017 Venice Biennale, she faced a unique dilemma. “They gave me a space to exhibit that no other artist wanted because there were holes in the roof,” Hicks, a renowned fiber artist who once studied under Josef Albers, recalls. “I thought, I can handle it.”
Escalade would ultimately be remembered as one of the Biennale’s most striking, and tactile, moments, and was recently reconstructed in full at The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach for Campo Abierto (Open Field), an ambitious survey covering six decades of the pioneering fiber artist’s career. A floor-to-ceiling wall of multicolored bundles of pigment fiber pairs with tapestries in cotton and linen, which Hicks wove at a loom in Antigua, Guatemala, in collaboration with bespoke textile designer Mitchell Denberg.
Though the museum certainly appears more structurally sound than the Arsenale—the roof and walls here are entirely intact—The Bass had to reconstruct its upper story to properly accommodate Hicks’s colossal installation, not to mention some 30 other works, many also ambitious in scale, spanning her oeuvre.
While this is Escalade’s third iteration—it was also exhibited last year at Kunstenfestival in Watoui, Belgium—its hundreds of rainbow bundles are as bright as ever. They’re not dyed; rather, Hicks crafts each one of pure powdered pigment that, with the help of a binding agent, transforms into a fiber.
“Do you know the difference between a carrot and a radish?” Hicks teases, likening each fiber bundle to the former. “A radish has color on the outside, but not the inside. A carrot is color through and through.”
The fiber is produced in Turkey, processed in Western Europe, and finally woven in the United States. It fiercely retains its color in both sunlight and water. (Hicks even claims that she once left the material in a bathtub full of Clorox for two weeks to see whether the color would change. It did not.)
This retention of color makes it a choice medium for an artist whose works are frequently exposed to the elements. Take, for example, her 2017 installation Hop, Skip, Jump, and Fly: Escape From Gravity, where she wrapped aluminum tubes in another extremely durable material, Sunbrella solution-dyed acrylic, and installed them along New York’s High Line.
“It’s a big advantage to take a supple, friendly material, to be able to walk it outdoors, leave it, and come back six months later to find it’s still okay,” she says of the pigment fiber. “That’s been exciting to me because I’m so interested in three-dimensional sculptural and environmental works. It’s a possibility I didn’t have six or seven years ago.”
Campo Abierto (Open Field) is on view through September 29, 2019.
Parking garages areoften the most uninspiring structures in an urban landscape. Not so for the Novel Stonewall Station in Charlotte, North Carolina, host to the state’s largest public artwork. Created by Marc Fornes/TheVeryMany, Wanderwall’s psychedelic swirls of blue and green instantly catch the eye, even amidst the rapidly expanding, ultramodern downtown skyline.
The facade was assembled on-site from nearly 6,000 individual aluminum pieces—each one painted a different shade of a nine-color gradient—creating a continuous pattern that spans nearly 300 feet across the south and east elevations without gaps or seams. There’s no substructure either, since the super-thin, 1/8-inch installation hangslike a gently pleated curtain on the eight-story building. It’s what Fornes calls “a structural nappe,” a geological term describing a sheet of rock draped like cloth over a fault.
The hypnotic work has different effects when viewed from different angles and distances. Seen from a passing car on adjoining highway I-277, the pattern is kinetic, a gleaming beacon in the sun; viewed from a neighboring sidewalk, the pleats become more noticeable, the individual motifs that make up the pattern more pronounced. And inside the garage, sunlight casts dynamic shadows as it filters through the skin. “It’s abstract continuity,” Fornes says. Whatever it is, it’s certainly fun.