The Parisian clothing and retail brand A.P.C. recently opened a shop in Silver Lake in Los Angeles. Like may of this French fashion label’s stores, whether it’s in Tokyo, Paris or New York, this new LA outpost has its own distinct interior design aesthetic, different from all the other A.P.C. stores, yet inscrutably “on brand” in its warm minimalism.
A.P.C. stores embrace the constraints and quirks of the space they occupy and subtly absorb the character of the surrounding neighborhoods they’re in. At the Silver Lake store, the tiered shelving system is the foremost feature of the space. It’s a piece of architecture in and of itself within the shop space, built in smack in the center of the store and easily eating up much of the architectural footprint. Customers can walk through it.
The plain distilled earthiness of the wood suggests a casual, clean organic aesthetic in sync with the Southern California “canyon spirit” style, but the thin bars of LED lights augment this with a restrained hint of the Hollywood glamor. All in all, it sweetly aligns with the the clothing brand’s style of fashion.
This taco stand popped up at the biannual Echo Park Craft Fair in Silver Lake this past weekend. It seems you can’t drive a block in Los Angeles wihtout seeing either a small taco joint, truck, take-out window or improvised stand. But this one is unique in a couple of ways, most notably in its architecture and construction. The do-it-yourself quality to the construction and use of materials is clever. Long wood boards have been slotted into the gaps in a stack of wood pallets. These pallets form columns and the boards function as shelves and a counter. The menu items are written in chalk on the side of the pallets. White fabric has been thrown over the contruction to form a roof. Then there is the decor. There’s a Tibetan Buddhist-style string of colorful flags strung along the top of the stand. Woven Mexican bowls on the columns add color. Potted plants accent the facade and rest on heavy wood blocks that help support the columns. It’s brilliant, though one wonders how structurally sound it is and whether it’s “up to code,” as they say.
We’re not religious. But museums are our cathedrals, our churches and temples, our shrines. MoMA may be the modern art world’s Vatican, but in terms of pure open space, MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles comes closest to a giant cathedral like Notre Dame with its massive, cavernous structure. We’re not saying that this museum is equivalent to Notre Dame as far as degree of architectural achievement and historical significance. We’re saying that it is a big fucking space and one that invites reflection and a kind of awe.
The Geffen was kind of a happy accident. The building wasn’t purpose built to be a contemporary art museum. The structure is in LIttle Tokyo in Downtown LA and was originally built in the 1940s for the city as a warehouse and LA Police Department garage accommodating hundreds of vehicles. At the time, MoCA’s use of the space was purely practical.
While the main landmark MoCA branch was being built on nearby Grand Avenue in the early 1980s, the warehouse/garage in Little Tokyo was used as a temporary exhibition space dubbed the “Temporary Contemporary.” Its purpose was to host art shows until construction of the new main MoCA would be completed. The acquisition of the building made sense. The Temporary Contemporary was a success.
It was repurposed as a permanent exhibition space and extension of MoCA. Architect Frank Gehry led the effort. The Geffen’s location is walking distance to the main MoCA location in Downtown LA, and the former LAPD garage offers the kind of space that allows for sprawling exhibitions and epic, large-scale sculptural artworks and installations that might be more diffciult or impossible to mount in other museums.
The clothing brand Monrow will soon be opening a retail concept store in this tiny, old California-style bungalow near Venice Beach in Los Angeles. As standard retail practice, the windows of the house-turned-shop are covered with paper to provide privacy while the final interior build-out is being completed. The Monrow signage is up and the lights are on, so the brand has announced itself in the neighborhood. It will be interesting to see what the company does with the space.
The original location of the iconic and legendary bodybuilding mecca Gold’s Gym is a block away from the sands of Venice Beach in Los Angeles. The painted logotype signage on its facade is faded, and that, coupled with the simple architecture of the building, suggests the gym’s vintage and no-nonsense austerity. This is where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained as a bodybuilder in the 1970s and ’80s before launching his action-film career. A few blocks away stands a much larger and modern Gold’s Gym where the bodybuilding tradition continues.
The cafe at Menotti’s Coffee is a third-wave espresso joint and a friendly little hub for the legion of caffeinated locals and a certain stylish subset of Silicon Beach worker bees in the heart of Venice in Los Angeles. The baristas are serious about their coffee game but with zero pretension, in spite of the smattering of hipster accoutrements. Sure, there’s a skateboard and fixed-gear bicycle propped against a wall inside the cafe, and there’s beautiful, curated art photography on the wall, but its presence seems more a natural byproduct of taste than strategic. Across from the cafeteria is the famous, epic-scaled Venice “Touch of Evil” mural. On a slow day, we’ll cruise over to Menotti’s on our bikes for a long break and a flat white cappuccino.
Among our favorite places in Los Angeles is the Arcana bookstore in Culver City. It’s specialized in “books on the arts,” and its collection of books on art, design, photography, architecture and anything aesthetically significant is vast, comprehensive, and well-organized. They seem to have everything. Though Arcana is a business, its ambiance, interior design and space give it a feel that’s more like a library, albeit a handsome, spare, minimalist, post-modern library in a former industrial space. There are long communal tables upon which customers can lay heavy tomes of art and page through these books at a leisurely pace. It’s one of the best bookstores in the world. If GlobalGraphica was an actual place, Arcana would be our preferred physical manifestation of it, though with a kick-ass espresso machine and a rack full of surfboards included.
The artwork of the late American conceptual and minimalist artist Sol LeWitt dominates the new mezzanine-level ticket lobby of the expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). This massive, painted installation is titled “Loopy Doopy” and is another example of LeWitt’s use of bold color and lines in his body of work. The artwork is fresh and exuberant and its curva-linear lines compliment the clean geometric lines of the architecture.
The work space at the Los Angeles offices of mega-global advertising agency TBWA (a.k.a, TBWA Chiat Day) is epic and includes an indoor, park-like plaza where people can meet, hang out, collaborate, or dine. (Full disclosure, we do work for another, separate ad agency that is related to TBWA.) The space is bathed in natural light from large skylights and is part of a massive warehouse-like former industrial building that was converted into a warren of multi-level interior office structures, bridges and open spaces reconcieved for the agency culture and work style.