1100 Architect Channels Midcentury Modern Design For an L.A. Office

The firm’s most daring design deviation was to expose the modern HVAC systems along the building’s roofline; those elements now acts as a striking industrial crown.
Brand New School office 1100 Architect

For Brand New School’s new space in Los Angeles, 1100 Architect incorporated external landscaping and a staircase to help with circulation, and installed unobtrusive, mullion-free floor-to-ceiling glass. The interior is open and more traditionally Modernist. Courtesy Nikolas Koenig

With its long-awaited rail expansion under way, Los Angeles is seeing a wave of inventive development cresting along planned transportation arteries. Just south of the slated station at Wilshire and La Brea is the site of one of the city’s more creative renovations. Built in 1958 by architect Maxwell Starkman, the formerly graffiti-slathered two-story office building was in dire condition when it was purchased by multimedia company Brand New School in 2015 for its new offices.

Though peculiarities in site, plan, and structure abound in the 6,000-square-foot, T-shaped space, Brand New School was charmed into saving them, tapping New York City– and Frankfurt–based firm 1100 Architect for an extensive revamp. “What is particularly nice about this project is that it is a sculptural object, a project driven by design,” says 1100 founding principal Juergen Riehm.

But before the firm could upgrade the building’s cosmetic elements, it had to implement a series of structural retrofits. “When we started to demolish the walls, we discovered that what could have been a very simple frame was just hodgepodged,” explains Riehm. This discovery forced 1100 to install new, seismically sound steel beams.

The firm’s most daring design deviation was to expose the modern HVAC systems along the building’s roofline. While it may not be what Starkman originally had in mind, the exterior ductwork now acts as a striking industrial crown. Riehm and his team freed up the interior of the first-floor office by removing all of its partitions and introduced a selection of inspired midcentury pieces from the likes of Vitra, Herman Miller, and Knoll.

With the surrounding Miracle Mile quickly densifying, Brand New School’s new office now stands as a handsome—and undeniably apropos—addition to Los Angeles’s potpourri of architectural and historical reinvention.

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