Bergamot Station, an internationally known art center is comprised of a series of industrial buildings converted into 45 art galleries including the recently opened Santa Monica Museum of Art. The program includes a ground level studio/gallery space with three artist live/work loft spaces above.
The fundamental challenge in this project was determining how to maintain continuity and coherence with the character of the existing industrial warehouse buildings at Bergamot Station without compromising formal and material experimentation and innovation. Thus, this project evolved as a carefully considered response to its context: a primary palette of materials was established with regard to the existing industrial materials at the site. Corrugated metal, steel and glass blend in with the surrounding context while cold rolled steel and translucent lexan panels create moments of distinction in the details of the building that set it apart and help establish its idiosyncratic identity. The building takes advantage of its unique siting amongst the industrial landscape. Nestled in between existing warehouse buildings on a narrow site, the facade facing the interior of the site unfolds itself gracefully along a canted corrugated metal plane that extends itself into the residual space produced by the adjacent buildings. The facade is further animated by window boxes and planes articulated as volumes unto themselves, which push and pull from the facades primary folds. The formal geometries and material richness of this facade have a dynamic effect on the leftover space-turning what was once experienced as in between and perhaps undefined space into one that now flourishes as a kind of courtyard or piazza for itself and the surrounding buildings. In fact, this residual space is now often used to host outdoor receptions and special events.
The building's south facing facade which fronts the public street provides a personality foil for its more geometrically complex and dynamic counterpart on the Arts Complex facing facade. More reserved yet still sculpturally articulate; the formal resolution of this elevation is calmer and more grounded. A flat plane of corrugated metal is broken by pristine rectangular volumes of lexan, concrete block, cold rolled steel and glass which recede to varying degrees creating a constrained yet elegant relief and textural complexity. The exterior of this building never strays to far from its industrial origins and therefore maintains a respectful coherence with its context. Yet, the architects still capitalize on each contextual and formal opportunity in order to create distinction and enhancement for the site and its surrounding context.
The interior of the building is simply organized. The ground floor features an open plan that allows maximum flexibility of use and reuse. Simply treated in its finishes and details, the ground floor interior is conceived as a vessel for program to animate. A separate entrance leads to the three artist loft units above. Each of these maximizes its potential for spaciousness and light while also creating moments of intimacy and enclosure. Each unit has a fluidity of space and circulation that creates a sensation of open airiness even though they are flanked between buildings on either side and only feature minimal windows to the outside from within the units. Each interior is deliberately treated as a simple volume or shell in which the distinct elements of the space can more clearly emerge. Polished concrete floors create a uniform field condition at the ground plane. Plainly painted drywall walls and an exposed steel truss and metal deck roof system continue the effect of creating a quiet background field in which feature elements can construct spatial and textural complexity.
Each unit is split level. Public spaces are on the primary level while a bedroom space occupies a loft, which overlooks the public living space. By organizing this split-level condition, the architects could create a double height space, which adds to the feeling of vastness in each unit. While occupying the most private, intimate comer of the unit, each bedroom area is awash in light from a continuous band of skylights along one edge of the building. The double height space on the level below is left uncluttered and open while bathroom; kitchen and circulation cores are tucked into the space below the loft. The space becomes most animated in its details, which distinctly emerge from the more tranquil background. Two flights of wood and steel stairs stand across from each other. Sculptural presences-one leads to a balcony space, the other to the sleeping lofts. When viewed in juxtaposition, they hold each other in poetic balance, one larger and dominant, the other more petite yet solid. In another unit, a poured in place concrete fireplace acts as an anchor to the open plan, which unfolds around it.
Consistent throughout this project is the desire to create a space that capitalizes on its ability to create an elegant and refreshing fluidity and coherence appropriate to its context while also inserting elements of distinction and complexity that help create this building's unique personality.