ARO Celebrates Knoll’s History and Future in Downtown Los Angeles
Within a matter of months, Knoll opened two showrooms in Los Angeles. The first, designed by Johnston Marklee, has a distinct residential orientation in its West Hollywood site, an erstwhile Steinway shop. The second by Architecture Research Office occupies roughly 11,000 square feet on the 29th floor of the iconic Gas Company Tower in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s aimed at the company’s commercial clientele and accommodates the storied furniture company’s 23-strong team. Were the two endeavors by design or the result of real estate serendipity? “The latter,” laughs Benjamin Pardo, Knoll’s executive vice president of design. “The two properties became available.”
In DTLA, ARO principal Stephen Cassell was dealing with indelible pieces of history: Knoll’s status in modern design and the Tower’s distinctive round profile, recognizable from freeways and any nearby venue. Key to the program? The interior’s hybrid status as showroom and workplace, plus a nod to Southern California via materials colored in pale pinks, sunny yellow, and vibrant green.
“We were designing for their two different markets: the start-up tech companies and the classic law offices,” says Cassell of his fifth Knoll project. Thus, he organized the U-shaped plan, outlined by a rosy terrazzo walkway, with informal settings up front, more formal versions at rear with four closed offices, conference rooms, and a materials bar. Adds Pardo: “We were honoring Florence Knoll’s integrity by creating architecture with furniture and furniture with architecture.”
What better example than the staff’s workplace, open to clientele, and the firm’s myriad material offerings built in as part of the solution? Felt and cork cover wall sectors. Scrims and screens suggest semi-privacy. Baffles and acoustic-backed panels in a dimensional arrangement create an articulated ceiling. Sui generis, though, is the wall-sized photograph by Herbert Matter, photographer, graphic designer, and mid-century design consultant for Knoll.