Double Feature: Joey Shimoda and Andy Waisler Turn Two Santa Monica Buildings Into A Film Studio
Hard to believe, but some people in Los Angeles opt out of the media glare in favor of anonymity. So it is with a production company headquartered in two adjacent industrial buildings in Santa Monica. We can’t name names, but suffice it to say that some of the most creative minds in the entertainment business work there. Trust us. And the company’s founder was smart enough, before moving in, to hire the Shimoda Design Group for a gut renovation and expansion. He also called in an independent architect, his longtime friend Andy Waisler.
Sounds like a clash of the architectural titans? Hardly. Waisler and Joey Shimoda are also pals—and have been since their days at SCI-Arc.
The two-story redbrick building, 1964, and the single-story concrete-block building, 1949, read as distinct entities from the street. Exterior signage on the former suggests that the site was once home to the National Typewriter Company. Not so. “National Typewriter never occupied these buildings,” Shimoda says. “It’s one of the elements of ‘rejuvenating’ a history that the client was interested in.” Welcome to storytelling and the cinema.
Inside, conjoining is virtually seamless, made so by galvanized-steel stairways and a continuity of materials, particularly new concrete flooring and ceilings of reclaimed oak. Shimoda and Waisler jumped in with cinematic techniques right at the entry, where one peers between the walnut shelves of a freestanding unit, into a reception lounge. “It’s the money shot,” Waisler notes. The shelves are chockablock with robot toys and furniture miniatures, and the low table in the lounge holds trays of drawing paper and markers for visitor doodling. From Shimoda: “You get different kinds of transparency, a sense of movement, and bits of mystery and revelation to draw you in.” As examples, he cites the stairways, a bridge, and the internal casement windows of the founder’s office cantilevered overhead. “It’s parallax shifting,” he adds. That’s the film phrase for the apparent displacement of an object as seen from different points of view.
Just past the chunky metallic-gray reception desk, its cubbies destined to hold more toys, is the long shot. It stretches 30 feet from front to back, passing through the kitchen-café, where a ramp bridges the level change between the two buildings. This social hub is stocked with a six-burner range, capacious cabinetry, a counter with stools, and a bona fide cook serving real lunches daily. As for that corner banquette, it’s the most-used conference spot in the whole facility.
Farther along are a recording studio and four edit bays, their amusing wall art a takeoff on old back-page ads in comic books. And right before the end point of the main axis comes a cozy suite filled with vintage furniture and a sculptural blackened-steel fireplace. A separate firm, Samantha Chapin Design, handled this area for the founder’s wife, who runs her political consultancy here. Finally, past slide-up hangar doors, is the terminus of the main axis: a garden with an immense olive tree selected by Shimoda. The cross axis ends in a garden, too.
Circulation is anything but linear. The plan purposely encourages people to meander through the 16,000-square-foot space, choosing from three staircases or an elevator to go up. Associates sit at desks on what is essentially a generously sized upstairs landing—the amount of open space is surprising. “Circulation areas, which are also social areas, are overscaled,” Shimoda explains. “Production companies expand and contract a lot, so we made sure that they could add desks in wide hallways.”
The execs generally sit in enclosed offices that owe their double height and plentiful sunshine to the glass box newly constructed on top of the brick building. When they need a screening room, they simply head down the hall to a theater furnished with 20 recliners and wired to a recording studio. But that’s not all. This soaring, asymmetrical space multitasks. It can be an audition space, a conference room, or a writers’ room, the latter thanks to the whiteboard embedded in a sidewall and raised via counterweights when unneeded. Whatever the function, the screening room is “like a casino,” Shimoda says. “It offers no sense of time.” A catwalk that crosses the room, 13 feet in the air, is actually the end of a mezzanine that also encompasses a conference room. A second mezzanine, directly outside, is essentially a small lounge, stylistically up-to-the-minute with a mix of vintage selections and reissued Jean Prouvé armchairs, all tied together by red accents.
Now there’s nowhere to go but outside. Glass walls slide away, giving access to a multilevel expanse. The concrete-block building already has a green roof, and solar panels will be installed on top of the brick building. Meanwhile, the roof of the latter is currently an alfresco lounge, SoCal-style. From teak sofas, employees can survey the Santa Monica panorama or zoom in on the putting green. Caddyshack , anyone?
Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.
DAN ALLEN (PROJECT ARCHITECT); TODD TUNTLAND; DAVID KHUONG; SUE CHANG; LUCI IWASAKI; ANDRE KRAUSE; MCKENNA COLE: SHIMODA DESIGN GROUP. MAUREEN NISHIKAWA DESIGN: GRAPHICS CONSULTANT. GLABMAN HOME: TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANT. NEWSON BROWN ACOUSTICS: ACOUSTICAL CONSULTANT. JOHN LABIB + ASSOCIATES: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. SH GROUP: MEP. KPFF: CIVIL ENGINEER. PENNINGTON CONSTRUCTION: WOODWORK. CRANEVEYOR CORP: METALWORK. CONCRETE CLEANING & COATING: FLOORING CONTRACTOR. HOWARD BUILDING CORPORATION: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.
STERNBERG LIGHTING: SCONCES (EXTERIOR).
TANGRAM STUDIO: CUSTOM DESK (RECEPTION), CUSTOM TABLES (OFFICE), CUSTOM DESKS (OFFICE AREA), CUSTOM TABLES (OFFICE AREA, WRITERS’ ROOM).
MARTIN BRATTRUD: CHAIRS (RECEPTION), SOFA (EDIT BAY).
BRISTOLITE SKYLIGHTS: CUSTOM SKYLIGHT (CAFÉ).
STONCO LIGHTING: CEILING FIXTURES.
CAESARSTONE: COUNTER MATERIAL.
VITRA: SIDE CHAIRS (CAFÉ, OFFICE AREA, WRITERS’ ROOM), CHAIRS (MEZZANINE).
VINTAGE TIMBERWORKS: PANELING (CAFÉ, CONSULTANCY).
GREENSCREEN: TRELLIS (EXTERIOR).
GAMMALUX SYSTEMS: RECESSED LINEAR FIXTURE (OFFICE).
INVINCIBLE OFFICE FURNITURE SOLUTIONS: CREDENZA.
DESIGN WITHIN REACH: CHAIRS, SOFA (OFFICE), CHAIRS (SCREENING ROOM).
ÉNERGIE: LINEAR FIXTURES (OFFICE, EDIT BAY).
HAHASOSO: CUSTOM SHELVING (RECEPTION).
RANGINE CORPORATION: SHELVING POSTS.
NIENKÄMPER: STOOLS (MEZZANINE).
NIPPO ELECTRIC CO.: LINEAR FIXTURE (OFFICE AREA).
STEELCASE: TASK CHAIRS.
INTERFACEFLOR: CARPET TILE (WRITERS’ ROOM).
MAHARAM: WALL COVERING (WRITERS’ ROOM), CHAIR FABRIC (SCREENING ROOM).
WOLF GORDON: WALL COVERING (SCREENING ROOM).
TREX COMPANY: DECKING (EXTERIOR).
EUROFLUES: FIREPLACE (CONSULTANCY).
ZUMTOBEL: PENDANT FIXTURES, TRACK LIGHTING.
TORRANCE STEEL WINDOW CO.: CUSTOM WINDOWS.
POLLMEIER LEIMHOLZ THROUGH RENEGADE FLOORING: WOOD FLOORING.
BENJAMIN MOORE & CO.: PAINT.