January 23, 2014

Shoot To Thrill: Leica Mega-Store by IA Interior Architects

The commission for Leica’s first mega-store came with an unusual caveat: Showcase not only 20 handheld cameras, IA Interior Architects project director Kirk Stewart was told, but also a camera sculpture, 1,000 pounds in stainless steel, front and center. Fake Leica is the work of Liao Yibai, who simultaneously questions and glorifies the Chinese mania for luxury goods via enormous watches, rings, handbags, stilettos, and the like. 

Sure, Leica’s goal is to sell cameras and lenses at the Los Angeles location. (They’re displayed jewellike in a run of cabinetry lacquered black on the outside and lined in red leather.) However, the mega-store designation for the three-level, 8,000-square-foot space derives from its uniquely multifaceted program.

This being L.A., Stewart didn’t forget the VIP lounge where celebs get to chill. It’s furnished with chairs by Charles and Ray Eames and enlivened by a terrific, slightly smutty photomontage of a guy in a restroom, ogling portraits of Marilyn Monroe. On two, there’s a gallery for temporary exhibitions, a library of rare photography books and signed editions, and a terrace, an ensemble that occasionally morphs into an event space.

In fact, everything but the offices on three can double as a studio for shooting print ads and TV commercials. Lexus and Beats by Dre were recent clients. 

Aside from retaining the existing stairway’s position, beneath a skylight, Stewart entirely rebuilt the interior, giving it an unmistakable gallery vibe: concrete or white-oak flooring, white walls, black shelves. “It almost appears as if we didn’t try very hard,” he says. “With Leica making a commercial comeback, we never got confused that the cameras are the real stars.”

Also existing, the black stucco framing the facade transforms its expanse of glass into a giant viewfinder for passersby. The new staircase appears behind, glowing white next to Fake Leica. It will stay right there until someone pays the $1 million price, perhaps while purchasing one of the significantly smaller real Leicas.

Project Team:
Visual Terrain: Lighting Consultant. Risha Engineering Group: Structural Engineer. World Mechanical: MEP. High Tech Iron: Metalwork. IMA International; Missan: Wood-Work. New Vision Glass: Glasswork. Gordon Kuhl: General Contractor.

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