The Open Studio
An early “forensic visit” confirmed his instincts by revealing a long-span wood truss system that would facilitate the creation of an open environment to support the practice’s established studio culture. “I always like to be in large volumes where people feel they’re working together,” Ehrlich says. “No low ceilings, no cubby holes for this office.”
Renovation centered on “honoring the spirit of the building without being a slave to its preservation,” the architect continues. Thus, the footprint, with its distinctive bowed front, was retained, as were roof lines and raised maple flooring dating to the dance hall era. Everything else was completely stripped down to the shell.
The “new” structure, essentially a container for the open studio, is dominated by fenestration systems addressing light and ventilation needs. An aluminum, thin-line sash configuration, recalling steel window systems of the early 20th century, covers much of the building’s front face, where the “formal” entry is marked by a steel-framed door, steel and glass canopy, and the architect’s one nod toward extravagance: $850 Bauhaus hardware. A second system at the east elevation fuses the interior and exterior to make the all-important Southern California connection. Here, one progresses from the parking lot through sculptor Guy Dill’s concrete portal to an enclosed courtyard built around an 85-year-old rubber tree. Entry to the studio proper occurs through a roll-up garage door, left open more often than not. There is a third distinctive facade treatment and it consists of raw steel panels. The naturally rusted metal clads the built-up front curve and pierces the building’s boundary to continue as a reception wall.