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Adding to the recolonization of a redundant industrial site in Santa Monica, this mixed-use building has a formal and material modesty.

Bergamot Station is deeply rooted in the transport and social history of Los Angeles. Formerly a transport stop along the now defunct Red Car Line, it was converted into industrial premises for a hot water heating manufacturer (the American Appliance Company), prior to its latest more fashionable incarnation as a kind of creative campus housing 30 art galleries, a bookshop, numerous design firms and film studios. Since 1994, Pugh + Scarpa have been involved with the development of Bergamot Station adapting existing buildings to new functions, an ambitious and wide ranging programme of work that has included their own offices.

The only entirely new building on the site houses a series of artists' live/work studio spaces, together with a small public gallery on the ground floor for displaying finished work. The symbiosis between the functions is obvious, and in spirit and sensibility the project draws on the well documented tradition of artistic and cultural colonization of redundant urban industrial structures such as warehouses, lofts and factories.

Flanked by the Santa Monica Museum of Art and a remodelled warehouse, the building occupies a narrow plot on the southernmost portion of the Bergamot Station site. Slotted like a final missing piece into the urban jigsaw, the longitudinal block completes the street facade and extends back to a rear parking lot. Consistent with the industrial character of the existing buildings, the new intervention explores the potential of cheap materials such as corrugated steel sheeting and concrete blocks. On the street frontage to the south, this translates into a pleasingly abstract geometric composition; crisply defined planes of glass, corrugated steel and concrete form a hermetic yet richly textured skin. In both scale and form, it does not immediately signal its newness, its proto-industrial quality merging chameleon-like with the existing reconstituted buildings. On the rear north elevation (actually the main facade, despite facing away from the street), flat galvanized and corrugated sheet metal panels combine wi th an animated sculptural collage of cold rolled steel, polycarbonate and glass-clad volumes extruded from the building's core. Angular planes of corrugated steel extend out to frame the entrance and engage with the public thoroughfare.

The parti is simple, logical and legible. Ground floor is given over to a long gallery space which shows the work of the building's occupants. This acts as a kind of rusticated base for the piano nobile level above, a double-height volume divided into three live-work units linked by a perimeter spinal corridor, with staircases at each end. Each unit is based on a standard arrangement of double-height living/studio space with a mezzanine level for sleeping. Kitchens and bathrooms are tucked under the mezzanine.

Connection with the exterior is provided in the form of small external decks, which rhythmically articulate the upper part of the west elevation.

In keeping with the low-key, economical spirit of the programme, finishes are minimal yet durable; white painted walls and concrete floors, with sturdy built-in furniture. The exposed steel roof structure recalls the industrially-inspired origins of Californian Modernism and its preoccupation with lightness, simple modular planning and prefabricated components. Pugh + Scarpa intelligently draw on and extend this tradition, making an enlightened addition to the Santa Monica cityscape.

Architect Pugh + Scarpa, Santa Monica, USA

Project team Tim Peterson, Peter Borrego, Angela Brooks, Anne Burke, Jackson Butler, Heather Duncan, Bettina Hermsen, Sabine Kainz, Annet Marie Kaufman-Brunner, Byron Merritt, Charlie Morgan, Gwynne Pugh, Lawrence Scarpa

Structural engineer Pugh + Scarpa

Photographs Marvin Rand

1. In form, scale and materials, the hermetic street elevation blends into the industrial landscape.

2. Main entrance is by means of a secluded rear courtyard.

3. Elevations are crisp geometric collages of basic materials -- corrugated steel sheeting, glass and concrete blocks.

4. Angular corrugated sheeting extends to define the entrance to the ground floor gallery.

5 Lofts above the ground floor gallery combine living and work spaces.

6 Double-height living/studio space. Finishes are basic - white walls, concrete floors - and the lightweight steel roof recalls industrially-inspired Californian Modernism.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Bergamot Station, Los Angeles
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001

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Photography March USA.

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