In conceiving this speculative commercial building in Santa Monica, we questioned how could we make meaningful the litany of zoning guidelines and regulations with which our site and perspective building were saddled. The site, which is in the “Broadway Community District” is also at the juncture of a commercial strip and a residential strip. Thus, anything to be constructed here would have to respond to these invisible forces as well.
It was our intent to let the building become a vehicle to reveal forces that were latently extant on our site. Heidegger uses the example of the Greek temple as a device that reveals man’s world to himself and that “a thing begins presencing at its boundaries” which is in fact the way the temple works to reveal the sky. How we perceive the sky is determined in large part by nature of the edge of the temple that sets it off. While in no way do we wish to suggest that our speculative commercial building, designed to occupy a nondescript parcel of land in a banal urban context, in any way purports to carry the existential meaning imbued in the temple by the ancient Greek culture, we do wish to suggest that it too could make visible the invisible. The boundaries, or edges, of our building became the focal point of the design, and are considered in each particular instance so that their particular form, or material, or joint, begins to make present the particular force that is germane to that part of the site.
The result is a building that unfolds as one moves around it, fragmenting or congealing as it responds to the forces at work. Forces along the south property line due to residential adjacency include set-back requirements to accommodate fire rating issues creating walls and glass that recede from the property line accordingly. Furthermore, a requirement for landscape buffering between a commercial and an adjacent residential lot provides for a decorative block wall and dense planting at the connecting boundary. The scale of the building adjusts to mitigate between the residential zone and the commercial zone as well as address the requirements of a pedestrian-oriented street presence and consideration as defined by the “Broadway Community District”. The footprint of the building contorts itself to accommodate the idiosyncratic parking requirements insisted on by the city.
If the point of zoning is to provide for an urban experience that makes sense to and by means of the body, it is our desire that in making an overt case for the accommodation of the body, we have in our particular way, provided an experience for the mind.