Get to know PLATFORM, the new shopping center EVERYONE is talking about.
written by ALYSSA CLOUGH
Imagine an outdoor shopping center filled with all your favorite restaurants, fitness classes, and designer boutiques. Now imagine you work in the same space, too. Well, that dream is a reality for the employees of Sweet Green, SoulCycle, Criteo, and Technicolor, whose headquarters are located at Culver City’s latest retail venture, PLATFORM. The rest of us will just have to settle and take day trips there, with serious ambitions to become regulars at the six building oasis designed by Abramson Teiger Architects. When we say oasis, we mean it. There’s an Aesop, Blue Bottle Coffee, Linda Farrow’s first US-based boutique, NYC favorite Tenoverten nail salon, Van Leeuwen ice cream, and SoulCycle. Honestly, why does anyone leave this place? And when can we move in? We caught up with Trevor Abramson, FAIA, Design Principal at Abramson Teiger, and his team to learn the inspiration behind the design of PLATFORM’s many exteriors and interiors.
CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT PLATFORM AND EXPLAIN EXACTLY WHAT IT IS?
PLATFORM is an iconic new design quarter located in the Hayden tract neighborhood of Culver City. It is a collection of retail spaces, offices, and restaurants housed in 6 buildings that wrap around a central courtyard. From the architecture to the tenants, PLATFORM celebrates art and design across industries.
“We feel we have built a complex that welcomes like-minded creatives and craftsmen to share their products and ideas. It is another major step for the neighborhood to connect the Helms Bakery Retail District with Downtown Culver City.”
WHEN DID PLATFORM OFFICIALLY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC?
PLATFORM officially opened on April 31. There are still a few tenant spaces that have not yet opened but are nearing completion.
HOW MANY BUILDINGS DID YOU DESIGN?
There are a total of 6 buildings, including the parking structure. Three of the buildings were adaptively re-used and three were new ground up buildings. We designed all of them in this sense.
HOW DOES PLATFORM COMPARE TO OTHER PROJECTS YOU’VE WORKED ON IN THE PAST?
Designing PLATFORM has been an exciting process for our firm. We are delighted with the overwhelming positive feedback we’ve received from our peers and the community. Our office is just a few buildings over from the project site, and being able to watch it come to life, quite literally, has been tremendously rewarding. Now that it is open, the team here at ATA gets to walk over and grab a coffee or hang out in the courtyard. It is so gratifying to see other members of the community utilizing and enjoying the space as well.
With size comes greater obstacles. We overcame a lot of restrictions in the building code and various hurdles that are inevitable in the design process of a project this large. We at Abramson Teiger Architects pride ourselves on our ability to problem solve. We have had various projects come in that were our “firsts”—our first church, our first synagogue, our first restaurant, our first movie theater, and the list goes on. That is the beauty of a growing firm and we feel we have embraced this to our advantage. We thrive in this environment and feel obstacles and problem solving makes us better designers and allows us to constantly push the boundaries and think outside of the box. We haven’t fallen into a niche and we don’t want to, because we are able to bring bold ideas to traditional development models that haven’t become routine for us.
HOW DID YOU ORIGINALLY GET INVOLVED WITH THE PROJECT?
Our Design Principal, Trevor Abramson, had a personal connection with developer Joseph Miller of The Runyon Group. Our first project with him was to convert an old brick industrial building into a Los Angeles Charter School. Joseph was a board member at the school. With the success of the new LA Charter School, we were brought in to design PLATFORM. In teaming up with an innovative client like The Runyon Group, we were invited to contribute to an imaginative and collaborative process that allowed us to generate a dynamic and purposeful vision.
WHAT INTERIORS AND EXTERIORS DID YOUR FIRM DESIGN?
We designed all of the physical buildings on the site. We also designed the interiors of Loqui Taco Bar, Magasin, Tappan Collective, Kilter, Parabellum, Floral Art, the Sweetgreen Headquarters, and the Criteo office space. We collaborated on the interiors of Curve x Tom Dixon.
CAN YOU BRIEFLY SPEAK ABOUT THE DESIGN PROCESS AND INSPIRATION FOR EACH?
LOQUI TACO: We were inspired by the authentic atmosphere of street taco culture. We preserved this environment with raw industrial and imperfect elements, scattered seating and an open kitchen. Flaws in the cinder block walls were left exposed and a tin roof ceiling adds to this “back-alley found” industrial style. Handmade metal pendants light the space and a string of dried peppers continue the theme.
PARABELLUM: We kept this space in its minimal state, as to let the products speak for themselves and not overpower. Polished concrete floors and white walls do the trick.
MAGASIN: Founded by the former fashion director of Bloomingdales, Magasin is a specialty retail store aimed at a well-informed American menswear consumer. Josh Peskowitz on his new space, “There is an intersection between things that have an innovation to them but still have that handmade craftsmanship to them as well,” he said of the details. We wanted the interior of his store to mimic this concept – specifically with a large scale live green wall. Polished concrete floors and clean white walls are juxtaposed with craftsman furniture and warm wood accents.
SWEETGREEN OFFICE: Sweetgreen has a firm food philosophy in their restaurants – use only local, organic and seasonal ingredients to support communities and encourage a healthy lifestyle. The space also needed to reflect the Sweetgreen brand in terms of their digital sensibility. With this in mind, we were able to implement meaningful design features in their office. Conference rooms were named and styled after the seasons to tie into their culinary ideology. An open staff kitchen houses large butcher block islands where employees can prepare healthy lunches together. An outdoor patio connects the two sides of the office with outdoor seating and an herb garden. The free flowing layout and open workstations inspire collaboration and a lively office energy. Team members are encouraged to be mobile with their work and can easily shift from a seated table station to a lounge area as none of their computers are hard-wired.
TAPPAN COLLECTIVE: This art gallery sits in the old car showroom that existed here before. It is poetic, as they both serve as a showcase. Large scale windows open up to Washington Boulevard and the rest of the space was left as a clean canvas. Concrete floors and white walls are topped with an exposed wood ceiling that is intercut with architectural lighting and duct work.
KILTER: We wanted Kilter’s first brick and mortar to mimic their minimal yet edgy approach to men’s and women’s sportswear. A statement display wall features blonde woodwork and black framing for graphic contrast. Polished concrete floors and clean white walls allow the details of the products to take focus. The store is open to its neighbor on the inside. There is a cross pollination of brands with a health food eatery—Sao Acai—and Kilter.
FLORAL ART: Floral Art was looking to create a clean space that allowed their colorful work to shine. Built-ins line two sides of the store and small display cutouts sit behind the front desk. A statement green wall is interchangeable for the retailer to showcase their creations.
CRITEO OFFICE: With Criteo’s first West Coast office situated between the mountains and the beach, the ATA design team looked to incorporate their location through the materials used throughout the office. The heavier fabrics and reclaimed wood represent the mountains while the bright pops of blue and clean white palette represent the beach. A custom wallpaper at the entry also shows a map of their relation to the two terrains. Open workstations with the option to stand or sit and plenty of lounge space make this a comfortable working environment for the dynamic staff.
THE EXTERIOR OF THE BUILDINGS IS AMAZING—THEY WERE INSPIRED BY THE NEWLY OPENED RAIL LINE, RIGHT?
Actually, there is a history to this site that has come full circle with the opening of the new metro line station. The project site’s history dates back to its existence as a railroad station that was frequented with freight trains.
The design of the event space on the top floor was inspired by a greenhouse. If you think about the abandoned box car site, you can also picture that over time, plants began to grow over. The greenhouse space is a reinvention of this concept, represented in a form that houses a physical space.In addition to its freight train history, the project site, more recently, acted as a car dealership.
We integrated some elements of this history as well. The #HelloPlatform billboard sign on Washington Boulevard is actually the original car dealership sign pole and frame. We also preserved the old car showroom which now functions as an art gallery. Lastly, the car repair bays were repurposed and now exist as individual shops and restaurants such as Loqui Taco Bar, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Aesop. These rows of car bays used to have garage doors that opened up to a slot for the car to pull in for repair work. Now, the garage doors have been replaced with glass storefronts and these slots are the store interiors. “At the rear of these spaces, tables and chairs are placed in a service yard. Blue Bottle Coffee and Loqui Taco Bar spill into and look at this space. It’s the epitome of urban infill in a microcosm” – Trevor Abramson, FAIA, Design Principal at Abramson Teiger
HOW DID THE MURAL LOCATED ON THE EXTERIOR OF THE PARKING GARAGE COME TO FRUITION?
The original project site had been abandoned for some time, so it had some beautiful street art on its exterior walls. We wanted to commemorate this with a mural. It also aides the design by breaking up the massing of the parking structure and serves as a focal point from inside the complex towards the parking. The commissioned mural by Jen Stark also meets the Culver City requirement for new buildings.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DESIGN ASPECT OF THE PROJECT?
“The ability to juxtapose new buildings with adaptively re-purposed buildings to create an environment of tailored discovery.”
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE YOU RAN INTO WHILE WORKING ON THIS MASSIVE SPACE?
The boring answer to this is City Planning and Entitlements. That being said, we also spent a lot of time creating an environment that speaks of high design while using budget-friendly materials. This was not only true for the finish materials but also in finding clever value engineering elements that substituted expensive materials. Our team found creative solutions that, in the end, resulted in a great mix of high design and urban grit.
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE VISIT PLATFORM?
PLATFORM offers visitors a unique experience with a highly curated selection of retailers, restaurants, artisans and activities. Whether you are coming in for a SoulCycle class, a gourmet bite, a Blue Bottle Coffee or a high end retail experience, the space will cater to you with flexibility. We designed it to be user-friendly so that it is easy to park and run in for a quick bite, but it also welcomes you to stay a while. The courtyard and garden are furnished with plenty of California-made seating. We love seeing families on an ice cream outing, couples sitting with their dog, or friends chatting after a spin class.
“It is a shopping environment that is unique in its urban atmosphere that blends grit and cultivated, found and discovered, and repurposed with new. With a collection of worldwide tenants ranging in fashion, food and art, we were able to create a culture that celebrates uniqueness through various architectural diversities that still manage to exist in a definitive overall vision. We believe the result will serve as an unparalleled experience for visitors and will continue to inspire creative change in the community.”