Bicoastal U.S. creative production company Stardust Studios recently engaged renowned architecture and development firm assembledge+ to design the company's new New York City studio.
Originally based in Venice, California, Stardust's first New York studio opened in 2004 at 446 Broadway, and eventually moved to 118 Lafayette in SoHo, where its operations - and its reputation - grew dramatically over the course of several years. After growing into new space in Santa Monica and hooking-up with assembledge+ to contribute designs to his breathtaking studios on Main Street in 2007, Stardust's founder Jake Banks signed the lease on a unique 7,000 square-foot loft back on Broadway, and he turned to assembledge+ to make it fit.
"Over the years, our needs for client services have increased, and as a result of that, we had really grown out of our old place on Lafayette," Banks explained. "For our new studio, we wanted a cool space that everyone wanted to hang out in, that was large enough for our staff but still in the cool part of SoHo."
The second floor of 591 Broadway fit the bill perfectly. In the words of David Thompson, assembledge+ partner and principal in charge of the project, "It's about 250-feet long, sort of like a bowling-alley. It's not typical in New York to get a space that goes block-to-block, but this one goes from Broadway to Mercer."
Expressing the feeling of being on the same page creatively with Thompson and his colleagues, Banks asked assembledge+, "to make something visually awesome - that would also be functional as a production space."
Among the few other directives assembledge+ received was a request from Banks to have a bar in the reception area, to accommodate Stardust's ritual of Martini Fridays. With those marching orders, over a period of months, the new Stardust East transformed from "bowling alley" into a sophisticated SoHo gallery studio that architecturally underscores Stardust's artistry in creating extraordinary visual content.
Visitors arriving from the elevator first enter into a small roofed-entry space, which offers views out onto Broadway, and in the opposite direction, by virtue of extensive use of glass-dividers for offices, views of Stardust's entire studio - extending all the way through to the windows overlooking Mercer. Continuing into the studio, immediately ahead is a wide-open reception area featuring exposed brick, hardwood floors, and the perfect bar for hosting Banks' envisioned festivities any day of the week. "That cue of the bar was really right off of what Jake wanted the front entry area to be," Thompson confided. "The front area is meant to be a very public space for entertaining themselves and their clients. We wanted to keep that loft-like feeling, which in my mind is very quintessentially New York, and then insert these very delicate, clean and modern pieces in there."
Also off the reception area is a glass-enclosed conference room, which on the city's sunniest days glows brightly with borrowed light from the windows on Broadway. Moving on, closed offices on one side are made up of architectural pieces of different widths and colors which don't extend to the ceiling. A transparent screen running along the opposite side, comprised of glass pieces of various sizes, creates more workspaces -- while also accentuating the length of the space and the building's original features. "Stardust seems to have a very open and flowing business," Thompson said. "The transparency that's a big part of our design conveys a sense of what's going on in the studio at any given time.
"With the glass screen," he continued, "there's a rhythm set up due to the variation in the sizes of the pieces of glass we used. Above that, there's also a very subtle change in paint color that creates this sort of striping-effect along the wall. A lot of that is meant to connect to Stardust's work with motion images, and the rhythm of these images that pass by in frames. In essence, the idea was to create this rhythm and this sense of motion within the architecture. Opposite from the glass screen, we also created a variation in width and repeated the stripe-effect; another very subtle indication of movement and motion."
Finally, in the back of the studio, assembledge+ addressed Banks' needs for a flexible, configurable place to accommodate far-ranging project demands depending upon workloads by custom-designing several moveable tables.
In parting, Thompson shared a few overview comments on his firm's contributions to Stardust East. "We think it's a very simple and subtle space in its detailing; it's nothing too fancy or too over the top," he said. "And yet, the response we've gotten from Jake and his team is that it works very well for them. That's certainly one of the things that I'm always most proud of. that we can do something that has some very unique details and an interesting quality to it, and yet it's still very functional for their work environment."
Going well beyond his appreciation for the functionality of his new studio, Banks was adamant about its visual appeal. "I love walking in the space and looking from Broadway to Mercer through the glass offices," he said. "The design really accentuates the size of the space."
"And," he admits, "I really love the massive conference room and bar."