The Venice Beach House in Los Angeles
Located on the busy La Brea corridor, David Kordansky Gallery marks itself out as composition of strident, minimal forms: a pivot point for the arts in an emerging cultural district. WHY designed the main building in 2014, and the gallery was later expanded to form an integrated arts compound which includes new exhibition spaces and a landscaped sculpture courtyard.
The main gallery structure was developed from a pair of existing buildings that had previously housed a martial arts studio, a car repair shop, and a specialty foods store. WHY recast the structures as two soaring, skylit galleries of equal size and scale, paying homage to the site’s industrial roots by embracing irregular spaces and revealing structural elements and mechanics at the ceiling level. In the gallery spaces, the arching bow truss structure of the roof is artfully exposed, with the woodwork stained gray to complement the concrete floors. The experience of the spaces is defined by an emphasis on proportion and light, tempered by the combination of refined minimal detailing and the raw exposure of the building’s inner workings.
From the beginning, the gallery was envisaged as a new home for the LA art world, an ethos of conviviality reflected in the design of the back-of-house spaces which contain a comfortable mezzanine library, a lounge space, and amenities gathered around a large shared work table.
The new expansion of the gallery creates more flexibility for public gatherings, reflecting the spirit of LA’s relaxed “backyard” art scene culture. Reached via a flowing terraced-stair corridor, the expansion comprises two new exhibition spaces, art storage halls, and a landscaped courtyard sculpture courtyard. The exhibition spaces share the main gallery’s design language of minimal detailing and exposed structural elements, and features a softly coved ceiling which diffuses the lights and creates an intimate, chapel-like atmosphere. As a whole, the expansion has an atmosphere of sanctuary and refuge, a place where people can gather informally in the company of artists, friends, and creatives of all disciplines.
The program for the original gallery and the new expansion was developed in collaboration with the WHY Landscape Workshop, envisaging how the site could work as a whole. A fractured wall is imagined to wrap the site, creating an inner sanctum where unusual landscapes activate the limits of the site. An aluminum totem by Evan Holloway is installed alongside sculptural cacti and drought-resistance planting, Wille Boone’s ‘The Three Fates’ (2020) gather at the base of the terraced-stair, surrounded by succulents and otherworldly plantlife.