Nestled between Hollywood and downtown LA, the La Brea Design District has an oddly under the radar reputation for designer shopping, cafés, food trucks and vintage. The neighborhood’s newest attraction, Sonos Studio, is a 4,000 square-foot showroom and multi-functional art space with a particular focus on the audio arts. A producer of wireless audio systems, Sonos looked to architect Rania Alomar of RA-DA to transform a basic concrete shell into a multidisciplinary art and media space. The initial direction she says, was to “have it function as a gallery space and to have it work acoustically, so they could have events in there and showcase the product. It’s sort of a hybrid space.” But the existing space was not really built for an ideal audio experience. Alomar explains, “When we entered the space there was concrete floors and it was super echoey.”
She continues, “the other strange thing about the space is the whole space is completely wonky. The floor is sloping, the ceiling is sloping and there are no straight lines in that shell. You really only realize that when you start construction.” To achieve the proper effect, Alomar brought in audio consultants to consider the shape, and ran studies to find the right insulating materials. The result is a modern, open space with seven-degree canted (or curved) walls. A series of black and red ceiling tiles which function as soundproofing offer a simple focal point, while visually miming the Sonos zone-style approach to sound.
The opening exhibition, “Center of Attention” by Luke Fischbeck of the experimental music group Lucky Dragons, invites viewers to walk through a custom instrument of hanging ropes. Plus there’s a coffee bar, skateboard rental, film screenings and workshops.
Off from the main room, a more intimate listening room was designed by Studio Collective. Known for lush lounges and bold hotel meeting points (Public Kitchen and Bar at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Hyde Lounge at the Staples Center and The Bazaar in LA’s SLS Hotel) the design group modeled the space on Rick Rubin’s private, residential listening room.
The progressive aspect of Sonos Studio is to highlight the Sonos products and brands in a functional environment, without actually offering the products for sale. In this way, the space aspires to something broader and artistic. The rotating gallery and events draw street traffic and establish a local hangout. At the same time, Sonos can host private events with its roster of paid spokespeople like Questlove, as it did to officially open in May 2012.
Sonos audio gear is defined by a modular approach. That is, a wireless speaker or multiple speakers for each room, which break into zones. Then each zone is controlled via an iPhone or iPad interface. In the end, Alomar summarizes the broad appeal for the Sonos approach: “Do you live your life with music as the backdrop or not?”
Text by Michael Cohen
Photography by Ralf Strathmann