Best known for its minimal, steel-framed houses, LA’s Barton Myers and Associates has recently been applying its expertise at a much larger scale. This explains the similarities between its five recent steel residences and its other new projects, which range from performing arts centers in Arizona and Florida to a production studio in Santa Monica. All include exposed structural steel, steel decks, cantilevers, and a Louis Kahn-like attention to honesty in structure.
The firm, pointed out Senior Associate Thomas Schneider, believes in structural integrity and “celebrating how the different pieces come together,” but also values the use of steel because it is fireproof and, in most cases, faster to build.
“You have to educate a lot of the construction crews because everyone is used to putting drywall on everything and hiding everything,” Schneider said. “They can’t just put conduit and lights and plumbing wherever they want.” The work also requires alternatives for most fire codes, which usually call for covering steel structures.
Myers himself calls the exposed steel structures “gutsy,” allowing for experimentation in form and function. “Let’s not cover them up, let’s show them off,” he said.
West Los Angeles, California
This 5,000 square foot, single level house integrates interior and exterior spaces throughout. A north-facing courtyard serves as a Zen garden; the kitchen’s eastern patio serves as an outdoor dining area; and a covered porch and terrace serve as the house’s focal point, allowing the living space to open to the landscape via motorized glass and steel garage doors. Exposed concrete floors and structural steel give the home, like the firm’s other steel houses, a minimal, industrial aesthetic that submits to its natural surroundings. Operable clerestory windows bring in still more light and alleviate the need for air-conditioning.
Located in the airy hills of Santa Barbara, the house was constructed with concrete floors, large expanses of glass, and insulated steel panels and decks. The house wraps around several courtyards (one by the master bedroom, one by the library, and one by the motor court), allowing the site to be internalized and private while also opening up the space to the elements.
Courtesy Barton Myers
DPAC Orlando Performing Arts Center
The centerpiece of a two-block redevelopment of downtown Orlando, DPAC includes three theaters (a symphony hall, a dramatic theater, and a small local theater), and a major new plaza that Myers referred to as the city’s new porch. An undulating roof featuring exposed structural tubes and solar panels cantilevers over the plaza. Inside, ducts and mechanical systems remain exposed, showing off the structure and opening up the space, while multiple loges resemble a European concert hall. The center’s intricate landscape will also echo the garden aesthetic seen outside of many of Myers’ houses.
Michael Masengarb (left) and Peter Robertson (Center, right)
Tempe Center For The Arts
An anchor for Tempe’s waterfront district, the center’s design loosely alludes to the designs of the local Chocoan and Hohokam Indians. Individual building components (a large theater, studio space, multi-purpose room, etc.) are expressed as separate volumes, creating an urban setting. On the exterior, a unifying curved wall made of poured in place concrete encloses the main building and protects the interior from extreme desert temperatures. Other portions of the roof are constructed of perforated metal to allow use of screened, natural light. The center is sheltered by an extensive and sculptural shed roof which becomes the theater’s main icon and a major symbol for the city.
Indian Paintbrush Studios
Santa Monica, California
A renovation and remodel of a 1960’s reinforced masonry warehouse in an industrial district of Santa Monica, the project involved partially removing and reconstructing one façade, raising the building’s roofline, and adding a rooftop deck and gardens. Again, the firm has produced a raw aesthetic: new building elements are constructed of steel to reinforce the existing glue-lam beams for the new roof garden. Extensive glazing and skylights allow natural light to enter throughout. As with the steel houses, large glass and steel garage doors open up the space even further.