On April Fool’s day 1995, an electrical fire swept through Bumble & Bumble completely gutting the 19th Century former carriage house. Instructed by the owner to make it “fabulous” and give it a unity of a “single enterprise”, the salon’s formerly two stories were expanded to occupy the entire building.
Architecture with a “loose-fit” was employed as a means of organizing and signifying the different architectural spaces. The spatial strategy was to create open areas within which specific architectural and programmatic elements could be inserted, and sometimes moved. Bumble could be thought of as a series of linked places that share materials, a quality of light, a sense of movement. A floor-by-floor approach was employed with certain architectural gestures common to the entire interior, but with each area acquiring a distinct identity and presence. Flexibility within a tautly organized plan address the diverse and articulate program.
The floors are distinguished by program: the basement houses support/storage spaces; the ground floor consists of the main entry, cutting salon and the cafe; offices are on the second floor; the color salon, with its own reception and make-up studio, are on the third floor; the executive offices are on the mezzanine.
From the street, the building’s interior reveals itself. A robotic device in the window serves as an indicator of what is within. Animated and mysterious in nature, it greets you as you enter. While displaying information with still photographs and customized video monitors, it stands on metal feet and attaches itself to the window with industrial suction cups. Immediately upon leaving the street, there is a sense of dislocation. The salon places you on display while you simultaneously view others creating an ambiguous experience of looking and being looked upon. Transparency, translucency, opacity; spaces and objects are linked and revealed through materials and shapes creating a feeling of anticipation and curiosity.
The ground floor salon is a blue plaster box with a poured acrylic cement floor. Smaller, discreet structures were inserted into the larger space where they serve as both signs and directional devices which lead one through the salon. They are buildings along a route: reception, product/store, salon, cafe. The reception box, visible from the street, glows like a lantern after dark. A galvanized metal-paneled wall contains storage, computers, graphic display and a cafe as well as an entry to the stair tower which accesses the rest of the salon. The cafe, clad in maple and chalkboard swallow light while softly glowing. The cutting stations are assembled from poured concrete counters, lights and mirrors supported by aluminum brackets supporting, and fiberglass panels mounted over a steel frames. They provide a dynamic mix of privacy and exposure. The last component of the ground floor are the dressing rooms and adjacent shampoo area defined by a continuous bolt of fabric tautly woven around steel pipes, private enclosures for changing are formed. The lighting in the salon is a combination of incandescent and fluorescent fixtures establishing flattering light levels and color balance.
The floors are linked by a stairwell with specific lighting, sound and material characteristics. A two-story tower made of steel angles clad and metal grating rises within the space, housing lighting and sound equipment. Greenish plaster walls and floors mixed with the steel give the space an “aquatic feel”. The structure pins the program together as clients move from floor to floor.
Translucent fiberglass and acrylic screens form the reception and transitional spaces from the stair tower to the color/third floor. Giving partial privacy while transmitting light, this combination of materials is found throughout the project. Against a blackboard backdrop, the second reception desk receives the visitor. Below the mezzanine, the maple and stainless steel color dispensary and its galvanized work table are available for scrutiny. Out from under the maple soffit of the mezzanine, the color stations plug-in to a power grid in the stained plywood floor, which is based on a drawing by Brice Marden. The painted floor addresses the inevitability of stains with additional drips and splatters accumulated over time helping to complete the drawing. The color stations or “steamer trunks” of maple plywood and blackened steel frames, fold up and roll away for photo shoots and seminars. Equipment fits inside, and each unit contains lighting and storage. They are hinged and lockable, offering the users complete adaptability as well as the ability to reconfigure the space.
The maple ceiling bends and folds over the double height space with clear industrial globe lights dripping from the ceiling and scattered above the work area. Natural light pours in through three giant galvanized light scoops. Along the north side of the double height space a fiberglass, acrylic and poplar “billboard’ is hinged to the mezzanine and leans out over the space, a screen with light and silhouettes animating the color floor below.
A green plaster wall reaches up to the mezzanine level to anchor the glowing acrylic and steel grating bridge which leads to the mezzanine. One wall of the space is actually the ‘billboard’ through which the executive offices have an over view of the studio’s frantic pace below.
With unexpected combinations and assemblages of architectural elements, reiterated materials with depth and texture connections and dichotomies are formed creating the coherent feel and function of the salon. Quiet and private, public and noisy, our task was to make it a destination. Clients coming to participate in their own transformation also participate in ours.