The M Building in Beverly Hills, California, is a study in contrasts. The existing office building, a generic example of mid-century commercial architecture, had been modified over the years with numerous decorative add-ons. Recognizing the potential of the structure, the client asked that it be brought back to its elemental features, yet updated to create a stealth and minimal exterior consistent with their desire for an understated street presence.
As a homage to Donald Judd, one of the client’s favorite artists, the street facing windows were conceived as “neutral objects” cantilevered from the wall. Detailed minimally, these boxlike windows combine a simple painted aluminum frame with highly reflective glass to capture the ever-changing wonders of the California sky.
In contrast, the interior is bright and open, with light coves and reflective glass surfaces used to create a space which seems much larger than its actual 3,200 square feet. Original wood ceilings discovered during construction are left exposed to create dramatic twelve feet tall volumes, a welcome departure from the building’s prescribed finished ceiling height of eight feet. The wood trusses are set against stark white walls, grey oak floors and muted wool carpet to create a gallery-like atmosphere, perfect for displaying the owner’s exclusive art collection.
Among the art on display are works by Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg, Zhang Huan, Robert Misrach and John Valdez. Perhaps most striking is the exterior mural by Alexandre Farto, aka VHILS. The end result is a deliberate, if not provocative, juxtaposition of refined interiors with street art, in keeping with the client’s initial wish for making the experience of the space full of surprises.