How can an almost 80-year-old broadcasting building steeped in Hollywood history relate to how we work and live now?
The design of NeueHouse, a hybrid coworking facility and social club aimed at enterprising creative professionals, reveals many connections between past and present within the former West Coast headquarters of CBS.
"We're all broadcasters today," said Joshua Abram, NeueHouse's co-founder, in what originally was the general manager's office. Legendary network head William S. Paley would work from the upper floor suite when he came to Los Angeles to check in on his network's big names, such as Orson Welles, and attend to the growing CBS media empire.
In a sly reference to modern architecture pioneer Le Corbusier's notion of the home as "a machine for living," Paley described the building he commissioned Swiss architect William Lescaze to design in 1937 on Sunset Boulevard near North Gower Street as a "machine for broadcasting."
Abram explained that Paley wanted Lescaze to "turn the guts of the machine and display it on the outside, making all of the parts — including the stars — totally visible." The Hollywood studio-as-fortress paradigm was rejected "to turn work into something you share," Abram added, "which is obviously a theme that we find here."
The "shared-work" concept — where the workplace is reimagined as a place with public, interactive, and collaborative qualities — was one of the many concepts that guided the design team throughout the process of rehabilitating the six-story Streamline Moderne landmark. Rockwell Group architects collaborated with Cristina Azario, design principal of NeueHouse Studio, to revamp the building that opened in 1938.
Lescaze's structure has been transformed and updated, with its historic integrity protected. In addition to shared and private offices, NeueHouse holds a 100-seat theater (a full-time staff member oversees cultural programming), group meeting spaces, plus specially engineered rooms for recording and top-of-the-line audio listening. Members-only and public restaurants will open this year too.
The building's seductive exterior and interior curves merge with the mission and aesthetic of the New York City-based group, which opened its first location in Manhattan in 2013. The building also significantly figures into the makeover and heavy investment that's sweeping Sunset east of Vine Street.
In addition to NeueHouse, developer Kilroy Realty's Columbia Square location features several restaurants — Sugarfish, Sweetgreen and Rubies+Diamonds are already open, with more to come. Viacom is among the tenants moving into an adjacent office building that's under construction. Artist Dustin Yellin completed a series of panels in the outdoor plaza leading to NeueHouse's main entrance, which links the other in-progress buildings.
Inside NeueHouse, Azario focused on a contrast of hard and soft surfaces. "You need to live your life, you need a certain comfort, you need to find nooks to retreat to," she said. "There is a way to marry that with the Modernist building" and create "a sense of discovery and journey."
This approach is evident starting with the lobby, cafe and shared work tables located at the ground "gallery floor," up through the more private spaces and dramatic outdoor terraces. Azario mixed Moroccan and South African-made rugs, textiles from designers in New York and L.A., and primarily custom-made furnishings throughout that pay homage to the sleek, machine-inspired International Style legacy, along with vintage pieces and American classics such as Cherner armchairs. She and Abram selected original artwork from the Artist Pension Trust's collection.
The result builds layers of warmth and texture, and blurs distinctions between private and public experiences.
"There's a great attention to design," Azario noted, "but in a way, it's a backdrop to life happening."