Expanding VolumesApparatus' Los Angeles Space
"You experience light and sound differently in a volume of [this] size; there is something serene, and almost monastic about it."
New York based design studio Apparatus – creators of sculptural lighting, furniture and homeware objects – have recently opened a second space in Hollywood, Los Angeles. It was in LA that co-founders Gabriel Hendifar and Jeremy Anderson first met, and where they first began designing objects together, before moving to New York and founding Apparatus in 2012.
In the new space, which opened in November 2018, long pendant lights composed of hair, brass and stone hang from spacious warehouse ceilings. Slender arches rise over tables inspired by Persian tombak drums, and light slants in from high windows. Cereal speaks with Hendifar, the creative director, about the vision informing the design, and the rich experience of the space itself.
Cereal: Could you talk us through the design of the new space?
Gabriel Hendifar: Our intention was to create a secret oasis in the middle of the city. The building has a very severe façade, with no street-facing windows and just one large, glass door. All the light pours in from a row of clerestory windows, 4.5 m above the ground; so once you are inside the space, you could be anywhere. This presents a wonderful opportunity to transport people. When I first saw these windows, I was immediately reminded of some of the forced perspective structures that you find in De Chirico paintings – long arcades running below grids of windows. His influence had been present in my ideas for some time, and the building offered an opportunity to manifest those references. His work quickly became an important inspiration behind the project.
We designed the space to be a series of volumes that increase in size as you move from the front of the building to the back. Experiencing the space is an act of discovery that unfolds and expands, culminating in the central volume, which we conceived as an interior courtyard. It is planted with beautiful African cabbage trees, strewn with gravel, and flooded with so much natural light it can confuse you as to whether you are inside or outside. You experience light and sound differently in a volume of that size; there is something serene, and almost monastic about it. Witnessing people’s surprise as they turn the corner into that room has been really gratifying.
You have spoken before about the importance of narrative to your design practice. What part did this play when designing the LA space?
GH: It was at the very forefront of the conversation. Thinking about narrative has always been how I’ve known what to make next. I consider the whole context: where is the object going to live, and amongst which other objects? Who is it going to live with, and what is their story? There is a very intimate connection between the objects we make and the spaces they occupy. And moments like this, when we get to design our own spaces, are the most exciting and thorough expression of that practice. With the LA space, we wanted to present a seductive vision of life in southern California, which, in many ways, hinges on the relationship between indoor and outdoor environments. We explored this not only with the central courtyard, but also with the colour palette, choosing de-saturated, sunset hues that feel very relevant to southern California, whilst also specifically referencing De Chirico’s paintings.
How does the LA space compare with your New York studio?
GH: In both spaces we aim to transport people, and both spaces have a similar way of guiding your first impressions when you enter. On stepping into the vestibule in the LA space, it’s not clear whether you should turn left or right, and there is an interesting moment when your expectations are suspended. It’s like being tickled with a feather; it prompts a greater sensitivity to your surroundings, which determines the way you will experience the rest of the space.
It is very similar to the New York space in that respect, although New York also includes a functioning studio alongside the gallery setting. It is located on an unassuming street on 30th; there is a Chinese herbalist downstairs and an army surplus store next door. You walk into a lobby that feels as though it could be the wrong building; the elevator feels like it could break down any second as it ascends. But when the door opens, you are met with another, copper door, and perhaps get your first inkling that you are about to experience something special. On the other side, the long hallway that stretches ahead feels much greater in volume than the narrow elevator would have you expect. So a play of contraction and expansion is common to both spaces.
Your latest body of work, Act III, was very personal and inspired by your Iranian heritage. What can you share about the collection you are working on currently?
GH: Over the last three years, we’ve launched some robust collections, with anything between 15-25 items each. This year we are working on a much smaller offering of limited edition pieces, which will unshackle us from the concerns of permanent production, allowing us to push the limits of finish, material and workmanship – and to see how far we can push ourselves creatively.
In your opinion, what makes an interesting object?
GH: I think an interesting object will always be rooted in familiarity, even archetype, in some sense. A reference to a shape, form or use that feels familiar can allow a spark of connection that draws you in. Once that pull has been established, there also needs to be something about the object that pushes you in a new direction. It should be at once familiar and innovative. I think that is what makes the most exciting objects, and certainly where I find the most interesting, modern approach to design. My practice is about understanding how to seduce in that space.