Blanchard Fuentes Design Build

Blanchard Fuentes Design Build

Palos Verdes Estates, CA


Blanchard Fuentes Design Unveils First Commercial Project.

Erik Blanchard
Jul 1, '13 11:53 PM EST

Acquired as a commercial investment property during the summer of 2011, the existing improvement lying atop the property of 333 Manhattan Beach Blvd. was long due for an extensive overhaul.

Design and planning initiatives commenced immediately where a multitude of scenarios were quickly developed, tested and failed. Personalities and interests emerged through the process, where the traditional relationship of Owner / Designer was offset by a third party, the City of Manhattan Beach.

Discussion ensued... where the most mutually beneficial development strategy was sought, one yielding the maximum leasable sq footage for a fair market price while developing in an “elegant and distinguishable fashion” a premiere corner lot in Manhattan Beach’s Downtown Commercial District.

Alongside a revitalized development project, shaped through the forces of honest economics, was slowly emerging a simple architectural notion of sculpture, one where a new crystalline façade, laid thick over an existing wall line would be relieved into with a high degree of skill and geometrical exactness.

These faceted wells, as we could call them, would occur around windows and other features of the building lending a certain theatrical quality in shadow and light to a high profile corner of the city. 
The design, we hypothesized, would benefit during the day from the natural path of the sun, drawing out the varying tonal shades of ivory tinted plaster. The evening, conversely, would extend an entirely new experience, utilizing carefully placed up-lighting to contrastively illuminate the depth and crispness of the geometry. In this capacity, we aspired towards a quiet subtleness, in the seamless sculpting of the well, followed by a dramatic transition back to the façade surface in elongated…. drawn out sweeps.

From the onset of the design process we were long and narrow, two-storied and potentially menacing to the good people of Manhattan Beach. Big and Blocky was an invariable urge, not a privilege. The design team looked to the site for guidance, deriving tectonic lines from the north/south and east/west sloping of the site where these lines were mirrored and projected onto the developing building mass. The south and the east walls were thereby transected by these lines, dividing up an excessive amount of building while coaxing out a sizable wedge at the first floor level of these walls. In doing this, it was our wish to be “invitational” at the hustling, bustling corner of the Morningside Dr. and Manhattan Beach Blvd. Alternatively, we favored  a gradual “closing down” of this geometry towards the northerly end of the site, the focal point of which developing as the second floor entry.

The void left by this extracted wedge, some 60’-0” in length, 9’-6” in height and tapered down to 8’-0” was glazed in frameless plate glass, exposing the expansive interior as well as an array of steel columns placed at the buildings edge. The main entrance was detailed into this glazing, setback from the property line and extended in plane as a remnant of the missing volume.

This divisional line between solid and void, was meant to be viewed along its length, leading one’s eyes to a relieved plate on the south wall. The east wall, running north, then delicately transitions into a tapering, plastered ledge. These are the grand gestures of the project offering up cleaved chunks of the building for a later tooling. Sculpting of the wells is then a second part of this solution, while a need to close-out around the window openings completes the final sculpture. These chrome-clad boxes protrude abruptly from the surface, redirecting the eye while giving importance to the windows they surround. These exist as the sole ornament of the design.  

Balancing sculpting duties of the shell with basic programming of the floors, the design team worked towards an initial spatial objective of a free, unobstructed plan allowing for tenant flexibility at a later point in time. On-site parking, ADA compliant restrooms and a recessed mechanical closet were carefully worked into the 2,100 square feet of retail space at the first floor, the columns and beams of which were left exposed and finished in a subdued, metallic paint, contrasting nicely against the stark white plaster walls and exposed board-form concrete.

A single flight of stairs at the north end of the building was designed to provide access to an additional 1,200 square feet of premium office space at the second floor. Several oversized casement windows, along with a pair of equally sized skylights provide generous natural lighting to this space. Finishes of maple flooring and white-washed millwork against eggshell walls were chosen to enhance this quality of light. A mitered corner window of plate glass on the south/east walls finishes out the space while encouraging a glance over the buzzing Manhattan Beach Blvd below.