Road to Awe’s L.A. Flagship Store Honored for ‘Innovative, Playful, and Whimsical’ Architecture

Dan Brunn Architecture’s Retail Design Receives Three Industry Awards


Dan Brunn Architecture lauded for its first retail design project, Road to Awe, located on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, CA. Photos: Brandon Shigeta. Click here for high-resolution images.

LOS ANGELES: Dan Brunn Architecture has received three awards for the innovative design of fashion brand Road to Awe’s (RtA) flagship store located on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, CA.  The renovation of the 1,200-square-foot, 1970s building—as streetwise as the clothes displayed inside—features a dream-like space with complex geometric precision, meditative sensations, and positive/negative dualities.  The project has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles (AIA│LA) with the 2017 AIA│LA Design Merit Award, the 2017 Westside Urban Forum Design Honor Award for retail projects, and VMSD magazine’s 2017 Retail Renovation of the Year.  These industry accolades have been bestowed to Dan Brunn Architecture for its first retail design project.

Graced with street exposure from two sides, RtA proclaims its presence to the public with angled black façades for a cohesive, sculptural experience.  Instead of installing typical, full-height storefronts that allow the merchandise to be viewed at a glance, the firm reduced the amount of exterior glass to create a more exclusive and voyeuristic atmosphere.  A large window is set at an angle to face traffic moving east, while smaller windows provide interior views at the pedestrian scale.  An added sense of mystery is achieved by the new “floating” canopy in front of the building.  A floor-to-ceiling pivoting door seamlessly blends with the black exterior when closed, and generously welcomes shoppers when open.

Inside the 10-foot-tall space, a circular interior garden, featuring an olive tree surrounded by grass and a curved wooden bench, contributes calm and brings a mannered sense of nature into the scene.  The tree is planted under a skylight that mirrors the turf/bench circle and filters sunshine into the space.  This introduction of nature is meant to provide the “awe” represented by the fashion brand.

“This is a really innovative, playful, and whimsical design for retail architecture,” said the AIA|LA Design Awards jury, who honors design excellence by noting some of the most significant completed projects internationally by Los Angeles-based architects.  “The use of visual tricks and cues, subtle plays on light and shadow, and the installation of the olive tree in the middle of the space—highlighted with the circular skylight—create captivating moments that are quite wonderful.”

Merchandise display areas stretch along the sides of the 30-foot-by-40-foot space composed of concrete floors, black mirrors, wood surfaces, and blackened steel beams.  Clothing is hung on a custom hardware system of suspended roller tracks set into soffits and beams.  Hangers can easily slide to reveal the layers of merchandise or be moved aside to accommodate special events.  Custom-designed wooden cases extending to the beams rotate to reveal mirrors or positive/negative insets that display for-sale books and accessories.

At the rear of the store, a fitting room and bathroom flank a generous waiting area with a long cantilevered blackened steel bench where friends/stylists can sit while customers try on clothes.  Not merely a changing/waiting area, this nook serves as a catwalk for customers, as the large fitting room door swings open to reveal a nine-foot-by-eight-foot mirror.  The space is completely clad in ash on the floor, ceiling, and walls to unify this area.  A backlit “T”—formed by slots and recesses in the wood surfaces—takes on the asymmetry of RtA’s logo lower-case letter, further symbolizing the brand.

In addition to the Los Angeles location, the firm has been commissioned to design RtA’s next retail space in New York City.  Dan Brunn Architecture designed the architecture, interiors, and lighting of RtA, while additional project team members included Kaisei-en (landscape design), Modaa Construction (general contractor), Perfect Design (MEP), Gordon Polon (structural engineer), Tako Tyko (neon signage environmental graphics), and Brandon Shigeta (photography).

Los Angeles-based Dan Brunn Architecture, founded in 2005 by Dan Brunn, AIA, develops commercial and residential projects worldwide.  Brunn utilizes provocative spatial choreography to harmonize light with volume.  Inspired by the Bauhaus architecture of his native Tel Aviv, he reinterprets Modernist principles in minimalist designs for living, shopping, and dining.  Brunn’s portfolio includes furniture design that addresses the needs of living room, bedroom, and bath with highly functional, sophisticated, and streamlined solutions.