The Sunset Strip, in West Hollywood, CA is world famous for several reasons having to do with old TV shows and rock music history. But in Los Angeles, to Angelenos, its greatest renown is as tunnel of fabulous billboards. Oversized, creative, outrageous billboards, popping into view around every sinuous curve, dwarfing the buildings they top, or in some cases, covering 5 or 6 floors of a tall building facade. It is the premiere billboard location in LA, not just for advertising to consumers, but more importantly, for the entertainment industry’s talent relations. One of the ways that a movie studio or a record company shows its stars, producers and directors that it’s really supporting their work is by having an extravagant billboard on the Sunset Strip advertising their upcoming release. This clutter of airbrushed celebrities is a thing, and it has been for decades.
So the Sunset Strip is known for billboards. Not for architecture.
In fact, it takes some doing for a building to catch your eye amid all those billboards. Which is one of the things that makes the Prism Gallery, at 8746 Sunset Blvd., special. Designed in 2007 by Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich of PATTERNS, with Kluger Architects as architects of record, it features a stacked and creased façade, made of glass and a polycarbonate composite, that stands out even on this street of distractions.
From a distance – as a passing driver might see it – the façade has a playful effect, as if a fairly ordinary, rectilinear building had partially melted, like a collapsing ice cream cone. Close up – from the pedestrian’s point of view – it is a rather dramatic confluence of intersecting bent planes and converging lines.
The composite panels were made by 3Form, from their patented Ecoglass EC, a composite of polycarbonate and aluminum. They are extruded, and feature a glossy surface. The aluminum appears as tiny dark flecks in the translucent panel. It is supported by a steel structure designed and fabricated by LA Propoint.
The panels are, in fact, hazily transparent. From the interior looking out, you can observe a muted version of the world passing by, then suddenly coming into sharp resolution as it moves past the polycarbonate to the glass elements of the façade.
From the outside, the panels are glossily reflective, but again, not as sharply pictorial as the glass. The glass, with its crisp but unimaginative realistic reflections, is neatly flat, and framed in safe vertical and horizontal lines. The polycarbonate panels are long, skinny planks with a sharp bend in them, skewed parallels that change from horizontal to diagonal, reflecting a jazzier, if slightly muted, view of Sunset Strip life.
Even without a speck of color on it, this building holds its own on one of the most visually lively streets in the nation.
All images by Steven H. Miller