The Architectual Art of Christopher Mercier

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In a world filled with a variety of art forms, fine art stands out above the rest. It’s easy to pinpoint certain outstanding masters like Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Monet, Dali and others in their class.  Why?  Their art not only bears their signature but it’s a recognized and appreciated art – there are museums built to house and display these pieces.

There is a form of art out there that nobody looks for, many may not even realize it’s art.  You will never see the artist’s signature on it. When you gaze upon the art you probably will never know the artist behind the masterpiece.   The art is more than just a 3D piece of work or a canvas; instead it’s interactive and it expresses the style of the individual and sometimes the community.  It’s really an art of individualism. What is this art you may ask?  It’s Architecture.

Architecture is a functional art that we often take for granted.  A well designed building encompasses functionality, style, and livability.  It’s can create an ambiance that brands a business if it’s a commercial structure or it can create a warm inviting feeling to the style of a family that calls the structure home.  Architecture essentially is one art form we all embrace and utilize everyday without knowing it.

I know when I go to an establishment I often look at the building more closely than probably most others do.  I have always been fascinated with architecture, especially in structures like stadiums, arenas and restaurants.  I know that a well designed restaurant can create an atmosphere that enhances the food and entertainment value of the establishment.

One architect, Chris Mercier, is known for his work on restaurants and other commercial buildings on the west coast but also around the world.  One of his specialties is reviving older structures; keeping the historic value while making them modern and functional.

In today’s society we often completely raze these structures or we modernize them so much we lose the history these structures bring.  It also has a domino effect on the community that surrounds the building.  History is important and keeping that history while making it fit into our modern society is a art form that is more important than you know.  Mercier understands this and makes it a priority to preserve the building’s character while making a new piece of art from it.

Here are some examples of Mercier’s work:

Officine Brera

Officine Brera, rooted in the idea of a workshop (Officine), is inspired by the Brera Design District of Milano, Italy – where contemporary design flourishes against a backdrop of a rich historical architectural context. A restaurant designed to inspire and facilitate the working craft of cooking with a rustic open flame approach, balancing tradition with an innovative contemporary culinary mix.

The original structure, a 1920’s masonry and steel warehouse was once the home to the Los Angeles Gas Company located in the now arts district of Downtown Los Angeles. The buildings industrial character sets the tone for a new contemporary cooking workshop, including kitchen, bar, main dining, conference dining and outdoor semi covered patio terrace space. The main dining room takes full advantage of the thirty-five foot high original open steel truss ceiling with a central spine skylight flooding the room with natural light during the day and offering a twinkle of night sky in the evening.

A glassed enclosed exhibition kitchen, also centered on the large central skylight above, anchors the design and visually focuses the dining room experience on a brick surrounded line of fire, including a wood burning open flame grille, rotisserie and oven. The minimal design offers the opportunity for the diner to first observe and understand the Chef’s hands-on art and craft as a precursor to the taste.

At the rear of the dining room, opposite of the kitchen, is a wall of original frosted/tinted factory windows that capture surrounding evening neighborhood exterior lighting making them almost reminiscent of a large stained glass window. To the west of the main dining room is a private dining space that seats up to 25, separated by sliding custom bi-folding doors for private events. The exterior patio terrace along the east façade is covered by a new corten steel canopy element, a contemporary interpretation of the traditional pergola.  Extending along the façade, this architectural hood links to and covers the restaurants new entryway, engages a small exterior fire pit area before it folds down to the ground embracing and sheltering the patio dining experience.

Overall this interior and exterior adaptive reuse project takes full advantage of the existing masonry and steel structure. It does this through the respect and celebration of the historical building shell and structure set as a perfect back drop for the insertion of two new fluidly formed steel faced architectural elements – an exterior steel shell that houses the restaurant entry and exterior dining and the other, an interior metal and glass faced kitchen block. Together both of these industrially inspired elements define specific functions of the new restaurant program and allow for the open airy space of the dining room to fully engage the existing industrial building interior shell.   In addition, the use of traditional industrial type building materials (steel, concrete, reclaimed wood and masonry) throughout the project that reflects a similar inherent respect for tradition one finds in the kitchens open flame inspired cooking methods. Amber and gold tone pendants, up and ambient lighting reflecting off the natural interior brick and steel warms the space, while the flickering fire from the kitchen and exterior patio fire pit further enhance the glow. What’s left is a warm mix of old world industry housing a new contemporary workshop for cooking, one rooted in tradition that celebrates the craft of northern Italian cuisine – Officine Brera!

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Hannah Financial

The Hana Financial headquarters redefines the conventional corporate financial office with an inviting contemporary environment that is more boutique hotel than guarded financial institution. The client approached architecture firm, form environment research (fer) studio, to update its reception area to project the company’s more approachable brand identity and to create a comfortable small business banking atmosphere for its customers. Located on the 20th floor of The Wedbush Center, a twenty-one-story commercial building in Downtown Los Angeles, the project addresses an interior remodel to an existing corporate reception space, conference room and elevator lobby.

Upon stepping off of the elevator and approaching the reception desk, a flood of natural light is made possible by the wood grille wall set behind the gold reception desk and travertine stone credenza – it communicates transparency, trustworthiness, and wealth. Beyond the desk is an informal conference space with wall to wall windows. The wood grille wall was the focus of the design that also provided a direct view of the Korean Air Hotel and other views of the downtown Los Angeles area.

The materials used, such as the aluminum mesh along the walls, brushed gold reception desk, wood elements makes the space warm and inviting.  The wood canopy ceiling houses linear led lights above the reception space. Reflective materials, such as the mirror above the elevator doors allows light from the lobby to bounce throughout.

(fer) studio redesigned the Hana Financial Institution space to elevate the corporate environment to something on par with a high-end hotel experience through the use of luxurious materials and thoughtfully designed solutions that enhance brand identity and transparency.

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As you can clearly see Mercier has a profound sense of style that embraces the history of the established structure while projecting the best features that building possesses. His work creates beautiful and relaxing dining establishments that make you want to visit and enjoy an evening with your family and/or friends.

There are a lot of elements that must be accounted for when creating a workable art piece like a building and Mercier does that masterfully!

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About Author

Jason Dowd

Jason is the founder of "The AME Experience". He hosts the syndicated AME Radio show and TV show. Jason is an Internationally Exhibiting Photographer and Artist who adores art of all mediums. He is also the founder of "Imagine-Nation Art Studio".

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