Herman Miller Showroom
Updating a Design Legacy: tvsdesign expresses Herman Miller’s identity in an interior that’s open, progressive, and green.
For a client long associated with great modern design, the architects at tvsdesign knew they needed to create an interior that reinforced the company’s identity, highlighted its product line of contract furnishings, and embodied its commitment to environmental sustainability. So when they began work on a new showroom in Los Angeles for Herman Miller—a company that has commissioned furniture designs from the likes of Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, and Isamu Noguchi—they wanted to tap into that rich legacy and push it forward.
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Set within a 1956 warehouse that had recently been renovated by the New York firm Lynch/Eisinger/Design, the Herman Miller showroom takes full advantage of the building’s bowstring-truss space by maintaining views to the exposed roof structure and respecting the integrity of the original architecture. This strategy also allowed daylight from restored skylights and clerestory windows to permeate the 18,000-square-foot interior and reduce the need for electric lighting.
“Herman Miller wanted to create a place that explains who they are,” says Steven Clem, AIA, the tvsdesign principal in charge of the project. The client’s first step was to move its LA showroom out of an office tower and into an area next to Culver City where start-ups and creative companies have been locating in recent years. Next, it would develop that showroom into a place that looked both backward and forward, and worked equally as well for large events and small numbers of designers checking out the company’s product lines during the day.
Clem started by orchestrating an intriguing procession from the street to a front courtyard, then into and through the showroom. Only the red-and-white Herman Miller logo on the side of the warehouse and the company’s name in small letters on an entry pavilion alert people to the showroom’s presence behind the pavilion. Along the north side of the courtyard, tvsdesign inserted a white aluminum wall with the client’s name in discreet red letters to quietly catch attention. Then by sliding this wall into the showroom lobby, the firm draws people inside and to the reception desk.
For the showroom interior, the designers created a series of curving elements moving through the large, open space. To emphasize the fluid nature of this space, they cut openings in a concrete wall running from the east side of the building to the west. A blue ellipse-shaped meeting room seems to slide from one side of this divide to the other, while curving walls defining a pantry area and a lozenge-shaped cafe counter help draw people through the showroom. “We wanted to create a sequence of experiences as you move around,” explains Clem.
To maintain the integrity of the original structure, all new partitions stay below the bowstring trusses. For a large presentation room with a 10-foot-high glass wall, that meant inserting a 40-foot-long steel beam below the old wood structural elements. The presentation room’s sliding glass panels allow it to open onto the main space for parties and other events, while LED lights at the base and top of the room give it a snazzy look that can change with different colors.
In addition to locating the show-room in a renovated building that had achieved a LEED Gold rating for its core and shell, Herman Miller pursued a number of sustainable strategies for the interiors as well. These included employing daylight and occupancy sensors, specifying energy-efficient light fixtures, and using the company’s own energy-management system. As a result, the client and designers were able to reduce energy consumption to 40 percent below ASHRAE 90.1/2004 guidelines. “Lighting and mechanical are where you can get the most savings,” states Clem. The architects, though, saw lighting as a way of making a design statement as well as doing the right thing. So they designed huge cone-shaped aluminum fixtures 7 feet in diameter and 42 inches high, fitted them out for both up and downlighting, and suspended them from the rafters in an extensive grid throughout the showroom.
The client and architects examined every aspect of the project to make it more green. During construction they specified local and regional materials, so that more than 45 percent were manufactured within 500 miles of the site and 26 percent were manufactured and extracted within the same perimeter. In addition, over 27 percent (by value) of all building materials were recycled, and more than 85 percent of construction waste was recycled and diverted from landfills. For millwork in the presentation room and other spaces, they used FSC-certified Tineo wood. For paints, coatings, adhesives, and composite wood, tvsdesign used only low-VOC products. And by using waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets, and low-flow fixtures, it reduced water usage by 46 percent.
The client is continuing its commitment to the environment even after occupying the facility, using green housekeeping products and procedures, and educating employees and visitors on sustainability. For example, computer kiosks in the showroom reveal real-time energy use as a way of keeping awareness high. As a result of all these efforts, the showroom has become the first LEED-CI Platinum project in Los Angeles and the fifth in California.