AUX Architecture designs its new studio with sliding aluminum doors

Architect: AUX Architecture
Location: Los Angeles
Completion Date: 2023

AUX Architecture has debuted its new studio in downtown L.A. The firm will cohabitate the space, a historic brick building constructed in 1915, with an art gallery and cafe. The project’s most significant architectural intervention is located on the exterior street frontage, where the firm installed moveable aluminum screens. Perforations were applied to the screens in a pattern developed using a computer script that follows the chord progression of the Pixies song “Where Is My Mind?”

For the project AUX specified an aluminum sliding door system. Three such systems were installed on the facade. Two of the screens are operable, while the third remains stationary. On the northern end of the facade a sliding screen moves horizontally, controlling access to the bar and cafe, while the vertical screen controls the entrance to AUX Architecture’s office.

The facade of the building has two moveable components: a horizontal sliding door controls access to the cafe and a vertical door, operated by an elevator counterweight, encloses AUX Architecture’s office. (Courtesy AUX Architecture)

The 1,100-pound screen is lifted by a motor-powered counterweight system. Brian Wickersham, the firm’s founding partner, conceived of this intervention as a “more beautiful version of the standard roll-down security gates.”

The stationary screen lines the top of the building to control sunlight and maintain visual continuity. The moveable screens allow for four possible permutations for the configuration of the facade, as the office and the cafe open and close.

Perforations were added to the screens to control the emittance of sunlight to the interior. AUX Architecture determined the exact spacing and patterning of the perforations through the use of a computer script. Wickersham told AN that the script “uses the main chord sequence of the Pixies song “Where Is My Mind?” Each chord is assigned to a panel location and a certain level of perforation.

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Light filters through the perforations in the aluminum screen to enter the interiors. (Manolo Langis)

The computer generated arrangement was then altered to optimize solar performance and to prevent the screens from becoming a climbable structure, for security and liability purposes. Wikersham added, “while you can’t play the facade as sheet music, we like to think there is a lot of Black Francis in there.”

During the fabrication process, the perforations were cut from the aluminum sheet and folded to minimize material waste.

Fortunately for AUX and its fellow tenants, the building came subdivided neatly into three 16-foot by 155-foot bays. This layout aligned with the programmatic demands of each of the clients and thus most of the existing interior walls were preserved. Small partitions were erected to conceal the cafe’s kitchen and separate office conference rooms. Openings added between the three spaces encourage internal circulation. The gallery takes up the least amount of space and is located at the center of the building.

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The existing structure came pre-divided into three narrow sections. These divisions were largely kept intact, however, openings were created to allow movement between the spaces and walls were erected to separate facilities such as the bathrooms, conference rooms, kitchen, etc. (Courtesy AUX Architecture)
Customers and employees are encouraged to move freely between the programs. (Manolo Langis)

To improve energy efficiency, the architects replaced the building’s outdated HVAC system. Wickersham also contends that the office’s location, positioned between two metro stations, will encourage employees to take local transit, thereby reducing transportation emissions. Furthermore, the choice to renovate the existing structure instead of building from scratch “reduced the carbon footprint by approximately 100 metric tons of embodied CO2.”

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