225 Forest Avenue
Laguna Beach, California
Designer: Michael Neumann Architecture
New York-based Michael Neumann Architecture has crossed the DNA of a light-industry warehouse in Laguna Beach with the laid-back aesthetics of surfing and skateboarding subcultures to create a new, multi-brand retail store. The rawness of the warehouse is accented rather than concealed, with materials like cardboard boxes, apple crates, and scaffolds providing an ad-hoc product display system. Passing through the front entrance feels like climbing a loading dock, via a metal ramp leading through a garage door and up to the central wooden platform that occupies most of the store’s floor space. The designers’ only concession to the traditional retail back-of-house, front-of-house distinction is a few pull-down, waxed-canvas panels that can be used as screens to cover extra stock. Rotating work by artists-in-residence, and a melange of posters and flyers collected from the front of the building, adorn a series of movable plywood panels. Vying with the artworks for the role of the store’s centerpiece is a woven wall of garden hoses, a colorful visualization of the waves off nearby Huntington Beach. Each hose’s color and length correspond to the height and period of the waves on a given day, with blacks and dark greens representing shallow waves and orange representing deep ones. The space’s daunting size is broken up by clusters of salvaged fluorescent light reflectors that hang down from the high ceiling, defining more intimate and human-scale “rooms” within the store.