Contract - Market Watch: AC Martin designs URBNMRKT, a grab-and-go eatery near USC’s campus

design - features - hospitality design



Market Watch: AC Martin designs URBNMRKT, a grab-and-go eatery near USC’s campus

25 April, 2011

-By Holly RIchmond, Photography by Art Gray


Transformation is the name of the game as far as the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, is concerned. Not only is the institution continually being recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious research universities, but it also is expanding its cultural reach to include amenities that compete with some of the most trendy venues in this ever-exhilarating city. Just a few blocks from USC’s main campus in the heart of Los Angeles’ Downtown Arts and Education Corridor, a new grab-and-go eatery, designed by Los Angeles-based AC Martin Partners, is capturing the attention of students and the community alike.

From the moment passersby glimpse into its unique moniker, it is obvious that URBNMRKT (“urban market”) is a modern, chic hangout that ranks high on originality. The 7,000-sq.-ft. coffee bar and deli fronts Grand Avenue and occupies the former loading dock of a four-story department store that now houses USC’s administrative offices. URBNMRKT’s conceptual roots are deeply grounded in its industrial and operational history, while its furnishings and interior design maintain a homegrown, contemporary vibe: It respects what it was, while embracing forward-thinking change.

Christopher King, senior associate, director of interior architecture at AC Martin, delves further into this idea of transformation as he describes the mission for the project. “The university is shifting its focus from bare-bones amenities typical of many universities, to options that can compete with Hollywood and the nearby Los Angeles scene.” Thus, AC Martin infused raw, edgy design elements that appeal to USC’s young student population, but also translate well into essentials that feel solid and homey. The designers realized they were competing for students’ attention but at the same time recognized that no one wants to try to enjoy a warm, rich coffee in a cold, sterile environment. “We worked hard to create an ideal balance,” King states.

From the day the original roll-down doors opened to its new incarnation (the doors now act as security shutters at night), students, faculty, and administrators, as well as community members, have lauded URBNMRKT. Clearly, AC Martin’s hard work has paid off. “Everyone we hoped to attract truly has embraced it,” says Kris Klinger, director of USC hospitality. “Customers feel like it’s their hidden gem or secret spot, but it’s not such a secret anymore!” Klinger reports that URBNMRKT’s patrons are 70 percent USC staff/faculty, 15 percent students, and 15 percent local community members. “The design is eye-catching and innovative, and the upbeat vibe keeps people coming back,” he says.

King notes that authenticity—staying true to the nature of the site—was the key concept at the project’s outset. The loading dock offered rare inspiration, and thus provided unique design solutions. For example, three dock levelers were maintained and repurposed as leather booths, featuring the original dock leveler number stenciled on a stainless-steel plate. The original concrete floor was sloped, and thus leveled, grounded, and polished to continue the industrial aesthetic. The shell walls were painted white, with textural elements such as warm bamboo strand wall panels layered in. Simple glowing bulbs in custom steel armatures hang from the 18-ft. ceiling, which also is painted white to mask the old ducts, conduits, and pipes. However, other original elements were left as is, like a back flow preventer that is adjacent to the lounge area. “There is an interesting juxtaposition of industrial and comfortable. The lounge area has living room qualities, yet its immediate surroundings capture the essence of the original space,” King remarks.

The kitchen continues the edgy atmosphere with a custom light instillation, which spells out “URBNMRKT” with stick fluorescent fixtures on the ceiling. The design team went a step further and installed a continuous angled mirror at the rear of the space, which reflects this huge URBNMRKT graphic along the storefront, correcting the reverse read for the patrons inside. King notes that all of the graphics throughout the space are custom designed by AC Martin, and the laser-cut stencils are spray-painted by hand. “We tried to maintain the homegrown aesthetic throughout every aspect, from the ceiling to the tray return system to the napkin holders,” he says.

King, Klinger, and patrons agree that URBNMRKT’s main attraction—apart from the delicious food and drink—is a 14 ft. by 18 ft. feature wall with a custom printed photograph by artist Leo Gullick. The large and colorful abstract melds beautifully with the space’s industrial edges and textures. King explains that because the budget was limited, his team carefully considered items to splurge on, such as artwork and the custom-designed lounge seating, and where they could save, like the IKEA dining tables, and chairs from Design Within Reach. “The space is an eclectic collection of furnishings that balance aesthetic and budget.”

Coming back full circle to the idea of transformation, the hospitality group at USC hopes to expand URBNMRKT’s offerings as they look to the future. Klinger explains that private events frequently are hosted at the restaurant, as well as tailgate parties and other gatherings that cater to students. Adding live music is a frequent request that is in the immediate plans, with longer-range plans including a wine bar and an outdoor sidewalk-seating beer garden. “This is only our second off-campus venue, so we are thrilled with its success,” Klinger says. “Not only is it a win for USC, but a bridge to the rich and diverse Los Angeles community.”

who
Project: URBNMRKT. Owner/Client: University of Southern California, Hospitality, Anthony Mugavero, Project Manager - Capitol Construction Development; Dan Stimmler, Associate Senior Vice President of Auxiliary Services; Scott Shuttleworth, Former Director of Hospitality; Kris Klinger, Director of Hospitality (Current); Peter Kolla, Former Associate Director of Operations. Architect, interior design, lighting/graphic design: AC Martin / Los Angeles; Christopher King, AIA, IIDA, Director of Interior Architecture (Project Designer); Edmund Lau, Production Coordinator; Joanne Camacho, Graphic Design Director; David Freedman, Project Manager; Sandra Wang, Senior Designer; Sean Kim, Designer; Kevin Phelps, Designer/Graphics. Contractor: Voss Industries; George Cavanaugh, James Voss, Jeff Voss. Engineering: Donald F. Dickerson Associates. Kitchen: RW Smith (designers) / Kamran (builders). Other: Artist: Leo Gullick, “Power Plant Series No. 4.” Photographer: Art Gray.

what
Wallcoverings, Bar top: Plyboo. Paint: Sherwin-Williams. Railing: McNichols Expanded Sheet Metal. Flooring: Certishine Polished Concrete. Quarry Tile: Dal-tile. General Lighting: California Lighting Sales. Specialty Lighting: West Elm Globe, Roost Transit Floor Lamps, Vibia Nobel Pendant from Y Lighting. Storefront Glass: Crabtree Glass. Specialty Glass: Pulp Studio Bronze Mirror. Window graphics: Imagic Studio. Lounge seating: Lily Jack, Crate&Barrel, West Elm. Bar, Dining Furniture: IKEA, Design Within Reach. Other seating: Roost Stools. Exterior Tables: OktoberfestHaus.com - Biergarten Folding Tables. Upholstery: JA Construction, Lily Jack. Other tables, architectural woodworking: JA Construction. Planters, accessories: Sunset Nursery. Signage: Imagic Studio, AC Martin.

where
Location: Los Angeles, CA. Total floor area: 4,800 sq. ft. No. of floors: 1. Total staff size: 7-10 Cost/sq. ft.: $335.



Market Watch: AC Martin designs URBNMRKT, a grab-and-go eatery near USC’s campus

25 April, 2011


Art Gray

Transformation is the name of the game as far as the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, is concerned. Not only is the institution continually being recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious research universities, but it also is expanding its cultural reach to include amenities that compete with some of the most trendy venues in this ever-exhilarating city. Just a few blocks from USC’s main campus in the heart of Los Angeles’ Downtown Arts and Education Corridor, a new grab-and-go eatery, designed by Los Angeles-based AC Martin Partners, is capturing the attention of students and the community alike.

From the moment passersby glimpse into its unique moniker, it is obvious that URBNMRKT (“urban market”) is a modern, chic hangout that ranks high on originality. The 7,000-sq.-ft. coffee bar and deli fronts Grand Avenue and occupies the former loading dock of a four-story department store that now houses USC’s administrative offices. URBNMRKT’s conceptual roots are deeply grounded in its industrial and operational history, while its furnishings and interior design maintain a homegrown, contemporary vibe: It respects what it was, while embracing forward-thinking change.

Christopher King, senior associate, director of interior architecture at AC Martin, delves further into this idea of transformation as he describes the mission for the project. “The university is shifting its focus from bare-bones amenities typical of many universities, to options that can compete with Hollywood and the nearby Los Angeles scene.” Thus, AC Martin infused raw, edgy design elements that appeal to USC’s young student population, but also translate well into essentials that feel solid and homey. The designers realized they were competing for students’ attention but at the same time recognized that no one wants to try to enjoy a warm, rich coffee in a cold, sterile environment. “We worked hard to create an ideal balance,” King states.

From the day the original roll-down doors opened to its new incarnation (the doors now act as security shutters at night), students, faculty, and administrators, as well as community members, have lauded URBNMRKT. Clearly, AC Martin’s hard work has paid off. “Everyone we hoped to attract truly has embraced it,” says Kris Klinger, director of USC hospitality. “Customers feel like it’s their hidden gem or secret spot, but it’s not such a secret anymore!” Klinger reports that URBNMRKT’s patrons are 70 percent USC staff/faculty, 15 percent students, and 15 percent local community members. “The design is eye-catching and innovative, and the upbeat vibe keeps people coming back,” he says.

King notes that authenticity—staying true to the nature of the site—was the key concept at the project’s outset. The loading dock offered rare inspiration, and thus provided unique design solutions. For example, three dock levelers were maintained and repurposed as leather booths, featuring the original dock leveler number stenciled on a stainless-steel plate. The original concrete floor was sloped, and thus leveled, grounded, and polished to continue the industrial aesthetic. The shell walls were painted white, with textural elements such as warm bamboo strand wall panels layered in. Simple glowing bulbs in custom steel armatures hang from the 18-ft. ceiling, which also is painted white to mask the old ducts, conduits, and pipes. However, other original elements were left as is, like a back flow preventer that is adjacent to the lounge area. “There is an interesting juxtaposition of industrial and comfortable. The lounge area has living room qualities, yet its immediate surroundings capture the essence of the original space,” King remarks.

The kitchen continues the edgy atmosphere with a custom light instillation, which spells out “URBNMRKT” with stick fluorescent fixtures on the ceiling. The design team went a step further and installed a continuous angled mirror at the rear of the space, which reflects this huge URBNMRKT graphic along the storefront, correcting the reverse read for the patrons inside. King notes that all of the graphics throughout the space are custom designed by AC Martin, and the laser-cut stencils are spray-painted by hand. “We tried to maintain the homegrown aesthetic throughout every aspect, from the ceiling to the tray return system to the napkin holders,” he says.

King, Klinger, and patrons agree that URBNMRKT’s main attraction—apart from the delicious food and drink—is a 14 ft. by 18 ft. feature wall with a custom printed photograph by artist Leo Gullick. The large and colorful abstract melds beautifully with the space’s industrial edges and textures. King explains that because the budget was limited, his team carefully considered items to splurge on, such as artwork and the custom-designed lounge seating, and where they could save, like the IKEA dining tables, and chairs from Design Within Reach. “The space is an eclectic collection of furnishings that balance aesthetic and budget.”

Coming back full circle to the idea of transformation, the hospitality group at USC hopes to expand URBNMRKT’s offerings as they look to the future. Klinger explains that private events frequently are hosted at the restaurant, as well as tailgate parties and other gatherings that cater to students. Adding live music is a frequent request that is in the immediate plans, with longer-range plans including a wine bar and an outdoor sidewalk-seating beer garden. “This is only our second off-campus venue, so we are thrilled with its success,” Klinger says. “Not only is it a win for USC, but a bridge to the rich and diverse Los Angeles community.”

who
Project: URBNMRKT. Owner/Client: University of Southern California, Hospitality, Anthony Mugavero, Project Manager - Capitol Construction Development; Dan Stimmler, Associate Senior Vice President of Auxiliary Services; Scott Shuttleworth, Former Director of Hospitality; Kris Klinger, Director of Hospitality (Current); Peter Kolla, Former Associate Director of Operations. Architect, interior design, lighting/graphic design: AC Martin / Los Angeles; Christopher King, AIA, IIDA, Director of Interior Architecture (Project Designer); Edmund Lau, Production Coordinator; Joanne Camacho, Graphic Design Director; David Freedman, Project Manager; Sandra Wang, Senior Designer; Sean Kim, Designer; Kevin Phelps, Designer/Graphics. Contractor: Voss Industries; George Cavanaugh, James Voss, Jeff Voss. Engineering: Donald F. Dickerson Associates. Kitchen: RW Smith (designers) / Kamran (builders). Other: Artist: Leo Gullick, “Power Plant Series No. 4.” Photographer: Art Gray.

what
Wallcoverings, Bar top: Plyboo. Paint: Sherwin-Williams. Railing: McNichols Expanded Sheet Metal. Flooring: Certishine Polished Concrete. Quarry Tile: Dal-tile. General Lighting: California Lighting Sales. Specialty Lighting: West Elm Globe, Roost Transit Floor Lamps, Vibia Nobel Pendant from Y Lighting. Storefront Glass: Crabtree Glass. Specialty Glass: Pulp Studio Bronze Mirror. Window graphics: Imagic Studio. Lounge seating: Lily Jack, Crate&Barrel, West Elm. Bar, Dining Furniture: IKEA, Design Within Reach. Other seating: Roost Stools. Exterior Tables: OktoberfestHaus.com - Biergarten Folding Tables. Upholstery: JA Construction, Lily Jack. Other tables, architectural woodworking: JA Construction. Planters, accessories: Sunset Nursery. Signage: Imagic Studio, AC Martin.

where
Location: Los Angeles, CA. Total floor area: 4,800 sq. ft. No. of floors: 1. Total staff size: 7-10 Cost/sq. ft.: $335.
 


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