Auld Fella

Location: Culver City, CA
Year: 2019
Status: Complete

Auld Fella is a new restaurant and bar in middle of Downtown Culver City’s commercial district. Our brief was simple: design an “Irish Joint.” This gave us a double problem of authenticity: how to make it Irish; and how to do this in the context of Culver City, which is more famous for a the in-authenticity of the movie industry than any identifiable local vernacular.

We began with the first problem by borrowing some major tropes of pub vernacular. The bar itself uses spindles to support the cantilever of the countertop, treating the assembly like period furniture that makes the organizes at customer’s feet. It does this like a miniature building with columns set in front of a wall surface. Countertops and edges are treated with thick projecting moldings that combine curves, counter-curves, and 90-degree angles. Brass fittings are used throughout, fastened to surfaces in dark wood or blue paint so dark it reads as black.

The strategy of building the vernacular out of parts gave us a way of addressing the second problem–how to make the bar convincing in the context of Culver City without lapsing into mimicry. Instead of sourcing our pub components from Ireland, we treated them as patterns to be recreated with stock building components, loosely tied together. Instead of working with carved wood, we bundled stock extrusions in square, full round, and half-round profiles to emulate a fluted column in when seen from afar. The moldings throughout are a similar construction technique that look like familiar profiles in elevation but are an assembly of geometric shapes when seen from the butt end of the bar. This sense of assembly is important, as though the bar is in-progress and could accept the addition of more stuff without disturbing the aesthetic order. Components are lashed together with leather straps. Decorative wall coverings are mounted on panels removed from the wall surface and mounted at an angle for chair backs, or to position mirrors so they expand the space of the room by adding more reflections of the details. Big common tables might look like carved monoliths, but they are actually delicate assemblies that balance the tabletop on brass cylinders wedged atop the slab-like legs.

The treatment of the restaurant as an in-progress assembly instead of an authentic artifact. Culver City is, after all, a major hub in the Los Angeles film production scene. The local tradition is more about using expedient means to recreate familiar appearances. There’s pleasure in observing how appearances are recreated from unfamiliar and nontraditional means–even, one might argue, a local expertise in reading these slippages between (old) appearances the actual forms of (new) construction that produce them.

Project Lead: Kenji Hattori-Forth

Project Team: Remi McLain, See Hong Quek, Hamza Hasan

Photographs courtesy of Injinash Unshin