The use of polished concrete and hardwood as finished floors has been trending in retail spaces for decades, but in recent years it has been gaining traction in other parts of the commercial market too. KEXP, a radio station in Seattle, Washington has a custom decorated polished concrete floor in its “Gathering Space” and a hardwood floor in its La Marzocco Café that captivate the attention of those who visit these spaces.
A station designed to connect people
SkB Architects and Walters-Storyk Design Group redesigned the 2500 square metre radio station in a building originally conceived as a temporary exhibition hall for the 1962 World’s Fair. It includes an on-air studio, music library, live performance spaces, DJ booths, production studios, a green room, open office areas and conference rooms with the majority of the floors adorned with carpet tile from the Mohawk Group and Bentley Mills.
Kyle Gaffney, co-founder of SkB Architects, says KEXP connects people through music and their goal was to see that connection translated and amplified through the physical space. He says they wanted to make it even easier to share new music and experiences with the station’s global community by connecting with people over the airwaves, in person through the Gathering Space and by connecting the Lower Queen Anne neighbourhood with Seattle Center.
A custom floor with abstract patterns
The 420 square metre Gathering Space which includes the station’s reception area, a stage for live performances and an open space with seating for audiences, was created so the station could air live performances. The Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) floor in this space was scraped off to expose the original concrete slab which was polished and sealed with some sections, such as where the trenches were cut for electrical wiring, receiving a topping layer.
Shanon and Kyle Gaffney, cofounders of SkB Architects, met Jonathan Wakuda Fischer, a graffiti artist at one their annual salons for creatives and tasked him with decorating the concrete floor of the Gathering Space. Jonathan, who is now a part-time muralist at SkB Architects, used spray paint to cover most of the floor with captivating abstract patterns fading into each other in industrial motifs that create an impression of biophilia. These paint designs were then sealed for protection.
Concrete floors get sophisticated
Architects and designers love concrete because it is an authentic high performance building material, is low maintenance and long lasting with its aesthetics streamlined to become more elegant over time. Finished concrete is growing more sophisticated with designers discovering techniques to create various effects.
Surface visuals now have a range of levels from gloss, matte, stained and stones that highlight fractures, to paints and dyes, creating patterns and graphics. Designers have also evolved in how and where they use concrete in a space and how it interacts with other interior elements enabling concrete floors to fit into zones with different environments and moods.
Hardwood floors create a relaxed hangout
In a corner of the Gathering Space is the 100 square metre La Marzocco Café and showroom set off the main floor, which has a Brushed Oak Bainbridge engineered hardwood floor from Kentwood Originals. The casual seating of the coffee shop creates a relaxed atmosphere to hang out, listen to music and watch as DJs broadcast their live shows from the glass-walled studio that adjoins the space.
The La Marzocco Café is just inside a mid-block public entrance which opens the studio to the street, bringing people into the KEXP Gathering Space which in turn opens to the Seattle Center campus through roll-up doors. John Richards, the Morning Show Host on KEXP radio, says the space is almost impossible to describe and it feels like the grownups are going to show up and take it away from them.
“In many ways, KEXP is pulling away from radio’s past, introducing live music and audience participation into the fabric of the building and programme, creating a rich experience for DJs, musicians and the public. Prior to World War II, radio stations often had theatres to accommodate an audience and full orchestras. Helping KEXP challenge expectations and continue to innovate is incredibly exciting and we are extremely happy to have been involved with a project like this,” says Shannon.
Acknowledgement and thanks go to SkB Architects for the information contained in this article.
Images by: Hannah Rankin
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