The Banks Journal DTLA storefront is our first brick and mortar, blending clean and minimal aesthetics with natural materials near LA’s Arts District. Working with the design firm West of West, our new space seeks to blend our Australian and Japanese heritage alongside our sustainable ethos and coastal influence and appeal.
After months of ideas, design meetings, permits and construction, the space is now open for business. To celebrate its completion we thought it ideal to have a proper sit down with Jai Kumaran and Clayton Taylor, the founders of the architecture and design firm West of West that we worked with to discuss the space and their craft in general.
BANKS JOURNAL: How did West of West come about?
WEST OF WEST: The idea for West of West has been around for a decade and grew out of a longstanding collaboration between myself and Clayton. I think the first conversations started over a few drinks in a small bar in Copenhagen, where we were both living at the time as exchange students. We have always wanted to produce work that is relevant and contemporary and wanted to do it on our own terms.
Where does the name West of West originate?
We found the name (or the name found us, as it usually happens) because it is evocative of a distant horizon—something that for us translates into a forward-looking creative studio that is constantly striving to push boundaries. Both of us are from the West Coast and love the mentality, the landscape, the people. There is a unique attitude in this part of the country that I haven’t found anywhere else in the world and our work is inspired by it. Teddy Roosevelt said in 1903, and I’m paraphrasing, that when he came to California that it was not the West, but was west of the West. That is a radical idea.
What’s your modus operandi when it comes to architecture and design?
We design things to change the way one experiences the world—big or small, subtle or bold. For us it is critical that our ideas get realized and can be experienced and interacted with by everyone, not just architects or designers. We are not satisfied with big ideas that stay on paper—build it or it didn’t happen! We also have a long-standing obsession with light, form, materiality, craft, and things in the natural world like geology, topography and maps, and wild landscapes.
What was the concept behind the Banks flagship?
The brand is a fascinating mix of influences spanning the Pacific—from Japan to Australia to California--and all tied to coastal culture in some way. The design is inspired by elements from all those areas, including the thoughtful minimalism of Japanese craft, the laid-back styling of Byron Bay surf culture, and the ever-evolving urban energy of Los Angeles. Our attention to materials and craft, and a commitment to an understated but unique experience aligns with Banks Journal’s mission to provide considered, sustainable design.
What is the story of the wooden ceiling structure?
The ceiling is a focal point that defines a space within a space and is visible from the outside. The store is relatively small but has very high ceilings so we came up with an idea to utilize this large volume overhead to create something iconic. The arched volumes that the ceiling suggests are classic and familiar, however they are contrasted by material and method of construction that is new and different. The use of wood and the way it is layered and assembled also references traditional Japanese construction techniques. I think there is over 1,000 linear feet of wood in the ceiling.
Is it easier to create something completely new or redesign an existing structure?
They both provide unique challenges. There is something satisfying about designing with an existing structure as context—it provides some ground rules, some boundaries. As a designer it’s helpful to have those limits to work within. You could compare it to a writer staring at a blank piece of paper, or an artist at a blank canvas. That’s very challenging in a certain way. For our new projects we always end up inventing rules and parameters to push against.
Is there a particular movement or era of design that you tend to draw inspiration from when sitting in front of a blank canvas?
Many times, we start with an art world reference—we’re usually more connected to ideas from that world at the beginning of a project. For the last few years we’ve been into the land art movement from the 1960s and 70s and artists like Smithson, Heizer, and Turrell. Also sculptors like Tony Smith and Donald Judd. We usually don’t start with inspiration from a single architectural source or period but can be influenced by many, for example the early collages by architect Mies van der Rohe.
What is on the horizon for West of West?
We’re a young studio (most architects don’t peak until their 60s!), so we are all about learning as much as we can every day. We have a growing team of talented designers and our projects are getting larger in size; we are aiming for our first ground-up new building commission this year. Combined with that I’d also like to continue to push the experimental side of the studio towards that distant horizon that Teddy was talking about. Let’s go do things that have never been done, and let’s do them in our own way.
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Many thanks to Scott Snyder for all the amazing images of our store. You can view more of his work at scottsnyderphoto.com