4th Street Vine at the Long Beach Airport. Photo courtesy of Studio One Eleven, a P + R Architects company.
If you've spent any significant time in the city, chances are you’ve stood in a space that started out on the drawing boards of Long Beach-based architecture firm Studio One Eleven.
Maybe you’ve walked through the Long Beach Airport, past the square, modern fire pit set gracefully ablaze at 4th Street Vine. Or perhaps you’ve visited Lyons Art Supply and watched passerby relax in the parklette outside Berlin Bistro. Their minimalist, contemporary touch has even met the Ronald McDonald House, on which they completed a re-design in 2011, in addition to the nearby Weingart-Lakewood YMCA.
You may never have realized all these locations, each playing a significant role in the community, shared a common thread. Each design has its own personality and character. And that’s exactly what principals Michael Bohn and Alan Pullman have hoped for.
The parklette outside Berlin Bistro and Fingerprints. File photo.
“We weren’t just hired to design them, we actually put our money in there, and we were instigators of redevelopment,” said Pullman of the team’s projects, specifically Lyons Art Supply and office buildings at 4th and Linden. After that development, the team was hired to design the facades of Berlin Bistro and Fingerprints, as well as the parklette. “And so, that—an agent of change—that was our project. And we remodeled the entire block.”
Bohn said the project is a critical example of Studio One Eleven’s approach, which is community-focused and comprehensive.
“With 4th and Linden, it was a direct reaction to the old RDA [Redevelopment Agency] coming in, they would come in, assemble all these parcels, and then they’d tear them all down,” said Bohn. “And they would sell the land for a reduced price to a developer outside the of city that would build something completely foreign to what Long Beach was about.”
Through their development of the space, the founders of Studio One Eleven sought to show the city other approaches to saving buildings and creating sustainable urban spaces, and, by default, economic development.
Ronald McDonald House. Photo courtesy of Studio One Eleven.
“On 4th and Linden, it was a much lighter, faster way of doing economic improvements,” said Bohn. “But we bought these buildings, we cleaned them up, and we brought in local tenants and more unique tenants, which we think is what Long Beach is all about. It’s not about creating these mega-block projects that kind of destroy the incremental originality that’s here.”
Studio One Eleven prides itself on taking a bird’s eye view of the community—something Bohn and Pullman hold very close to their own hearts.
“We wanted to work on community-based projects,” said Pullman, who received a bachelor’s in architecture from Syracuse University and has lived in Long Beach for around 20 years. He also sits on the board of the Downtown Long Beach Associates and “I saw this as a need, and I don’t think architects were thinking of the places they serve.”
It all started with facade improvements on 4th Street and Pine Avenue, escalating into projects that involved putting certain sections of Long Beach on a “road diet” and installing medians to calm traffic on traditionally busy streets in the more suburban sections of Long Beach. The firm grew, installing Southern California’s first series of parklettes in Long Beach, including the one located at Lola’s.
“At Lola’s and Berlin, parklettes were build at a time the restaurants really needed them,” said Pullman. “It brought more life to the street and creates more [foot] traffic. It’s like a billboard for the restaurant.”
Pullman began Studio One Eleven in January 2000, and Bohn joined shortly after. The firm is housed within the P + R architectural firm, something Pullman describes as a “firm within a firm,” which enables the office to focus solely on architecture, design and landscaping. Pullman said the arrangement provides the amenities of a larger architectural firm, human resources wise, with the benefit of focusing on niche urban impact. The firm currently houses 32 architects in Long Beach and seven landscape architects.
“We think of the place as architecture, urban design and landscaping combined—not separate,” said Pullman.
They recently opened a second office in downtown Los Angeles, which they hope will be perfect for continuing their design of a new downtown development called The Bloc.
But the most notable impact the developers are hoping to make is right here in Long Beach, with the long-awaited City Place redux.
Studio One Eleven’s new office space is set to open in the location once held by Nordstrom Rack. They will be the new anchor tenants for the development, moving their employees to the location, as well as designing a “mixed-use urban stylistic development” featuring apartment space and retail on Fifth Street.
Rendering of Studio One Eleven's future location courtesy of Studio One Eleven.
“They’re moving their headquarters—and I’m talking they have 120 architects—they’re moving their headquarters to this center to be the new anchor tenants for this new development and that is amazing,” said Garcia at the announcement of the redevelopment of City Place last fall. “Anytime you have over 100 architects walking around in the downtown core that’s only going to be very good for the rest of downtown Long Beach.”
The project that is set to play out over the next three years will start with the redesign of the former Nordstrom Rack to create Studio One Eleven and a renovation of the adjacent parking structure. Building layouts are set to be more open and repositioned to make it more accessible from the North Promenade entrance. The street separating the two sides of retail will be closed to traffic to create a more pedestrian-friendly experience, complete with programming and entertainment opportunities.
With other projects, including a yet-unannounced mixed-used housing and retail project to be constructed at the parking lot at 4th and Linden, a recently completed Eco House for children of homeless individuals and more on the horizon, Studio One Eleven’s got its sights set on using architecture, landscape and urban design to amplify the city’s existing unique sense of the urbane into a city known for chill sophistication in its own right.
As facilitators of Long Beach’s long-term Waterfront Metropolis plan, Studio One Eleven’s vision for Long Beach is one of optimism and vast potential.
“It got Long Beach to really understand that it has true potential as a cosmopolitan city on the water,” said Pullman.
“It really is the only one between San Diego and San Francisco,” said Bohn. “There’s nothing else like it in the Southern California basin.”
Above, left: Alan Pullman. Above, right: Michael Bohn. Photos courtesy of Studio One Eleven.