High Tech Venice Style

Robert Nieminen

Film studio blends technology with a relaxed flare.

Design Flash


Tucked quietly inside the historic Venice Canals neighborhood in Southern California, the recently launched Switch Studios is far from your ordinary film studio. Created to provide a unique and unprecedented experience for the filmmaker, Switch offers an array of post-production services in a chic and eclectic boutique environment, including swank video edit suites, a plush High Definition digital video screening room and a world-class professional kitchen.

The conversion of an original 1930's corner market, of which a portion of the original façade has been preserved, into a post-production film studio was a collaboration between the owners/film producers and the designer that spanned four-and-a-half years. The location was selected not only because of the post and digital community's migration to the west side, but because of its close proximity to restaurants, retail and, of course, the surf—unavailable to east side, hence the Switch tag line: "There's no surf in Burbank."

According to Barbara Masket, the architect for Switch, the goal was to create a visibly exciting and versatile office space inside, employing the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art technologies while maintaining an alluring yet unobtrusive neighborhood residence on the outside. "Since Venice has a reputation as an architecturally progressive city," she explains, "nestling this concept into the community was an acceptable goal."

One of the restraints in trying to achieve this goal was the east façade of the entire building, which contained a political mural that was—and is—meticulously cared for by local artists, who, along with the Venice community, gave the design team strict instructions to leave the wall as they found it. "We were often visited by various members of the local Historical Committee to oversee its protection," Masket says. "In the end, the owners came to love this restriction. The building was the only commercially designated site in a strictly residential neighborhood."

While blending the facility's exterior with its surroundings was a challenge unto itself, the interior architecture and design was an even more daunting task. "The greatest challenge was designing the spaces so that the technology would become tools for the users instead of overwhelming or intimidating them," Masket explains. "The owners wanted to create a casual yet well-organized business that was personal rather than corporate."

Upon entering the studio, guests step into a modern and eclectic environment, complete with flowing contemporary structural lines and metal beams. One cannot help but feel the expansiveness of the high-arched wood beam ceiling and be drawn to the spiraling metal staircase whose railing ends in a distinctive corkscrew. The interior and exterior's layered concrete accents create a clean, modern finish to the overall style.

Comfortable editing suites are linked to an intelligent routing system in a central machine room allowing clients to work in the environment that best fits their needs. This allows for instant switching between any editing platform in house without leaving one's seat. Clients can move throughout the facility from editing suite to a naturally lit "round room" to the screening room and their projects and preferred platforms follow throughout the facility. The space is also designed for flexibility as several walls/panels on rollers allow for reconfiguration to meet a client's needs.

The grand lobby and kitchen area provide the ideal environment for brainstorming meetings and day-to-day status updates. For more focused or presentation-based meetings, or for client meetings, the screening room offers a comfortable sound proof environment with video, DVD and computer display capabilities. A custom built serving module changes a 21st-century office bullpen into a bar and lounge area.

Selected for the Venice Architecture Tour and the Venice Garden Tour, contemporary
artwork and design accents adorn the space, including a large "red monkey chandelier," ever beckoning all to keep a sense of humor. Also designed for peaceful breaks and privacy is a spacious outdoor terrace overlooking the Venice Beach Canals and a downstairs Zen Garden.

"The interior architecture has become the new cityscape for the owners, and, like a good film, transports users into the fantasy," says Masket. "Hopefully, this new built environment will inspire the filmmakers, as well as their clients, to become a metaphor
for future relevant and aesthetic projects of their choice."