Steel is a big part of the work Paul Basile’s BASILE Studio did in its award-winning design for Broadstone Makers Quarter in downtown San Diego’s East Village.
“We do a lot of steel work. It’s kind of our go-to material. If you look at all of our projects you’ll see there’s a lot of steel,” said Paul Basile, principal of BASILE Studio. “We like to use steel for what it is, we like the beauty of it.”
In the case of Broadway Makers Quarter, steel fit right in with the feel Basile sought for the project,
“The overarching theme of the project was we were sort of exploring the evolution of the Industrial Revolution, kind of a tribute,” Basile said. “It being Makers Quarter, we thought it would be a good analogy.
The result was a hit with the San Diego Architectural Foundation, which awarded BASILE Studio a 2020 interior design orchid for its work on Broadstone Makers Quarter. Orchids go to projects worth emulating and onions to those that fall short.
Architectural Foundation judges said that Basile’s work at Makers Quarter “has a dark perspective” but praised the project for “the level of detail in it.”
His idea was to incorporate elements from different stages of the Industrial Revolution as people moved from an agrarian society, to one of machinery to computers with a nod to the future with the development of artificial intelligence and what Basile calls mechanatronics – the combination of mechanical and electronics.
In the case of Broadstone Makers Quarter, the lobby features an interactive art piece, comprised of what Basile calls flip dots.
As described by Basile, an analog pixel board of about 12 square feet uses magnetism to flip a series of small discs from white to black in milliseconds. A 3-D camera records the hand gestures or movements of someone standing in front of the pixel board and mimics the movements in reverse on the dot screen.
“It’s sort of a convergence of mechanical and electronics,” Basile said. “We try to integrate something that does something that interacts with the user. It’s always about the user’s experience. The one thing that really grabs people is something that moves.”
Basile’s fascination with steel is evident from the façade, which has balconies fashioned from steel beams, and upon entering the building.
The lobby exterior has operable steel louvers that provide shade and change the exterior look of the building entrance.
Inside, steel railroad ties create built-in lounge seating with steel benches and swivel tables with an overhead rebar chandelier adding to the industrial feel.
Basile said a unique aspect of the lobby is steel waffle tiles made to emulate a coffered steel ceiling.
“This craftsmanship has never been done before with each tile handmade and cut to form,” Basile said.
An original Kluge printing press that Basile stationed to the left of the front door in the lobby represents the advancement of the industrial revolution, Basile said.
“I found it at an auction one day. It was hard for me to give up. I bought it because I loved it,” Basile said.
A 20 foot-long “infinity hallway” inspired by the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” connects the lobby to the parking garage.
“I loved ‘2001: Space Odyssey’,” Basile said. “That’s the future revolution.”
The black-and-white tunnel is made of steel and acrylics, using glass, mirrors and light to create an “infinity effect,” that makes the tunnel seem far longer than it is.
A staircase made of sculptured steel I-beams land and frameless glass guard rails leads from the two-story lobby to a 1,500 square-foot artists’ mezzanine that includes a 600 square-foot sound proof room equipped with electric guitars and a piano.
“It’s kind of a fun room to go into and you can kind of jam,” Basile said. “You can go in there and play as loud as you want. Nobody can hear you.
The mezzanine includes a fully-functional loom at one end in a portion of the building that pops out from the façade so passers-by can watch people working on the loom or other creative projects.
“The loom was really one of the first computers,” Basile said. “You put a card into it and the machine would find where the hole is in the card and it would tell the machine to use this color fabric.”
Amenities include an outdoor deck on the third floor above the lobby with a kitchen, craft kitchen and a garden to play against the industrial feel of the rest of the project.
“You have this sort of really modern building and we sort of plunked right in the middle of it this English garden,” Basile said. “It’s sort of a refuge. It’s a quiet space. It’s just a fun romantic area to hang out.”
At the heart of the garden is a rusty-looking old greenhouse steel framework that Basile said is “a romanticized version of what it would be like to come across a BASILE project 100 years in the future.
With a staff of 55 that includes 30 metal workers and two robotic engineers, BASILE Studio makes everything use on its projects.
“We don’t just design, we make everything,” Basile said. “We do structural metal, we do glass and glazing, we do woodwork.”