A DTLA Pop-Up Space for Red Bull Music Academy
Red Bull Music Academy
Improve and implement a pop-up that doubled as a radio station and office in DTLA in three days (for real). Here's how it went down...
I received a phone call from Red Bull, a previous client, saying, "Hey, would you mind checking out this pop-up space and helping us out?" "Sure," I said, "When is the space opening up?" Red Bull: "Monday." Me: "Next Monday?" Red Bull: "Yep. Do you have any time?" Me (breaking out in a sweat): "Yeah, no problem. I'll come by first thing tomorrow." Red Bull: "Cool! We'll send you photos in the meantime." Me: "K!"
Here's what I received, and I repeat, this was 4 days before it needed to be completely done.
Looking at that photo above still makes me a bit stressed, to be honest.
To be fair, as you can see, a lot of things were well underway. Red Bull had a crew building out entire walls and that space to the right with the cut-out was an audio booth they were building out, sound proofing and completely setting up from scratch. No one was being lazy, that's for sure. But there were a lot of big question marks, and the contracting company had a lot to worry about with the radio booth alone.
It was important that the space feel comfortable and professional since a large amount of people were going to be working, having meetings, and inviting musicians in for the radio shows.
A few of the main seating elements had been decided upon, but as you can see, plans were sparse. The total space was probably about 3000 sq. ft. And while it was a pop-up (temporary) space and no one wanted to go too crazy with furnishing and decor, there was still nothing planned for the walls, lighting, or how to make things feel comfortable for those using the space for the time it was there.
(Side note: while working on the space I ran serendipitously ran into Skrillex just outside and got to reminisce about the Full Flex Express train car I designed for his tour along with Red Bull the previous year. Small world.)
After taking more photos, measurements, and talking with everyone involved, I went back home to plan and create a schedule for the weekend. There was no time for mood boards or floor plans of my own. Everything was fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants.
I have one word for that Saturday: shopping. My gal Rachel and I shop-shop-shopped until we dropped. Now, this may sound very fun to some, but trust me, when you have bascially one day and a tight budget to style out a 3000 sq. ft. space, I wouldn't exactly call it straight fun. It's exciting, crazy, and at times I was laughing uncontrollably - but there were also plenty of frustrations and several hours wasted spent sitting in LA traffic. I dare not call it fun without at least that context.
I had recently renewed my lease on my compact SUV, which was quite lucky since I packed it to the gills all weekend long. Pro tip to potential designers: if you have the means, get a car with a hatchback and back seats that fold down - just trust me on this one.
By the way, you might be asking: what about renting furniture? The truth is, there was no time for a rental situation and because the space was open for two weeks, a rental (that charges by the day) would have been far too expensive. So yes, it was a consideration, but not a viable possibility. We were able to loan out a few things like some artwork, but that was about it.
Meanwhile back at the space, the team was continuing the build out and trying to remedy the fact that a majority of the walls had been painted black, while also continued work on the studio space.
After all the stores had closed, I went back to the space to help with the lighting installation and start planning for the elements we were doing to dress up the walls. I think we were all there until about 1am that evening. I don't even remember driving home that night, which I think is a bad thing.
SUNDAY (The last day):
Sunday morning bright and early I was at Home Depot right when they opened getting tape and paint for the work table area. From there, I went to the space and started taping out the design for the painters to do that day. We went with a simple angled line design up the wall - you can see it here just after it went up. Pro-tip: if you ever want to paint your own shape or design on a wall and are using painters tape, always paint the tape with the existing color first BEFORE applying the accent color. Read full how-to on this trick via Good Housekeeping.
This design was also a very inexpensive solution for a lot of wall space. A common misconception is that big companies like Red Bull have money to burn. What I've learned is that, at least on short-term activations like this, the budget to work with is a small slice from a larger budget, and it's not the heads of the organization who control it. Hence, it really feels like working with a small business that's got to mind its pennies. This isn't a bad thing at all, of course. In fact, it forces you to be creative and resourceful and respect the fact that the client doesn't want to be too wasteful or extravagant in the cases where a space is temporary.
For the wall by the entry, we did a configuration with old apple crates. The original desire was a living wall, but those are extremely expensive compared to what we had to work with, regardless of what plants you select. The plan B option was installing these crates and then purchasing stand-alone plants and a few other accessories to style things out. I found the crates at one of my favorite vintage shops and thankfully the space is right next to the Flower district in DTLA - home of the most affordable flowers and plants in LA. I think we spent about $30 on the greenery total. #win
To the left you can see me working on the configuration on the floor. Once I set the final in place, the team got their drills out to install it into the cinderblock.
There was also the other artwork, the bar area to address, the work stations and the walls of the storage room to look after. Needless to say, it was another long day and night. But by the wee hours of the morning, things were set in place, ready to open up for use Monday.
This is one of the few times I got to see and take photos of the space with people actually using it and enjoying it. Nothing is more rewarding to see your work in action like this. Take a look:
I'm all rested up from this long but rewarding weekend. If you have an event or pop-up space that needs attention and cohesion, get in touch.