Marrying art and architecture is something that comes easily to Jennifer Luce: It’s her profession.
But don’t ever refer to her as a minimalist. “We’re diverse,” noted Luce, a La Jollan who runs Luce et Studio Architects at 5070-A Santa Fe St. in Pacific Beach. “We’re interpreters. We listen. We think. Then we express what we think our client is processing themselves. It’s very important for us to get that right.”
Luce’s large, open work space more resembles a warehouse than a studio gallery. In that refined space, she and her eight employees work on a number of different projects simultaneously, everything from architecture, site-specific art, and landscape installations to furniture design and graphics.
Lining the walls of Luce’s studio are photos of the homes, restaurants, buildings, sculptures and other structures she and her crew have created. Luce recently finished a huge project she’s quite proud of, the interior remodel of George’s California Modern restaurant owned by George Hauer at 1250 Prospect St
“It was incredibly challenging, the timeline was extremely short, a year of planning for six weeks of construction - and we had everything prefabricated,” said Luce of the $2.5-million interior renovation project that transformed George’s at the Cove into George’s California Modern. “While we were redesigning George’s, we also did an experimental kitchen for his chef at his house. We took his three-car garage and made it into a kitchen.”
Other work Luce has done recently includes: “re-imaging” the work space at Nissan Design America La Jolla; a 2,300-square foot remodel of the Lemke House in La Jolla; and a series of custom-designed, conceptually driven furniture for the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.
Regarding Nissan, Luce said: “It was a really closed-down space with an eight-foot ceiling that we turned into 20 feet, uncovering all this amazing empty space. We decided they needed to have something that inspires you, allows your mind to expand, allows one designer to speak to another.”
Luce describes her work approach as cross-disciplinary. Above all else, it places a premium on research and experimentation. “Much of our work comes from art, looking at art, studying art, collaborating with artists,” said Luce, noting the merging of art with architecture has to be aesthetic and functional, with one more thing thrown in there. “It has to be inspirational,” she added.
Luce was always interested in art and architecture. “I designed my dream house at age 12,” she said. “I was doing lots of mechanical drawing that early. It’s been my passion forever. I can’t imagine doing anything else, really.”
At the risk of being typecast, Luce said her architectural firm’s predominant style is contemporary. But through creative use and reuse of building materials, creating something contemporary can lend an inviting feeling to a building project. “One of our goals is to demystify contemporary style as being cold and inaccessible,” she said. “We want it to be warm and inviting. That’s an interesting challenge for us.”
For Luce, in the successful design of anything, be it table, room or building, the most important element is always the materials used. That’s reflected in her laboratory-like studio. Tables are strewn with materials of every type - amalgamations of metal, wood, plastic, paper, clothing materials. “We try to have a research laboratory for materials,” she said, “using things from other industries in unique ways.”
Luce picks up a piece of recyled aluminum from one table she used in interior design at George’s. “See how light passes through it,” she said. “It’s almost like the coral on reefs. There are so many ways of playing with the materials.”
In the end, it’s all about control over space. Said Luce: “It’s a gift to be able to visualize it. It always surprises me in the end, because there’s always an added element to it, like the way light falls into a room from a window. You can never really plan for that.”
The next phase in architectural design, said Luce, is to make it environmentally conscious. She pointed out there’s unbelievable waste in present use of building materials. “We’re beginning to use a lot of sustainable materials,” she said, “remnants of bamboo, recycled concrete, paper products. The world is catching on to this idea that, not only is sustainability and green important, but that it can be aesthetically amazing.”
Long gone are the days when top-flight architects only work for wealthy patrons. Said Luce: “It’s not exclusive: Architects are accessible. We’re not working for the patrons anymore. We actually work for real people. I would love for that message to be clear.”
Contact the firm at (858) 274-0223 or visit www.lucestudio.com.