The architect of the original structure of the Press Club was Charles Moore (1925-1993), whose legendary firm, MTLW, was yet to design its masterpiece, the Sea Ranch Condominium, when it delivered this mixed-use building, the first in its portfolio and commissioned by Moore’s brother-in-law Saul Weingarten, the first city attorney for Seaside. Despite its modesty, this design, currently the headquarters of the Monterey County Weekly newspaper, contains in incubation all the themes that made Moore’s architecture.

The Press Club compound is the unlikely union of two different adjacent commercial structures, joined into one lot in 1997. In this early instance, MTLW used a hybrid structure meshing wood frame construction, steel beams (sparsely), and concrete masonry units. The main office building housed law practices on two levels and a double-height retail component (over time a tennis shop, resale clothing, and a hair salon). Typical within the Moore’s idiom is the clash between the toned down urbanity of its massing and the larger-than-life windows serving its interiors. This orchestrated fragmentation suggesting building as a village is maintained even with the visible changes that took place in the realization of the final design. Yet Moore relished in the appropriation of the users of his architecture. It was part of the process.

Studio Schicketanz re-visioned this anti-architecture on the conceptual foundations of the venerable Charles Moore.

 Adaptive re-use is a central focus of our practice. We hold that being vigilant about the history of any building is essential to devise solutions to revitalize its existence in the local district. When we were brought in to re-imagine the original structure of the Press Club, we saw two major opportunities to base our design on:

1) We wanted to reintroduce and preserve the central space as the main event of this newfound architecture.

2) We strove to activate the pedestrian experience along Fremont Boulevard, a main thoroughfare by providing a generous connection to that main thoroughfare.

The interlocking of the high and low ceilings was a key driver to choreograph the grand void of its interiors. It is here that the hybrid users would congregate and relate informally outside of the workplace. The intent was to create a hub, a hip place where to meet and greet, talk about current events, enjoy a performance, and attend an art opening. The richness of its uses is the lifeline of the building overtime.

Articulating the existing flatness of the long facade was a prerequisite to restore volume and celebrate the interplay between inside and outside: the entry to the cafe is recessed, a majestic roll-up window invites you in, another access point is moved back at the other end. In re-introducing these ins-an-outs already present in the original plan but lost in subsequent remodels, we shaped a place accessible to the public, permeable to pedestrians, while still being the Press Club. When all the windows are up, people can sit on the street to inhabit the public realm.

The subtle assertiveness of the implemented design adds calibrated industrial chic to the grand simplicity of the tall void of its interior, graced with large unadorned picture windows of different scales. Inside, a string of micro-events add subliminal novelty to the exact same space, yet rediscovered in this make-over. And because enhancing the social takes center stage in our design intent, we add an eight courtyard along Williams Avenue to the existing seven interior courtyards piercing the original building mass.

Design

Mary Ann Schicketanz

Production

 

 

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