Museum as Retail Space (MaRS) is a 6,000-square-foot commercial contemporary art gallery located on the East Bank of the L.A. River at 649 South Anderson Street, underneath the 6th Street bridge.
Architecture and Building History: The brick structure was built in 1923 in “the Flats” (the floodplain below Boyle Heights) as an alcohol bottling and distillery plant in prohibition-era Los Angeles. The last occupant, before purchase by MaRS, was an illegal marijuana nursery - which became known after a heat lamp fire which burned down everything but the brick walls in 2012. The renovation of the space was based on the study of ancient temple architecture and retained the fire-scarred floors, only refinishing them to provide an even surface.
The exhibition space is maximized by a mitochondrial layout, creating five distinct spaces, as well as a front gallery room that becomes a window display visible from the street. The lighting was engineered with moonlight-balanced (4100 Kelvin) arrays, but designed with a reference to basic supermarkets. A 700-square-foot-succulent garden was added to the gallery’s outdoor space using a non-sequitur architectural cinder block design.
The location of the gallery, pocketed underneath the largest bridge in Los Angeles, is meant to be detached from everyday societal dynamics, requiring a sort of necessary pilgrimage. The gallery door is a thousand-pound, ten-foot-by-eight-foot single-pane of glass, balanced on a central pivot axis, requiring the enterer to compare their body against it. The antechamber of the gallery is designed to disorient the participant, with stark black bars that project and recess into the white space - a reference to ancient processions sharply using light and shadow for the same purpose. This antechamber will further be occupied by Shop!; a curated bookshop with a constellation of ideas and cultural references.