My recent visit to The Drake Commissary has started me thinking about design strategies visible in those interiors that occupy architectural shells already full of material memory. In this case, what comes to mind is the aspect of narrative that these interiors both support and inspire. As Graeme Brooker points out in his recent book Adaptation: Strategies for Interior Architecture and Design, “the strategy of enhancing and developing the narrative of an environment can lead to unique interior spaces.” At The Drake Commissary, where we expect the time-worn environmental context to be full of narratives that are perhaps lost to us, new interiors by +tongtong are full of narrative promise.
Let’s examine this idea by looking first at the take-out counter area that lines The Drake Commissary’s main interior street.
After the threshold vestibule, the first interior zone that we face is taken over by a cafeteria-style counter distinct from its surrounding architectural shell. Its boxy front panel features perforated sheet metal sections that are powder-coated in white and bent into either two or three-sided projections. Behind, baked goods are stored on wall-hung shelves of marine plywood (with its multi-layered composite construction exposed at the cut edges) set into a structure of powder-coated squared metal tubes. These materials display industrial manufacturing processes. In counterpoint, worktops in richly-veined, polished white Carrara marble evoke the artisanal craft practices perfected at a Baker’s worktop. We recognize an evocative material palette that will be continued throughout.
The signature lighting system introduced overhead similarly features parts identifiable in artisanal and industrial contexts. An enameled green shade – disk-shaped as a reminder of lights designed for detailed manual tasks – is suspended far above the work surface and uses vintage-inspired gold-tipped lamps to create ambient light. Galvanized steel aircraft cable and insulating wood dowel spacers anchor these fixtures in a lateral suspension grid that extends throughout the interior. Installed in tension surrounding the pendant lights, these cables play at working hard.
The narrative of work presented by these material details amplifies an expected narrative of industrial context. Rather than tell the story, however, these details cue a story to be told and augment the existing space’s narrative potential.
Join me again as I continue this discussion by considering The Drake Commissary’s living room installation. As I engage in a critical reading of the interior via its furniture, fixtures and materials, please let me know if I can expand on or correct any details of identification or interpretation.