Architectural Digest’s Hadley Keller caught up with one of the central forces behind El Centro for a feature about the new mixed-use development at Hollywood and Vine. Commune’s Steven Johanknecht, who led the project’s interior design, guided Keller through the process by which his firm turned a collection of four different buildings in Hollywood into a holistic, full-block community featuring 507 apartments for rent.
“We wanted to address the streetscape,” said Johanknecht, who explained that the buildings inspired them to bring a Manhattan style of street-level living to the automotive city. The result is a series of exterior common spaces that connect all of El Centro’s buildings and bring together residents of the development’s bungalows, penthouses, and studio apartments.
Due to Southern California’s climate conditions, Commune and developer DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners turned to a particular native plant for landscaping: the humble cactus. As Andy Rifkin of DLJ said, the cacti are “drought-tolerant and appropriate, but lush.”
The buildings’ color palette was also inspired by natural surroundings, with some borrowing from Mexican architects Ricardo Legorreta and Luis Barragán. “We looked to tones that felt earthy and appropriate for Southern California,” said Johanknecht, “but with the volume turned up a bit.” The buildings at El Centro range in color from rich clay to soothing cream, with bright highlights, thanks to the azure pool and greenery.
When designing El Centro’s interiors, Johanknecht and his team at Commune took lessons they had learned from creating communal spaces for hotel clients and adapted them to the project to forge bonds between residents.
“We approached it much the way we would our hospitality projects,” explained Johanknecht. “That we would like to live there, that there’s a sense of community.”
This philosophy drove Commune to create a series of public spaces for these Hollywood apartments that are reminiscent of a student union, with areas like the lobby and mail room providing social opportunities for residents that are increasingly rare in American cities.
As Johanknecht put it, “there's the chance you might run into someone from another one of the four buildings and you arrive at the same time and you’re kind of flirting while you pick up your mail.”