L’Oreal’s new research and testing facility is to be sited on an irregular grassy plot bordered by a window factory, a for-profit college, a park and subdivision, and US Route 1. It was really too late to start arguing against the blunt rationales that shaped this stretch of suburbia, but not to extend their logic even further. The existing development stops short of the full potential of suburban autonomy: the buildings are sealed capsules unable to structure their sites, which are given over in part to parking, but also to unusable property: setbacks, desultory landscaping, and undeveloped marginalia. We wanted L’Oreal to order its site right up to the edges by means of a strong, program-derived organization emphatically drawn into the landscape to maximize architectural (and real estate) value.
Functional studies for the building indicated that an 80’-deep, two-story cross section, with labs above and secondary uses below satisfied all major program conditions. We extruded each research métier, arranged them in three parallel bars of manageable length, and skewed the bars at major internal divisions to develop connection points and courtyards. The lateral striping of the bars, and especially the open-ended spaces captured between them, irresistibly ripple outward to order the parking lots, site amenities, planting zones, and formal presentation to Route 1.
To underscore the correlation of building and site, the lab bars are expressed as prismatic objects at the scale of the landscape. Their facades pair mirrored vision glass with shadow-box spandrels and channel glass cladding to suppress readings of wall and window. At the bars’ ends, this translucent wrapper slips past the enclosed volume and out into the striped landscape.