Taller KEN, founded in 2013 by Gregory Melitonov and Ines Guzman, is an architecture practice based in New York and Guatemala; they focus predominantly on playful design which explores social and cultural relevance as well. Works of the studio range in scale from mixed-use development, commercial and residential projects, to exhibition and installation design.
One of their more whimsical projects has taken them to one of the most heavily trafficked highways in Guatemala City, where their building, an opaque red cube, rises 15 metres above the busy road. The somewhat plain exterior is studded with the embedded ‘carcasses’ of four automobiles, designed to put a smile on drivers’ faces as they quickly pass or eternally idle in a traffic jam.
Housing a 40 table bistro for Guatemalan fashion boutique, Saul E. Mendez, this eye-catching sculptural box provokes user or even the casual viewer to rethink their relation to the nature of the build environment.
By contrast, the interior is layered with textures and colours, serving as a kind of indoor oasis. Functioning as a kind of greenhouse, the central space is illuminated by sawtooth skylights and natural ventilation. In the spirit of an environmentally conscious build, rainwater from the roof is collected in giant blue tanks and used to maintain the tropical planting.
The sustainable approach to the interior is forward thinking with regards to technical elements and also in terms of blending the constructed environment with the natural. The use of natural planting throughout the project – which includes five metre palm trees and vast chandeliers draped in Musgo (Spanish Moss) – is complemented by the cool tones of the vertical exposed structural and plumbing elements. This produces a heightened sense of nature: nature curated like a garden. The space is straightforward and efficient like an industrial warehouse or factory but also made imperfect by the incorporation of furniture and other design elements.
Taller KEN: tallerken.info
Photo credits: Marcelo Gutierrez