Blank Studio breathes life and tranquility into an office shell for Gilbert, Arizona’s Yoga Deva.
Billy and Shosh Vergara had a clear vision when it came to the design of their first yoga studio, Yoga Deva. They wanted an uncluttered and uplifting space where students could step in, take a deep breath, and “let the layers melt away.”
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Seems like a simple enough request, until one considers the studio’s milieu: Its location is Building No. 8, Suite 143 in a commercial park in Gilbert, a fast-growing suburb of Phoenix. The 22-acre complex, which contains mostly medical offices, is sandwiched between a strip mall and a tract-housing development—all of which lie a few blocks from a new highway.
To transform their office condo into a “healing oasis,” the owners hired Blank Studio, a Phoenix-based firm whose work they had spotted in a design magazine. Firm principal Matthew Trzebiatowski, AIA, says he had one major goal for the 2,800-square-foot shell: “We didn’t want any memory of the exterior.” Dividing the space into five sections, he also wanted to ensure the entire composition played like a “series of events.”
Quotidian thoughts certainly fade the moment one walks through the door. Visitors step out of the harsh desert sun and into a dim, slender reception area. “The idea was to give you a complete contrast,” Trzebiatowski notes. While some sunlight pours in through the tinted-glass front door, the space is largely illuminated by two light coves—one high, one low—that line opposite sides of the 45-foot-long room.
Yoga practitioners often have to break through a mental wall, Shosh Vergara says, and she wanted to ensure her studio helped “eliminate the clutter from people’s experience.” Paying heed, the architect used a Minimalist palette of materials. In the entry space, the room’s east wall is sheathed in walnut veneer, the same material used for a storage bench that spans the room. The west wall and adjoining reception desk feature aluminum gilding, painstakingly applied over three weeks by the owners themselves.
In an attempt to draw visitors deeper into the facility, the Vergaras painted the back of the lobby ultramarine, a hue Shosh Vergara says has a “transformational” quality. Visually, it also assists in the transition from one chamber to the next: In the small room around the corner, a blue, iridescent tile mosaic covers one wall. This room, at the center of the facility, connects to the men’s and women’s changing areas, an unfinished massage room, and the yoga studio, which, at 1,500 square feet, accounts for more than half of the project’s total area.
Lined with mirrors and filled with bright light, the studio calls to mind a glass of cool water. Overhead, full-spectrum fluorescent lamps are tucked into the folds of a billowing, dropped drywall ceiling, featuring three inverted vaults that hide mechanical devices, such as a heating system employed for Hot Yoga classes. To diffuse the light coming through the windows on the south and west walls, and to block views of the parking lot, the architect installed opalescent polycarbonate panels, a material often used in greenhouses. These 5⁄8-inch-thick panels also add to the room’s ethereal quality.
Throughout the project, the strategy was to be logical and cost-effective, says Trzebiatowski, and to create a pared-down aesthetic devoid of “pomp and circumstance.” Mission accomplished, the clients say, noting that the quiet space induces the process of “unwinding and getting present.” In an unlikely spot for a yoga center—a suburban office park—it seems Blank Studio has achieved architectural nirvana.
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