Successful design is universally recognized, and for the last 17 years, Dan Brunn, founder of DB Architecture has been showcasing this across a litany of projects at a variety of scales. Whether it be the fresh atmosphere of a mountain escape or the smooth growl from one of his many red chariots, Dan highlights a form-follows-function, purpose-built authenticity that reflects in his work. Most recently, his sustainable, site-specific car storage solution caught our eye, and we reached out for greater insight into what drives him, his projects, and of course, his personal car collection.
Quick introduction to you for those reading, and when was DB Architecture born?
"Formed in Los Angeles around 17 years ago. Our projects vary in type and scale, anything as small as a watch, to as big as a hotel, but at the core, we’re always looking to create memorable moments in design, which are also highly functional and sustainable."
Do you find other car storage solutions lacking anything currently? What was the primary driver behind your design?
"Absolutely. It started from my own car collecting addiction, and seeing consistent cliches. I thought, we can do better than an airplane hangar, or a typical warehouse building. Yes, I have seen them done well, but why settle at that? Car collectors are discovering people, looking at all the details, so really, why not celebrate the collection? We need to have better light, better flow, and a true experience. That was at the core of the design for this pavilion. After all, cars are beautiful sculptures, which deserve a gallery / museum like experience."
In a way, this is a house for cars. What are a cars basic needs from an enthusiasts perspective, and how does your approach try to fulfill them?
"Exactly. Access is paramount. Meaning, you need to be able to actually drive the automobile, but I also wanted the display to be seen from the garden. Just like the houses we deign, we integrate the indoor to outdoor relationship. If you look carefully, you’ll also see that the approach is in a way masked, and you only get spinets of the collection, then you turn the corner, and you have a big, momentous moment. All of this is also choreographed to the sun’s orientation."
What is your collection/rotation looking like? What do you drive most often? Is there a particular car that has influenced your design language across different projects?
"I recently, “completed” my initial collection with the purchase of a BMW E30 M3. This was really the car that started my infatuation with the automobile. So now, the primary cars are “The Best of Germany”, and almost like my own Noah’s Ark. There are twos. A 1987 Porsche Carrera 3.2, 1996 Porsche Carrera 4S, 1989 BMW E30, and the 1996 BMW E36. Mind you, all of which are in a similar bright red tone. Those are really a set I think. Plus two Mercedes vehicles, a 1996 E320 Cabriolet and a 1994 G 320 SWB. The G320 is my daily driver, and the others are in rotation, based on mood. I’d say that each are in tune with my form follows function mentality, and purpose built authenticity. There are no frills, nothing extraneous, and this results in a timeless creation."
We see the harmony of old and new in your application of a traditional construction material like wood, and it's juxtaposition against the concrete floor and glass curtain walls. What is an automotive parallel that you see bridging the same gap?
"This is a really good question, and I am not sure we truly have seen answer. There are many homages done, and now we have a ton of resto-mods coming out. I really dig the idea of resto-mods, but I would love to see EV powertrains embraced more. Yes, I know, all the petrolheads will read this and get frustrated, but it’s time to move on, there is great tech out there. One dream of mine has been to build an electrified 60s Bentley sedan. It would just be sleek and awesome. I’d redo the interior in sustainable materials too."
What continues to inspire you? Also, what advice would you give to aspiring designers getting started, or in a creative block.
"With the completion of each project, I am reinvigorated to forge on. Since each of our projects are so unique, and are met with such demands, it sometimes feels like the impossible, made possible. Our clients really push us to the limits, and I truly wouldn’t be here without this support. It’s inspiring to me to think that someone would approach us to solve their problem. What a gift!
If you’re in a creative block, stop right there, and change your atmosphere. Go for a walk, breathe some air. I love the mountains, so that soothes me. When we start a project I always make the client aware that the initial phase doesn’t have a deliverable timeline. If they leave me be, I will come back with the best design.
For inspiring designers, or really, any passion, really listen to yourself and find a way to believe in what you do. Don’t be a jerk about it, but do take yourself seriously. Second guessing is a real killer. Also, never look to emulate the path of someone you look up to, and don’t have heroes."