CLAE Perspectives: Dan Brunn
Whether that’s finding a balance between function and aesthetics or spending countless hours to carefully create designs that stand the test of time, there are quite a few parallels to be made between footwear and architecture.
So for our latest Perspectives subject, we’ve sat down with architect Dan Brunn to chat about his career, design, sneakers, and of course, architecture.
Your company, DBA (Dan Brunn Architecture), has worked on everything from elaborate retail spaces to magazine-worthy residential projects. Tell us about your role there.
I founded DBA almost two decades ago, fresh out of grad school with the notion that design can have positive psychological influence. It’s transformative way beyond just aesthetics. So, with that, I built an ethos for the brand, and we approach each project with an outlook to create positivity. At least that’s what the goal is.
My role is really all over the place, but essentially you’d call it creative director / architect. Since we do anything from small products, furniture and full on buildings, my role is somewhat transitory. Right now we’re nearing the launch of our first ever watch project.
As an architect, we imagine you’re pretty particular about your wardrobe options, specifically sneakers. What was it about the Malone Mid that grabbed your attention?
Absolutely, and people who have seen my wardrobe have a strong reaction to my cleanliness and organization. Years ago, I started to create a streamlined outfit, which makes it easy to travel and quick to pick items.
The Malone Mid is of the DBA ethos, it’s timeless and classic, yet it’s definitely contemporary. Its form truly follows function and it can go with any type of event I might have throughout the day.
My typical day could start on the job site, but then all of a sudden I could be pulled into an important client meeting at a fancy venue, or even a meeting with a city official and then right back to a fabricator’s workshop.
Oh, plus, I enjoy driving, so it needs to work for that as well.
What jump-started the idea for the “Bridge House”?
It all started from the site. I’ve been asked if this was always a dream project of mine but the truth is that I only dreamt it once I visited the site.
Typically around the neighborhood, the houses are situated at the front of the property’s 260’ long site. This means that the home only has a view of the landscape, instead of being enriched and entrenched by nature.
With Bridge House, I shifted the paradigm of “front yard” and “rear yard”. The entire house spans 210’ across the length of the site. You’re always connected to nature, from every room.
We’ve seen a few beautiful vehicles grace your Instagram page. Do you find a lot of inspiration from the automotive world?
Absolutely! Truth be told, I really wanted to be an automotive designer, and I’m seeing that this might be a reality in the future. I’ve built strong relationships with some companies now, and well, let’s see where this leads.
Here’s an interesting little story. When I moved to America I didn’t speak any English, and during recess I remember the only way to communicate with one of my friends was through sketching. We were drawing the 1980s BMW M3 over and over and over again, obsessing over it to the point that it became second nature.
Just like my comment about design, I believe that cars are also social connectors.
When you’re working on one of your projects, what is your favorite part of the process? Is it the ideation stage, the design phase, seeing a building come to physical fruition?
There’s a truly magical moment when you start a project and you’re facing a blank page full of ideas, and not knowing where to start. I find it fascinating that one day you all of a sudden have a built project.
I remember visiting empty sandy beaches, and years later being able to see a project come to fruition. It’s magical.
The unknown portion is what gets me every time. I love the process.
I do also love the small details and solving issues on the fly. For instance, we’ve been taking on a lot of mid century modern renovations and bringing them up-to-date. It takes extraordinary care to maintain the character of the original building, honoring the architecture while at the same time finding solutions. I get really excited when were able to solve little problems with new design solutions
Gehry has his iconic curves and Van Der Rohe has his minimalist, steel and glass structures. What would you say are the characteristics of a Dan Brunn design?
Oh boy, those are some major legends and just to be equated to that is humbling and difficult to respond to.
What I hope is that people will remember the humanity of my design. The fact that each project is distilled to its absolute minimum yet is totally functional and timeless.
I’m eager to be older and see where this all leads to!
Give us the Dan Brunn guide to LA. What are your favorite spots these days?
Well, you’d probably find me at Jones Hollywood. This has to be one of my favorite restaurants, it has this old world vibe while at the same time being totally rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe one of the only jukeboxes in Los Angeles that has Oasis!
Cafe Stella is another one of my favorites, with a perfect Steak Frites.
And yes, another is a space we designed: Coffee for Sasquatch. Not only are all the coffee and tea drinks incredible, but they have the best croissants in town. Plus the space, of course.
Finally...Feel free to briefly give us some insight on what you’re working on next and what websites social media handles we can find you at.
So you can find us at @dbarchitecture @bridgehousela and my personal daily account @dbrunn009 where you might find me singing, driving or just goofing around with my dog.
We’re working on some special hospitality projects in Beverly Hills and Sonoma right now. These are dream projects of mine, that unfortunately I can’t elaborate on much more than that. So patience! One will open by next holiday season though.
Plus, we have some incredible new houses underway, on par with Bridge House. Our clients are so awesome and I’m always so grateful to them!
Thanks for the time, amazing questions and inspiration.