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Take it up a notch

Justine Sambrook

Best Products showroom, Sacramento, California, 1977

Credit: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections

This showroom for Best Products at the Arden Fair Shopping Centre in Sacramento, California, was one of a series designed by the multi-disciplinary architecture and environmental art practice SITE (Sculpture in the Environment) during the 1970s.

Best was founded by a pair of philanthropists and keen art collectors whose creative passion prompted the architectural collaboration. The seven imaginative and unortho­dox retail outlets aimed to transcend the boundaries between art and architecture and involved the shopper in a theatrical commerce experience.

The Notch Building, completed in 1977, was perhaps their most structurally ambitious project. A 45 ton corner of the otherwise fortress-like brick building was mounted on a rail embedded in the pavement, allowing it to separate itself from the rest of the structure like a medieval drawbridge in order to let customers in and out – or to release a cloud of balloons. 

As well as providing an attention-grabbing visual spectacle, the building subverted the usual shopping centre norms – the brick walls moving and the customers standing still. The deliberately cracked facade was a provocative statement in earthquake-prone California.