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Funk Zone

AB Design Studio

Shared By

Angela Cook

Project Name

Funk Zone

Project Status



  • General Contractor: Young Construction

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Project Description


Custom designed Schweiss horizontal bi-folding roll up doors provide an interesting gateway entrance into individual tenant spaces in an existing commercial building. The building is part of Santa Barbara’s historic Funk Zone. The bi-fold doors are clad with perforated Cor-ten panels, which provide security and allow light and view into the tenant spaces when closed. When open, these uniquely commercial doors provide entry markers which also act as awnings for each of the shop entries. The steel cladding maintains the same industrial design language found throughout both the surrounding neighborhood and the building itself.

Because this project was located in a thriving grassroots artist community, the client wanted to use the building façade and the Schweiss doors as an opportunity to showcase several local artists’ installations. To accommodate this, large plywood panels are temporarily fixed to each door, acting as a blank canvas for each artist. The finished artwork adorns the building for a short while, then is sold to local collectors, which allows for the cycle to begin again. Seen as a unique way to create a public gallery for the artists within this dynamic community, these “artistic doors” are reminiscent of the creativity and ingenuity found in this unique area's evolution

Part of the eclectic Funk Zone, this new guitar studio is a one of a kind experience. The client dreamed of overlapping a retail concept with a casual meeting place for local musicians. This project includes a unique program combining a guitar retail component, four private guitar lesson rooms, and two private demo rooms where you can grab your favorite axe off the wall and jam!

The interior also features a raised sound stage where you can plug in and dream of being the next guitar hero. The space does double duty as a music store and lounge during the day and live performance venue at night. The design captured the "urban rocker" vibe the owner was looking for with metal clad practice rooms, and a bohemian lounge area with a vintage chandelier. Important to the mood of the space was providing small clusters of comfortable seating in small “nooks” to try out the different guitars, making patrons feel as though they were in the comfort of their own home. Ample natural light fills the space through large steel windows and a central skylight. The unique service counter is fashioned more like a drinking bar, where you can pull up a stool and read your favorite issue of Rolling Stone or interact with the staff. To offset the industrial qualities of the metal paneled wall surfaces and exposed roof structure, the bar wall is clad in reclaimed Koa wood, which came from several guitar factories. These were scraps from making guitars and destined for the incinerator. At the Guitar Bar, they have been repurposed into and aesthetic wall covering.

In the heart of the Funk Zone and the center of the Urban Wine Trail, is the old Bay Cafe site. The goal was to redevelop the site into (3) separate buildings with new parking areas, courtyards and landscaping. The old brick warehouse was maintained and re-purposed to house a new restaurant as well as a wine maker as well as a wine bar and wine store concept. The small building was converted into a take-out restaurant able to also serve other tenants on the site. Along Yanonali Street, a large nondescript CMU building was given a complete overhaul with new windows and doors providing access to new tenants within the CMU shell.

A custom designed rusted re-bar fence encloses the property and allows for occasional private events. Materials used are raw, galvanized and Corten steel; corrugated roofing and siding; and large roll-up doors that help open tenant spaces to the exterior. The site includes several thousand square feet of outdoor patio space and new hardscape zones that reflect the time when this district was railroad-centric. The development has served as a truly unique destination along the Urban Wine Trail and has proven itself a great addition to the historic Funk Zone.

At the core of this project was the concept of Place Making. This project serves at the Hub of the Funk Zone even two years after completion and is home to many tenants that work together for their own common success.

Sitting among the warehouse-type structures in the heart of Santa Barbara's Funk Zone, sits the Lucky Penny. Aptly named for the facade, which adorns over 15,000 pennies glued and grouted to the exterior walls, the Lucky Penny facade is the first of its kind in Santa Barbara and perhaps the western state. The inspiration for this project came from the collaborative effort of the ownership, the design team and the community. This small building was once the ICE BOX for the Castagnola Fish Company and we always referred to it as the Jewel Box. For months, the team discussed what could be done with this building. What should it be? How should it relate, or not? In the end, the restaurant purveyor suggested using Pennies. We all laughed and then queried about this possibility.

The fabrication of the penny wall at Lucky Penny turned out not to be for the careless or the OCD-prone. Wall assembly was a six-month community effort involving Funk Zone-local after school arts program that volunteered their labor in exchange for Lucky Penny contributions to their nonprofit organization.

"To create the penny tiles, we reached out to local non-profits to assist in an "art project" in which coins were glued by hand onto 12-inch-square plastic meshsheets. Those sheets then were applied to the building with epoxy mastic and thin-set mortar, just like conventional ceramic tile," Lucky Penny managing partner says.

Today, the Lucky Penny is more than a local eatery. It has become a tourist attraction and a place that people take pictures of and with. It is part of the Funk Zone and is part of the community and is enjoyed by people of all ages.
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