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Collision of Shapes and Colors : The high-tech Masino building in Sun Valley brightens an otherwise drab industrial neighborhood.

January 14, 1994|SUSAN VAUGHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Susan Vaughn writes regularly about design for The Times

SUN VALLEY — The Masino Office Building is a solitary bloom in this area's industrial badlands.

Amid corrugated sheds, cinder-block garages and plywood shacks it stands. Angles jut, colors pop, plate-steel letters blaze. If the 21st-Century Jetson family needed office space, it would fly its Jetmobile to this unique little building on Tuxford Street.

San Fernando Valley architects Jerry Sherman and Mike Ball created the high-tech one-story office-warehouse complex for Michael Masino, president of Masino Plastering Inc., in 1990.

"We wanted to break up the monotony of the area and reflect Michael's line of work--plastering," Ball said.

Using Masino's trademark color (turquoise) and his contracting products (plaster, lots of it), Sherman and Ball designed a 6,000-square-foot fantasy work space amid a desert of industrial banalities.

"The building's different," said Masino, grinning. "It's unusual. But we love it."

From 1987 to 1989, Masino had toiled in a trailer on the grounds, behind a dilapidated 800-square-foot cottage built in 1923. The cottage was too decrepit to occupy; Masino's trailer was cramped at best. Exasperated, Masino called Sherman and Ball for architectural relief.

"I left the details up to them," he recalled. "I had worked with them on other projects, so I knew their work. I just told them I wanted something different. And they went to town."

Masino Office Building's exterior is, of course, plaster. But it's not the "yucko-stucco" blight that afflicts much of America's urban landscape. The building's sweeping angles, asymmetry and subtle sci-fi colors give it 21st-Century appeal--and timeless dynamic tension.

"It looks more complicated than it really is," Ball said. "We worked with a boxlike shape to create a very un-boxy environment. It had to be on scale with neighboring buildings, but it needed its own unique identity, too."

The entrance is turquoise, highlighted in black. "MASINO OFFICE BUILDING" pulses in plate-steel lettering above a thick maroon I-beam. A western parapet wall beside the walkway is cool gray; the eastern wall is a darker and warmer shade of gray.

Inside are more colliding shapes and hues: diagonals, curves, arcing contours, chiaroscuro. Sherman and Ball divided the boxy interior into complex units, using a space-age vocabulary of fragmented geometrics, superimposed planes and repeating curves.

The reception area consists of a bird's-eye maple wedge, illuminated by stalactite-like canisters. Ferrari-red chairs and a 1940s-style Coca Cola fridge challenge the office's motif of turquoise, black, gray and white.

Masino's office, to the left of the entrance, is high-tech and oblong. It repeats the turquoise/black/gray motif in its porcelain-tile floor, sleek walls, grid-work ceiling and custom-made coffee table wrought by Sherman and Ball from Masino's scaffolding.

Behind the office complex is a more sedate "Center Shop," where Masino's inventory--predominantly sheet metal and plastering materials--is stored. Nearby is the "Repair Shop," where Masino's tools, equipment and fleet of flatbed trucks are occasionally nursed back to health.

"I'm really proud of this office, and I wish more of my customers could see it," Masino said. "I guess the irony is, in my business, I mostly travel to my clients' sites. I've got this great-looking place, and not too many people get to see it."

Where to Go

What: Masino Office Building.

Location: 10932 Tuxford St., Sun Valley.

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