Studio Designers | Form & Function

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz



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John Storyk of Walters-Storyk Design Group designed Northern Lights Post (New York City). “With barely 330 square feet for the entire studio,” Storyk says. “the 5.1 room’s sound quality is extraordinary.”

John Storyk of Walters-Storyk Design Group designed Northern Lights Post (New York City). “With barely 330 square feet for the entire studio,” Storyk says. “the 5.1 room’s sound quality is extraordinary.”

Has competition become more fierce in your business with new players entering the game?
Competition might not be the right word to use in terms of how I feel about people out there who are doing it well, like Francis Manzella, who I have a lot of respect for, or Pilchner Schoustal—there’s another company that studies the science of acoustics, and they’re also musicians and engineers. Or Russ Berger or Vincent van Haaff. The thing that concerns me is, anybody can make a Website look amazing and make it look like they’re the ultimate system designer or acoustician or whatever. If somebody gets a job and they’re really good, I feel good about that. If somebody gets a job who’s not very qualified, that makes me feel like maybe I didn’t do a good enough job to promote understanding of our industry.

Hsu: Competition is healthy. It’s inspiring and energizing to see what everyone’s doing—to be reminded that there are many ways to solve a problem. Increased competition demands greater ingenuity from all of us. Education and critical listening help to limit subjective hyperbole, while in the end the field of acoustics benefits, evolving in classic Darwinistic fashion to the demands of the consumer.

Grueneisen: One distinction between us and our competitors is we are architects who do buildings, not just studios. Studios are our specialty, but we look at the building as a whole, which automatically gives you a longer view than a competitor who is just building a room. We focus on timeless issues like what makes a space comfortable, whether it’s a studio or a living room or an office or a concert hall.

Storyk: I’m honored to be in this industry. I’m a member of a very exciting community. I see other studio designers and acousticians at shows and throughout the year. We often share ideas. Another way we actually meet is through the manufacturers, who, as you think about it, are the conduits for our designs. It is the manufacturers that are the ones that often take our ideas and convert them into products.

How important are visual aesthetics in studio design, and how do you think Mix’s “Class of” feature affects readers perception of your field?
I’m always happy to make things look really great. When I did Jeff Bridges’ studio, I worked with his interior designer who had just finished Jack Nicholson’s place. But at the same time, just the other night, I was in the studio where Michael McDonald and Robben Ford were recording. It’s in a converted guesthouse, and it feels like a funky bungalow. The control room is part of the kitchen, and somehow he manages to make it really work acoustically. This is what I grew up in—somebody’s funky garage or back bedroom or barn, where musicians would all get together. There’s something very comfortable and creative about those kinds of spaces as opposed to things that look like a new hotel lobby in a casino. It’s all driven by what the client is looking for.

Hsu: With studios, acoustics is paramount. That being said, it’s well documented that psychologically, everything sounds better when it looks better. Acoustics, architecture and interiors are inexorably tied together. A comfortable, vibey environment that feels good enhances the creative process. Twenty years ago, we did a 5.1 “A/B” blind-listening test using the same soundtrack but two different video aspect ratios. One hundred percent of the subjects said the wider video had better audio imaging and clarity. Mix is a print magazine. The nature of the beast is that no one can hear what a picture of a studio sounds like. We aim for all our projects to be aurally and visually stunning. At the end of the day, we’re pleased that our clients are delighted with our work.

Grueneisen: We always look at the visual aesthetics of a room as part of the architecture, rather than just the interior design. We take a comprehensive approach that doesn’t depend on fashion, but is more a function of the client’s needs and the philosophy of the project as a whole. The “Class of...” feature is always a valuable tool for readers to evaluate what they like, and we welcome input based on visual examples. Each project has to develop from its own internal logic, and the final look needs to come from many sources, including the client’s preferences for finishes, colors, textures, lighting, et cetera. 

Storyk: Aesthetics are as critical an element of studio design as acoustics. The look and feel of a creative environment can’t help but make a significant inpact on an artist’s performance. We have always taken as much pride in the way our studios look as in how they sound. We have also made a point of having the best possible photos to illustrate our work and enhance our ability to educate people about their options. We have been rewarded for this commitment by literally dozens of covers in Mix and other major publications. Being selected for the “Class Of” is a welcome reflection of our peer’s appreciation of our work. 

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