Tag Archives: Eric Laignel

Gensler Designs Western Union’s Denver Headquarters For the Digital Future

FIRM Gensler
SQ. FT. 250,000 SQF

Yes, they of the singing telegram and the currency transfer. Western Union has an illustrious heritage of innovation starting in 1851 with the intention to build a telegraph line connecting Buffalo to St. Louis and continuing a decade later with the debut of a transcontinental telegraph. Western Union also issued one of the first charge cards in 1914, offered a public facsimile service in 1935, and launched a commercial satellite in 1974. On a sweeter note, let’s not forget the CandyGram, introduced in 1959.

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In a nook at the Gensler-designed Denver headquarters of Western Union, custom digitally printed photographs tell the company’s 168-year story. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Fast-forward to the present to discover that the company has developed a robust digital platform and established a headquarters far from upstate New York. “Its roots in the Denver area run deep,” Gensler design principal and studio director Michelle Liebling reveals—24 years, to be exact. “But people don’t know they’re here.” That has changed with a move from suburban Englewood to a high-profile Gensler-designed spec building at the Denver Technological Center, part of a 42-acre campus anchored by light rail in the heart of the city’s burgeoning tech corridor. Western Union leased 250,000 square feet on eight of the building’s 16 floors and brought Gensler back for the interiors.

Increasing visibility and making a commitment to Denver were the project’s intangibles. Its big driver, Liebling continues, was to help Western Union “recruit and retain” by supporting an about-face for a corporate culture previously siloed by a maze of enclosed offices in spread-out buildings. Needless to say, all this had to happen on a crazy schedule, 14 months from start to finish. “We were issuing drawing packages and designing while the interiors were simultaneously under construction,” she says.

Back-painted low-iron glass defines an elevator lobby. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Connectivity, of course, is one of today’s buzzwords. It’s particularly pertinent to Western Union’s mantra of “moving money for better.” So Liebling emphasized workplace connections, not just among colleagues on a given level but also for the total population of 1,300 employees occupying the vertical campus. “We had to entice them to experience spaces outside their assigned location,” she explains. Her tactic? By giving different levels unique geographical identities, she created a global grand tour of destination amenities. Subtle and suggestive, absolutely. Literal or super-kitsch, no way.

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These “community hubs,” as she calls them, are based on regions where Western Union has a significant presence, and she developed thematic references accordingly. From the bottom up: a souk, as found in the Middle East; a Parisian marché aux puces, its furnishings intentionally mismatched; a town plaza typical of South America; a North American coffee bar where rows of mugs spell out, “We always connect with people. That is our DNA”; a night market from Singapore; an African home with clusters of basketlike pendant fixtures; and an international pub. Each is a lounge also conceived to be an informal lunch spot, paired with a pantry—there’s no corporate cafeteria.

The same level’s lounge-pantry hub, representing a Paris flea market, features Barbara Barry sofas and custom walnut shelving filled with company memorabilia. Photography by Eric Laignel.


“People do go to various community hubs just to switch it up for something different,” Liebling notes, having observed during post-occupancy visits. “They’re used all day, and each has its own sensibility. Some are quiet, some intense and vibrant.” Proof of concept.

The hubs furthermore determine the corresponding level’s signature color, as in emerald green for South America or blue, like jeans, for North America. Color coding starts with the elevator lobbies’ back-painted glass walls and carries through to the office areas, where a mural interprets the money-moving logo as pertaining to that level’s theme. “You have to walk past it to get to the community hub,” she explains.

In the lounge-pantry hub based on a South American plaza, hand-painted ponderosa pine tables alternate with ottomans by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Which brings us to the broad strokes of workplace configuration. Slim, low workstations hug the window walls, which provide breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, to say nothing of the brilliant sunlight. Private offices and an array of meeting rooms are inboard. Of course, there’s a stadium stair. It rises from a carpeted area with reconfigurable seating, used for presentations, to arrive at the very top level, where the executives work. Here, the CEO occupies his personal 4,800-square-foot domain, and 32 can gather at the boardroom’s horseshoe-shape table.

The top two levels are the only ones not to feature what Liebling calls “focus nooks.” These niches—ad hoc meeting venues ablaze with graphics evoking the geographical location in question—add both visual interest and functionality along the typically underused corridors between private offices and the base building core. One particular nook best tells the story of Western Union’s evolution from daring pioneer to global enterprise. Behind a row of green lounge sofas, a black-and-white photomontage shows folks from around the world, through the decades. Mounted in front of the photos are two actual bicycles, one vintage and the other a new racing bike. The former represents Western Union’s original form of delivery service. The latter looks to the future, alluding to efficiency and speed. Emblazoned on the rear wheel’s solid disk, yellow capital letters proclaim: “Always moving. Always innovating. Always connecting.”

Keep scrolling to view more images from the project > 

Seating by Jang Won Yoon fills a nook facing a world map of custom clocks set to the appropriate time zones. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Blue is the signature color for the North America level. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Its coffee bar combines butcher block and encaustic cement tile. Photography by Eric Laignel.
The oak stadium stair descends from the executive level to the presentation area. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Carrara marble tops the boardroom’s custom table. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Yellow denotes Africa. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Printed to resemble telegram stamps, MDF panels line a nook furnished with lounge sofas by Graham Design. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Todd Bracher Studio chairs gather in a meeting room where wool felt covers a wall. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Paola Lenti folding chairs sit near the African lounge-pantry hub’s assemblage of straw and rattan baskets. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Project Team: Erin Vinezeano; Christy Headlee; Abigail Parr; Lauren Hucek; Lenny Camargo; Jon Gambrill; Lindsay Salazar; Alex Ilaoa: Gensler. Rock­Skip: Graphics Consultant. Charter­sills: Lighting Consul­tant. Fortis Structural: Struc­tural Engineer. Woodcraft Un­limited: Woodwork. Howell Construction: General Contractor.

Product Sources: From Top: Martin Brattrud: Lounge Sofas (Nooks). Kvadrat: Lounge Sofa Upholstery. HBF: Sofas (Paris Hub), Table, Chairs (Meeting Room). Sandler Seating: Chairs (Paris Hub). RH: Rectangular Table. Hekman Furniture: Round Table. Herman Miller through Hive Modern: Pedestal Table. Scott Group Studio: Rug. Pfeifer Studio: White Side Table (Paris Hub), Side Tables (South America Hub), Stools (Africa Hub). Sina Pearson: Striped Ottoman Fabric (South America Hub). KnollTextiles: Solid Ottoman Fabric (South America Hub), Chair Fabric (Meeting Room). JANUS et Cie: Tables (South America Hub). Magis: Chairs. XGrass: Turf. Bernhardt Design: Ottomans (South America Hub), Booths, Tables, Booth Upholstery, Cushion Upholstery (Nook). Hightower: Bench, Arm­chairs (South America Hub), Armchairs (Africa Hub). Kentwood Floors: Platform (South Amer­ica Hub), Stadium (Stadium Stair). Mod­ernus: Sliding Glass Doors. Grand Rapids Chair Company: Stools (Coffee Bar), Custom Communal Table (Africa Hub). Clé: Island Tile (Cof­fee Bar). Marset: Pendant Fixtures. Stylex: Sectional (Stadium Stair). HBF Textiles: Sectional Upholstery. Tiger Leather: Bench Upholstery. Centerlight: Linear Lighting. Arktura: Ceiling Panels. Flor: Carpet Tile (Stadium Stair, Boardroom, Africa Hub). Tuohy: Custom Table (Boardroom). Wilkhahn: Chairs. Newmat: Acoustical Stretch Ceiling. FilzFelt: Wall Covering. Lowenstein through OFS: Sectional (Africa Hub). Camira: Sectional Fabric. Moroso: Coffee Table. Offecct: Lounge Chairs. Paola Lenti: Folding Chairs. El Torrent: Pendant Fixtures. Variance Specialty Finishes: Venetian Plaster. Throughout: Benjamin Moore & Co.; Dryfall Paint; Sherwin-Williams Com­pany: Paint. Premier Press: Custom Graphic Film, Custom Wall Covering. MDC: Acoustic Ceiling Baffles. Birchwood Lighting; Focal Point; Luminii; 3G Lighting; v2 Lighting Group: Lighting. Acme Scenic: Custom Wall Treatments, Custom Clocks.

> See more from the July 2019 issue of Interior Design

Continue reading Gensler Designs Western Union’s Denver Headquarters For the Digital Future

Rapt Studio Transforms Mid-Century Marina Del Rey Complex into an Airy Tech Hub

LOCATION Marina Del Rey
FIRM Rapt Studio
SQ. FT. 130,000 SQF

Leveling the single-story smattering of 1950s garages and factories was one option. Renovating, repurposing, and enlarging them was another. The former would provide a blank slate, the latter more of a challenge—but more character. Rapt Studio CEO and chief creative officer David Galullo, prolific designer of workplaces for such companies as Google, Twitter, and PayPal, opted to retain all but one of the six brick and concrete-block structures for the Marina Del Rey, California, campus now called MDR Truss. Today, it’s home to Zefr digital advertising, the Bouqs Co., an online farm-to-table flower delivery service, and real estate developer the Bradmore Group, the client that hired Rapt for the 130,000-square-foot project. So enamored with the result, president and CEO David Bohn decided to move the company into one of the buildings.

A site-specific installation by Settlers LA hangs in the Rapt Studio–designed headquarters of Zefr, a digital advertising company in Marina del Rey, California. Photography by Eric Laignel.


“David was looking to take advantage of what was here before,” begins Galullo, just off the plane from Milan, where Rapt showcased its debut Salone del Mobile installation Tell Me More. “He and his team understood that these little industrial buildings could actually add up to something pretty.” Rapt was tasked with creating the master plan for MDR Truss: Initial meetings with the client illustrated how the 3-acre site would be used, where cars could park, and how Rapt would work with the landscape architect to plant low-water and native species and create pedestrian pathways, among other essential changes. Bradmore was so impressed with the concept that the initial budget was increased. Ultimately, Rapt added a second floor to one building, de­cks to two of them, cleaned and re-painted all exterior masonry, and relocated entryways and exits and inserted roll-up glass garage doors for more light and better flow in nearly all the buildings. Additional outdoor spaces such as fire pits and a lawn for employee pets even “feel a bit resort,” Galullo notes.

Watch now: “Tell Me More,” Rapt Studio’s Installation at Salone del Mobile

The company occupies four buildings at MDF Truss, an office complex master-planned by Rapt. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Rapt was then hired again by Bradmore for its interiors and by Zefr for its offices, which occupy 40,000 square feet across four buildings. “We were morphing the exterior design based on what the interiors needed,” Galullo explains. Because all six buildings were leased prior to the completion of construction, the firm was able to deeply customize the design.

Reception’s white oak desk is backed by a Carrara marble panel, all custom. Photography by Eric Laignel


Creating an upgraded space for Zefr meant pushing a company with a start-up mentality—it was founded in 2008 and focuses on YouTube content targeting—into a more sophisticated space. “The idea was like Hey, we still want to be scrappy, but let’s have moments where we remind people that we’re heading in the right direction,” Galullo says. “For us, a brand is about the organization’s attitude, personality, and culture.” The result is a mixture of refined custom sectionals and walnut tables with furnishings from the hipper end of mass retailers and unpretentious, locally focused artwork. “It doesn’t feel like a dorm room, more like your second apartment,” Galullo adds, glancing down from the deck off one of the building’s newly added second floor at the rack of staffers’ sandy surfboards and the Zefr-branded skateboard ramp.

Hans Hornemann’s sofa faces leather butterfly chairs in a meeting area. Photography by Eric Laignel.

In Zefr’s main building, Rapt took advantage of the 16-foot ceiling with site-specific installations. One is at the entry: a cascade of white ribbons designed by art fabrication company Settlers LA that’s akin to an enor­mous ocean whitecap but that Galullo de­scribes as “kind of flowy.” Neptune Glassworks, another area artisan, pitched its canopy of handblown  glass orbs to Rapt and it ended up above the café, where occa­sional blue walls further nod to sea and sky.

The satin ribbons range from 3 to 30 feet long. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Galullo calls Rapt “transdiscipli­nary, which is like equal measure on every discipline coming together to form something new.” In the case of Zefr, that meant curating an art and furniture offering “that’s an interesting and eclectic blend,” he says. “The last thing we want is for the office to feel like it was decorated to be perfect. People spend a lot of time here, so we focused on the spaces where people are going to hang.” So, for Zefr’s myriad lounge, meeting, and break-out areas, there’s always a duo of lounge chairs, plus a sofa, coffee table, and rug—a homey configuration that differentiates them from the rows of workstations.

A sofa by Harrison and Nicholas Condos furnishes a deck off a new second floor. Photography by Eric Laignel.


The approach also meant eschewing corner offices (although there are private phone rooms in the core of each building as well as traditional conference rooms). One corner did surprise Galullo, however. It’s that outdoor deck space he created off a building’s new second floor. “I was worried it might feel like a cage because we wrapped it into the structure,” he recalls. “But it turned out to be an unexpected nugget.”

The company logo is painted onto the plywood skateboard ramp. Photography by Eric Laignel.

“When we set out on this project, we had to tell the story of both Zefr and the site’s history,” Galullo concludes. “It couldn’t just be about maximizing the number of parking spaces, although we did wrestle with that for quite some time.” In a locale where car culture still rules, that’s saying something.

Keep scrolling to view more images of the project >

Neptune Glassworks’s instal­lation in handblown glass and steel wire enlivens the café. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A corridor’s printed canvas echoes the community’s seaside location. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A pair of Busk + Hertzog lounge chairs compose a break-out area. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Most of the buildings in the 3-acre MDF Truss complex date to the 1950s. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Hee Welling chairs surround a Studio Hopkins table in a con­ference room. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Custom workstations in an office area also by Studio Hopkins. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Jason Miller pendant fixtures and tables by Charles and Ray Eames outfit the café booths. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Project Team: Sam Farhang (Creative Director); Kristen Woods; Derrick Prodigalidad; Krisada Surichamorn; Glenn Yoo; John Stempniak; Gigi Allen; Andrew Ashey; Scott Johnson; Michael Maciocia; Sasha Agapov; Alex Adamson; Semone Kessler; Rosela Barraza; Daniela Covarrubias; Justin Chen: Rapt Studio. EPT Design: Landscape Architect. Structural Focus: Structural Engineer. KPFF: Civil Engineer. E Engineers: Electrical Engineer. Tarantino Construction: General Contractor.

Product Sources: From top: Muuto: Chairs (Lounge). CB2: Table. Louis Poulsen: Pendant Fixtures. Grand Rapids Chair Co.: Stools. Restora­tion Hardware: Sofas (Lounge, Deck), Coffee Tables (Meeting Area, Deck, Break-Out Area). AM Cabinets: Custom Desk (Reception). Ladies & Gentlemen Studio: Pendant Fixture. Stoneland: Custom Panel. Framebridge: Custom Wall. Normann Copenhagen: Sofa (Meeting Area). Industry West: Chairs (Meet­ing Area), Café Chairs (Reception), Chairs (Café, Break-Out Area, Meeting Room). Herman Miller: Task Chair (Reception), Tables (Café Booths). Alexander & Willis: Custom Sofa (Reception), Custom Tables (Café). Source International: Chair (Meeting Room). Fab­ricut: Drapery. Flat Vernacular: Wallpaper (Café). Apparatus: Sconces. Softline: Lounge Chairs (Break-Out Area). Hay: Chairs (Conference Room). FabriSPAN: Ceiling Panels. OCL: Pendant Fixtures. Ege: Carpet. Pair: Table (Conference Room), Custom Workstations (Office Area). SitOn­It: Task Chairs (Office Area). Modulyss: Carpet. Roll & Hill: Pendant Fixtures (Café Booths). AM Cabinets: Custom Banquettes. Holly Hunt: Banquette Fabric. Sherwin-Williams Company: Paint. Throughout: West Elm: Rugs. Pfeifer Studio: Side Tables. Bp Glass Garage Doors: Cus­tom Garage Doors. Assa Abloy: Door Pulls. Lumenwerx: Linear Fixtures. Senso: Pendant Fix­tures. Wac Lighting: Track Lighting.

> See more from the May 2019 issue of Interior Design

Continue reading Rapt Studio Transforms Mid-Century Marina Del Rey Complex into an Airy Tech Hub

Messana O’Rorke Goes Minimalist for Malin+Goetz’s Century City Shop

Flooring throughout is LV Wood Flooring’s European oak in a herringbone installation. Photography by Eric Laignel.


For more than 20 years Messana O’Rorke has lent its bold minimalism to residences from coast to coast. There’s a good chance that over the decades many of those home owners have stocked their bathrooms and showers with products from Malin+Goetz, the go-to brand for high-design hygiene aficionados. Messana O’Rorke has even designed a few Malin+Goetz shops, including locations on New York’s Madison Avenue and Elizabeth Street, and outposts in Santa Monica and downtown LA.

Raised, backlit stainless-steel letters with LED lighting announce the entrance. Photography by Eric Laignel.

For their latest collaboration, a shop in Century City’s Westfield Mall, they wanted to go back to the beginning. “Our inspiration was the original store in Chelsea,” says co-founder and principal Brian Messana. “We wanted to create two distinct spaces in one, and specific areas for the product lines, which the Chelsea store successfully achieves.”

Read More: Peter Marino Channels Chanel with Showstopping Stores in Istanbul and Tokyo

An Arabescato marble island houses a sink by Kohler Co. with a Vola faucet. Photography by Eric Laignel.


As does Century City, with a light and bright entrance area finished in diamond plaster and a rear area in wall-to-wall-to-ceiling fumed oak. Finishes of black granite and marble reference the brand’s black-and-white packaging, which surely will look just as fresh in another 20 years.

A dramatic expanse of absolute black granite forms a display in the back of the shop. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Acrylic shelves allow the products to float against the walls. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Near the back, walls and ceilings of fumed 12-inch wide European oak meet walls of polished and waxed diamond plaster. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Read More: Mykita’s New SoHo Flagship Blends Handcraft and High-Tech

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New and Noteworthy: 7 Recent Awards, Retrospectives and Partnerships

From award recognitions to exhibition openings, we’ve rounded up the most important design news from the past several weeks.

1. Rottet Studio named AIA Houston’s 2019 Firm of the Year

Rottet Studio senior staff accepts the award. Photography by Mark Johnson.

Rottet Studio is on a roll! From revamping the New York Stock Exchange (which won a Best of Year award in 2018) to opening the Hotel Alessandra in Rottet’s hometown of Houston, the firm has shown its undeniable presence in the design world. Rottet Studio received the award in early April during the Celebrate Architecture Gala at the Lone Star Flight Museum. 

The bar at Bardot, Hotel Alessandra’s cocktail lounge, combines walnut, brass, and resin. Photography by Eric Laignel.

2. Michael Anastassiades exhibits “Things That Go Together” retrospective

Michael Anastassiades’s ‘Things That Go Together’ in partnership with Flos. Photography courtesy of Flos.

The Best of Year award-winning duo is back. Flos partnered with designer Michael Anastassiades for his 12-year retrospective at the Nicosia Municipal Arts Center in his hometown of Cyprus, Greece. The show’s content ranges from Anastassiades’s design process to his research and includes his collaborations with Flos. The exhibit will run through July 20th.

3. “Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance 1850-1970” opens at RISD Museum

Circa ’70 Coffee and Tea Service by Donald H. Colflesh for Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1960. Silver with ebony and Formica. Photography courtesy of RISD Museum.

RISD Museum’s Elizabeth A. Williams curated 120 years of creations by American silver manufacturer Gorham. The collection ranges from 19th-century objets d’art to Cubist-inspired coffee service, all crafted with Gorham’s signature glistening metal. The exhibition runs from May 3rdto December 1st.

Cubic Coffee Service by Erik Magnussen for Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1927. Silver with gilding, ivory, and oxidized decoration. Photography courtesy of RISD Museum.
Egg Spoon by Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1879. Silver with gilding. Photography courtesy of RISD Museum.

4. Coalesse announces new design partners

The VerdantaTM line by Sagegreenlife is a collection of self-contained free-standing walls and partitions. Photography courtesy of Coalesse.

Workplace furnishings company Coalesse recently announced new partnerships with Sagegreenlife, Carl Hansen & Son, Viccarbe, and EMU. The four companies bring fresh ideas to the table, such as bioliphic partitions from Sagegreenlife, and Carl Hansen & Son’s legacy pieces by Hans Wegner.

Embrace Collection by Austrian design trio EOOS for Carl Hansen & Son. Photography courtesy of Coalesse.

5. Ressource now offers extensive design services

Ressource offers design services at its New York showroom. Photography courtesy of Resource.

French paint manufacturer Ressource has announced new color consulting, design, and special effects application services. These services open the door for Ressource to work closely with clients on customizing their projects.

6. Jerry Pair launches new website

Luxury furniture retailer Jerry Pair has entered the e-commerce sphere with a website refresh. The site offers 35,000 residential products including furniture, lighting, accessories, textiles, and wallcoverings.

7. Biomimicry Institute hosts annual design competition

Art imitates life—and so does design. The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge prompts designers to imagine nature-inspired solutions for urgent sustainability issues, this year’s theme being climate change. The competition is open to university students and professionals. Enter by May 8th to be considered.

Continue reading New and Noteworthy: 7 Recent Awards, Retrospectives and Partnerships

Material Bank Lab, Offering Speed and Sustainability, Debuts at NeoCon

Material Bank Lab debuted at NeoCon in theMART and will operate there for at least a year. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Material Bank debuted its first physical location, Material Bank Lab, at NeoCon today. The first-floor location at theMART in Chicago (#113) will remain a permanent storefront, giving specifiers a place to explore, discover, and collaborate.

Adam Sandow, CEO and founder of SANDOW, developed Material Bank’s revolutionary platform.


“We opened Material Bank Lab with the intention of creating a completely new way for designers to discover and interact with brands and the products they create,” says Adam Sandow, CEO and founder of SANDOW, who developed Material Bank’s proprietary platform to answer the architecture and design community’s need to streamline and speed up the material searching and sampling process. And Sandow would know as the owner of leading design brands, including Interior Design, Luxe Interiors + Design, Material ConneXion, and ThinkLab.

Material Bank Lab will give design professionals access to the platform’s new cutting-edge Material Desk technology and Smart Swatch system. Photography by Eric Laignel.


The Material Bank Lab will also give design professionals access to the platform’s new cutting-edge Material Desk™ technology and Smart Swatch™ system, as well as to Material Bank’s material experts. “Our Smart Swatches are a revolutionary system that dramatically improves the efficiency of sampling by seamlessly bridging the physical to digital,” says Sandow, adding that the interactive Material Desk™ will also help designers create digital palettes and sample with a click of a button.  

Thousands of physical materials are on view at the new Material Bank Lab at theMART in Chicago. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Material Bank’s powerful platform, which is becoming the go-to resource for designers when it comes to samples, allows specifiers to search textiles, wall coverings, flooring, paint, solid surfacing, and other materials from more than 160 leading manufacturers—in one place. What previously took two-plus hours trolling 12 websites and entailed five packages delivered over many days is now reduced to three minutes of browsing on one centralized site. And an order sent in by Midnight (EST) is delivered in a recyclable box by 10:30 am the next day.

Material Bank Lab works in a revolutionary new manner that can ship materials overnight for sampling and specification. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Material Desk technology makes it easy for design professionals to access materials from over 160 leading manufacturers. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Material Bank Lab is located on the first floor of theMART (#113) in Chicago. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Interested in exploring materials in a revolutionary way? Visit Material Bank Lab on the first floor (#113) of theMART in Chicago. 

Continue reading Material Bank Lab, Offering Speed and Sustainability, Debuts at NeoCon

Perkins + Will Blurs Work-Leisure Lines for Madison Marquette’s Washington, D.C. Headquarters

PROJECT NAME Madison Marquette
LOCATION Washington
FIRM Perkins + Will
SQ. FT. 17,800 SQF

Escorting several visitors through real-estate developer Madison Marquette’s new headquarters at the Wharf in Washington, D.C., chief development and asset management officer Peter Cole opens a closet door.

“Everybody squeeze in,” he commands. Inside is a counter with a white lacquered backsplash, which slides open seconds later to reveal a conference room. “In lengthy meetings, people wonder, Are we ever going to eat?” Cole explains. “Then they turn around and they’re like, Where did that buffet come from?”

In a corridor of the Madison Marquette headquarters, a storytelling wall slices up a photomural of the Wharf, one of the real-estate developer’s projects. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Two of the visitors, Perkins + Will design principal Ken Wilson and senior associate Haley Nelson, have seen the trick many times. They designed it, after all, to convey hospitality as a theme for a developer whose many mixed-use projects, including the 3.2-million-square-foot Wharf itself, purposefully blur the traditional lines between living, work, and leisure.

Bertjan Pot and Marcel Wander’s pendant fixture hangs above a Bassam Fellows sofa in the lounge. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Most of the 17,800-square-foot workplace operates on the show-don’t-tell principle, borrowing odd angles for phone rooms, embedding device chargers in terrazzo counters, and combining textures and finishes befitting a luxury hotel.

The company’s name appears hardly anywhere. The primary branding element is down a hallway leading to a conference area. On one side, a wall of glazing admits daylight and views of the Potomac River.

The storytelling wall’s fins are aluminum. Photography by Eric Laignel.


The eye is drawn, however, to the interior wall, where a series of 6-inch-wide, floor-to-ceiling aluminum fins—each imprinted with a slice of a photomural of the Wharf, rendered in bokeh effect—forms a lenticular installation: Approached from the right, the abstract image appears to be a daytime scene; from the left, it’s evening. Between the fins, a millwork display presents a photo series telling the company’s story through iconic projects from New Jersey to California.

Reception’s desk is backed by a lacquered logo wall, both custom. Photography by Eric Laignel.

“The images are held in place magnetically and can be switched out to reflect specific services,” Wilson says. Those include development, leasing, and management for 330 assets in 24 states and a $6.2 billion investment portfolio. Which means, Wilson says, that the most important design consideration was to create a space “that still looks good with boxes of pizza everywhere.”

Keep scrolling to view more images of the project >

Images of signature Madison Marquette projects are displayed between the fins. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Jeremy Pyles globe pendants illuminate the lounge’s custom terrazzo-topped island. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Claudia and Harry Washington lounge chairs stand near the communal walnut table in the café. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Ash-veneered storage and a custom quartz desktop define a collaborative work space. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Shared areas are separated from workstations and offices by a partition. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Millwork in the same veneer pairs with ceramic tile in a restroom. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Sources: From Top: Geiger: Chairs (Lounge). HBF Textiles: Chair Fabric. Vitra: Side Tables. Flos: Floor Lamp. Arzu Studio Hope: Rug. Moooi: Pendant Fixture. GSky: Plant Wall. Davis: Coffee Table (Lounge), Sofa (Café). Niche: Globe Pendant Fixtures (Lounge, Café). Herman Miller: Sofa, Barstools (Lounge), Dining Chairs (Café), Work-Stations, Task Chair, Stools (Office Area). Luum: Wall Covering (Reception, Office Area). 3M: Dichroic Film (Reception). Heath Ceramics: Backsplash (Lounge). Terrazzo & Marble Supply Companies: Island Solid-Surfacing. Kohler Co.: Sink, Sink Fittings. Restoration Hardware: Communal Table (Café). Bernhardt: Lounge Chairs, Wood Side Table. Maharam: Chair Fabric, Rug. Blu Dot: Coffee Table. Spinneybeck: Sofa Upholstery. Arktura: Ceiling Baffles. Formica: Custom Millwork (Office Area, Restroom). Transwall: Storefront System (Office Area). USG: Acoustical Ceiling Tile. McGrory Glass: Partition Markerboard. Clarus: Markerboard (Offices). Design Within Reach: Bench (Restroom). Electric Mirror: Mirror. Toto: Sink Fittings. Mockett: Cabinetry Hardware. American Standard: Toilet. Kohler Co.: Towel Bars. Crossville: Floor Tile. Architectural Ceramics: Wall Tile. Carnegie Fabrics: Wall Covering. Throughout: Focal Point: Recessed Fixtures. reSAWN Timber Co.: Wood Flooring. Shaw Contract Group: Carpet. Architectural Veneers International: Custom Veneer. DuPont: Solid-Surfacing. Benjamin Moore & Co.: Paint. Patricia Kazinski: Lighting Consultant. GHT Limited Consulting Engineers: MEP. Columbia Woodworking: Woodwork. James G. Davis Construction Corporation: General Contractor.

> See more from the May 2019 issue of Interior Design

Advertising Giant WPP Looks to HOK to Gather Its New York Offices Under One Roof

SQ. FT. 700,000 SQF

In one sense the remit was straightforward: WPP, the London-based international advertising and public relations behemoth, wished to gather the New York offices of several subsidiaries into a single location. They chose 3 World Trade Center, the 80-story tower by Pritzker Architecture Prize–winning Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and HOK won the bid to design the consolidated workplace.

A custom steel pergola shelters the terrace. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Many factors raised the complexity of the commission, however, starting with its sheer size: 700,000 square feet (that’s more than 16 acres) on 14 floors, including a 3,000-square-foot outdoor terrace. Additionally, WPP wanted an innovative, creative habitat; maximum interconnectedness among its 4,000 on-site employees; and a high degree of versatility for potential growth and reconfiguration over the course of its 20-year lease. The company also asked that each corporate entity’s space be individually designed in accordance with its function, branding, and mission. Two major WPP subsidiaries moved to 3WTC: Kantar, a global market-research consultancy, and GroupM, the planet’s largest media investment conglomerate, which places approximately one-third of all ads worldwide. The latter oversees seven smaller divisions—Essence, MediaCom, Mindshare, [m]Platform, OpenMind, Xaxis, and Wavemaker—all of which had to be accommodated, too.

A lounge for Kantar, a WPP company, boasts Hudson River views and Michael Anastassiades pendant fixtures. Photography by Eric Laignel.


While the sprawling project was helmed by HOK director of interior design Tom Polucci, each subsidiary was assigned its own designer to provide it with a unique environment. This involved a special event: “We had a ‘mixer’ where we brought 12 or 13 of our designers together with the CEOs and creative teams of all the different brands,” Polucci explains. First the designers made short presentations about themselves, their personal passions, and their inspirations. Then each company did the same about its culture, brand, and staff. Next they met, one-on-one. “I had a bell,” Polucci reports. “Every two minutes the designers moved onto another brand.” It was designer/client speed dating—“an equal-opportunity event for  both parties”—and it succeeded in pairing number-one choices “across the board.”

In the adjacent pantry, a custom media installation hangs above the solid-surfacing countertop. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Polucci and his team devised a master plan to maximize creative variation while meeting the client’s budget and schedule. The envelope was kept consistent and neutral, with a color palette of black, white, and grays, and materials like stone, steel, laminate, and wood. The overall look is “refined industrial,” so ducting suspended from the ceiling remains visible, downtown-loft style. And individual spaces are broken into three unequal zones: the truly bespoke, the flexible, and the fixed. Fully custom spaces include reception and other client-facing areas. Fixed areas house “pantries, coffee/tea points, small and medium conference rooms, and huddle and focus spaces,” Polucci enumerates, but even these have been individualized to a limited extent with colors and finishes.

Lievore Altherr Molina’s sofa and a custom wool rug in MediaCom’s corporate colors furnish its reception area. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Most of the square footage, however, is devoted to flexible work space, conceived to provide utmost adaptability as needs evolve. While differing from company to company, these areas are all created from the same kit of parts, which includes such furnishings as sitting and standing desks, oval oak conference tables, and engulfing podlike chairs that take their cue from first-class airline seats.

In reception for OpenMind, another agency, a panel of preserved lichen is installed across from a conference room furnished with Sava Cvek chairs. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Initial layout decisions were based on a survey of more than 3,000 WPP employees. Planning was helped enormously by the building, which has few internal structural columns to get in a designer’s way. (WPP occupies the top five floors and part of the setback terrace of the building’s 16-story podium, and floors 28 through 35 in the tower above, which have 70,000- and 30,000-square-foot floor plates, respectively.) “The entire project is designed on a grid of power and data locations,” Polucci explains. “That offers the ultimate amount of flexibility in being able to switch out the furnishings over time.”

The bistro for MediaCom, one of the agencies owned by WPP, includes dinerlike booths and oak picnic-style tables and benches. Photography by Eric Laignel.


At the core of the project is WPP’s shared communal space, dubbed the “town hall,” where “brand-agnostic” graphics pull together the colors of all the WPP subsidiaries. At its center, a two-story atrium features stadium-style bleachers that connect the 15th and 16th floors. Rising from a capacious lounge with views of the World Trade Center and the Hudson River beyond, the wide steps lead to a cluster of employee amenities above. These include the bistro, a grab-and-carry food vendor; the wellness center, staffed by a full-time nurse; and the tech hub, an electronics-repair station designed like a snack bar. (Every subsidiary’s space includes a canteen and multiple coffee spots.) Topping it all off is the landscaped terrace on the building setback immediately overhead.

Wool-nylon covers cushions in the town hall, which serves all the WPP subsidiaries in the building. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Even in today’s world of the activity-based workplace, Kantar and GroupM’s thrumming new quarters feel like a giant leap away from the past. The ambiance is part hotel lobby, part mall, part think tank, and part student-activities center at a particularly savvy university. According to Mark Sanders, CFO for GroupM North America, the entire project has helped put a more cutting-edge face on the companies’ work than their former scattered locations in pre-tech buildings, which did nothing to reinforce a forward-looking corporate gestalt. Indeed, the client has expressed satisfaction in the sincerest possible way: WPP is moving even more of its business to 3WTC and HOK will design the additional space.

Keep scrolling to view more images of the project >

A wall of LED-backlit logos of all Kantar and GroupM divisions dominates the main reception area. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Employee locker areas on all floors feature a custom wall covering. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A MediaCom office area has a closeup view of Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus transit hub. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Jordi Vilardell and Meritxell Vidal’s pendant fixture and a custom MDF zigzag wall flank the stairs connecting agency Wavemaker’s two floors. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A custom natural-edge table sits under a metal-mesh dropped ceiling in a collaborative area at the agency Essence. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Custom neon signage hangs above Essence’s telephone booth–inspired work nooks. Photography by Eric Laignel.
In the same firm’s lounge, BassamFellows’s sectional sofa hugs a wall paneled in white oak. Photography by Eric Laignel.
LED strips separate wall and ceiling plates of blackened steel in an elevator lobby at WPP’s multi-brand 14-floor office in New York by HOK. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Oak paneling backs a stairway at Mindshare, another agency. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Project Team: Stephen Beacham; Anthony Spagnolo; Erika Reuter; Elizabeth Marr; Julia Cooper; Emily Dunn; Bob Elliot; Sarah Gunnink; Yasaman Hoorazar; Jeremy Jonet; Matthew Jordan; Claire Mcpoland; Kerri Mcshea; Yelena Mokritsky; Jessica Pepito; Justin Ping; Scott Smith; Adam Stoltz; Christine Vandover; Kristi Zoref; Bill Bouchey: HOK. Lighting Workshop: Lighting Consultant. Shen Milsom & Wilke: Audiovisual Consultant. Acoustic Distinctions: Acoustic Consultant. Jones Lang Lasalle: Leed Consultant. Wsp: Structural Engineer. Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers: MEP. 9wood; Terramai: Woodwork. Mistral Architectural Metal + Glass: Metalwork. Gardiner & Theobald: Project Manager. JRM Construction Management: General Contractor.

Product Sources: From Top: Rich Brilliant Willing: Sconces (Bistro). Bold Furniture: Custom Tables (Bistro, Essence Collaborative Area, Phone Rooms). Erg International: Banquettes (Bistro, Pantry). Hay: Tables, Benches (Bistro), Chairs (Pantry), Table, Chairs (Kantar Lounge). Gubi: Stools (Pantry). LG Hausys: Countertop. Tiles By Tina: Backsplash. Arper: Tables (Pantry), Sofa, Armchair, Ottomans (Mediacom Reception). Maharam: Stool Fabric, Banquette Fabric (Pantry), Chair Fabric, Ottoman Fabric (Reception, Kantar Lounge), Cushion Fabric (Town Hall), Rug (Essence Lounge), Side Chair Fabric (Essence Phone Booth). Cassina: Side Tables, Coffee Tables (Mediacom Reception). Kasthall: Custom Rug. Haworth: Raised Floor. Davis Furniture: Lounge Chairs, Side Tables (Mediacom Reception, Kantar Lounge). Koncept: Table Lamp (Mindshare Stairway). Naughtone: Stool. Carnegie: Paneling (Main Reception). Muuto: Stools (Main Reception), Side Chair (Essence Phone Booth). Vibia: Pendant Fixtures (Main Reception, Wavemaker Stairway). Lukas Lighting: Custom Pendant Fixtures (Town Hall). Extremis: Picnic Table (Terrace). Loll Designs: Lounge Chairs, Tables. Hollman: Lockers (Locker Area). Boss Design: Sofas (Mediacom Office Area). Knoll: Tables. Interface: Carpet Tile (Mediacom Office Area, Kantar Lounge). Benetti Home through Coverings Me: Moss Panel (Openmind Reception). Color Cord Company: Pendant Fixtures (Openmind Reception, Essence Collaborative Area). Bernhardt Furniture Company: Table (Conference Room). Stylex: Chairs. Dtank: Custom Wall (Wavemaker Stairway). Herman Miller: Chairs (Essence Collaborative Area), Sofa (Essence Lounge). Armstrong: Dropped Ceiling (Essence Collaborative Area). Tacchini: Chairs (Essence Collaborative Area). Lapalma: Ottomans (Kantar Lounge). Flos: Pendant Fixtures. Sandler Seating: Lounge Chair (Essence Phone Booth). Camira: Lounge Chair Fabric. HBF: Sofa Fabric (Essence Lounge). Connox: Coffee Table. Vitra: Side Tables.

> See more from the May 2019 issue of Interior Design

Continue reading Advertising Giant WPP Looks to HOK to Gather Its New York Offices Under One Roof

Tsao & McKown Lets History Shine at Sunbrella’s North Carolina Headquarters

LOCATION Burlington, North Carolina
FIRM Tsao & McKown Architects
SQ. FT. 100,000 SQF

“We truly cross the divide,” Calvin Tsao begins, meaning: “We’re equally comfortable with architecture and interior design.” So naturally Tsao & McKown wasamong the talented mix-masters that members of the Gant family wanted to meet when they were planning headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina, for their growing Sunbrella brand. The Gants had their eye on converting the early 20th–century former mill they owned across the street from a building Sunbrella shared with its parent company, Glen Raven. “We had the aha moment, literally, in looking at our birthplace,” Glen Raven chairman Allen Gant Jr. says. “So we weren’t looking for an architect who could design us the most beautiful building—we felt we already had that. But instead for someone who could understand the functionality of the business.”

By de­molishing a 60-year-old addition to a 1901 former mill and restoring its original brick, Tsao & McKown created the lobby for the Sunbrella headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Interior Design Hall of Fame members Tsao and his life partner Zack McKown were introduced to the Gants by two reliable sources. First was our own editor in chief Cindy Allen, who had recommended the firm. Then, around the same time, Sunbrella consultant Sherri Donghia also put their name forward—Tsao and McKown having designed furniture for her own family-run company in 2004.

A new custom window brightens samples in the sales showroom. Photography by Eric Laignel.

“Sherri set us up on a blind date,” says Allen Gant III, whose great-grandfather founded Glen Raven, which invented panty hose in 1958 but is now known for its performance fabrics. “We’d interviewed a half dozen world-class architects,” Gant Jr. explains. “Then we met Calvin and Zack,” Gant III continues. “And Calvin said, I want to know how people feel when they get here. He’s so in touch with the human aspect of design that he felt like part of the family. He and Zack are infectious.”

Original pine flooring, which was just refinished, still has imbedded metal shavings from the mill’s old looms. Photography by Eric Laignel.


And so a year-long courtship began. Tsao elucidates, “After we agreed on this ‘dating period,’ we began interviewing all the staff, creating questionnaires, and holding workshops—‘diagnostics’ we call it.” But both sides continued to keep their options open. “It gave the Gants the latitude to serial date—neither of us wanted to spend a year on this only to end up breaking up and never see each other again. But it was successful, so we got engaged,” Tsao adds with his trademark chuckle.

Removing a floor slab resulted in a central atrium that maintained the original structural pine columns and beams. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Tsao & McKown started by knocking down an unsightly 60-year-old addition to the 118-year-old mill, leaving its original 100,000 square feet over two levels and exposing an original brick facade that was in need of a little love. Luckily, the Gants had a friend with a 1905 mill built by the same brick mason that had recently been torn down, so the architects were able to seamlessly integrate the renovations amongst the original structural columns and ceiling beams. Installing a new glass curtain wall and windows and removing a floor slab resulted in adding copious natural light, most notably in the lobby, where massive stadium seating greets employees as does an adjacent café for their morning coffee fix. A requested auditorium was niftily inserted beneath the lobby seating, with corridors running past to an atrium at the core. There, a new stairway allows access to the employee lounge as well as various office areas and meeting rooms that run to the sunny perimeter. “There’s so much light coming in that you can actually grow plants,” McKown notes. “So we put in two internal gardens.”

A Jens Risom chair and an Eero Saarinen table face a built-in sofa inspired by Donald Judd designs in the café. Photography by Eric Laignel.


The gardens are part of what Tsao refers to as unprogrammed social spaces, “for casual meetings,” he states. “Which is a really hard thing to understand for people trying to get the maximum out of real estate, but we explored that there needs to be a gamut of spaces for working. You’ve got your desk, your meeting rooms, places to hang out, and then there are what we call ‘accidental spaces’. The Gants had to have faith in us that these social spaces are actually effective.” And they did. “I truly believe you need to remove the shackles from people,” Gant Jr. says. “This building provides a place where our associates can innovate beyond our wildest dreams. We’re 138 years old and I expectfor us to be here for another 138.” The staff, many of them locals who have been with the company for decades, even generations, are equally enthusiastic. “I walk in each morning and take a deep breath in awe,” division controller Crystal Coleman says. “This space has relaxed my muscle tension,” assistant division controller Sandy Filarski adds.

Beyond the new glass-and-steel curtain wall, a 46-foot-wide swath of pine stadium seating fills the lobby. Cushions covers rotate a selection of Sunbrella fabrics. Photography by Eric Laignel.


“It’s a match made in heaven,” McKown concludes. “Rarely do we work with someone who doesn’t lord over us but instead sits beside us. The Gants respect people, which makes them an extraordinary client.” A client that has him and Tsao finishing up a contiguous ground-up visitor’s center and a footbridge that will connect the old and new buildings in what will be a three-building campus. The relationship also led to the Sunbrella Great Hall by Tsao & McKown, a magnificent swooping fabric installation at the River Pavilion in New York for Interior Design’s annual Hall of Fame gala. So do architect and client finally consider it a marriage? “Of course,” Tsao laughs, “we’re already in therapy.”

Keep scrolling to view more images of the project >

A lounge is scattered with custom sectionals. Photography by Eric Laignel.
The auditorium seating 118 was added beneath the lobby. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A newly landscaped courtyard adjoining the entry accommodates indoor-outdoor events. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A Sunbrella acrylic-blend covering the auditorium’s chairs. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A new staircase in wood-clad steel. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Ferns growing in one of two indoor gardens. Photography by Eric Laignel.
An original structural column. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A sample of Ghislaine Viñas’s Mr. Dimple, an HBF Textiles fabric made with Sunbrella acrylic. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Lievore Altherr Molina stools in the design studio covered in Shift, a Sunbrella acrylic-polyester blend. Photography by Eric Laignel.
The design team’s Sunbrella-covered pin-up boards. Photography by Eric Laignel.
Sunbrella’s acrylic Select collection. Photography by Eric Laignel.
A custom stool made from a roll of Sunbrella acrylic-polyester felt. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Project Team: Richard Rhodes; Justin Scurlock: Tsao & McKown. Plageman Architecture: Architect Of Record. Burohappold Engineering: Lighting Consultant, Facade Engineer. Silman; Structural Solutions: Structural Engineers. Landmark Facilities Group: MEP. Harrison Industries; Structural Wood Systems: Woodwork. Samet Corporation: General Contractor.

Product Sources: From Top: Miles Talbott: Sofas, Chairs (Showroom). Unique Concepts: Coffee Table. Big Ass Fans: Fans (Atrium). Knoll: Chair, Table (Café). Stitch NYC: Custom Sectionals (Lounge). Sien + Co: Pillows. Sedia Systems: Chairs, Desks (Auditorium). Coalesse: Stools (Design Studio). Throughout: Glen Raven Custom Fabrics: Upholstery.Liz Collins: Custom Curtains.

Continue reading Tsao & McKown Lets History Shine at Sunbrella’s North Carolina Headquarters

Rottet Studio Brings Texas Tradition to the Cavalry Court Hotel

To best understand Cavalry Court, a hotel deep in the heart of Texas, it helps to acquaint oneself with the city of College Station, home of Texas A&M University. The property is on campus, and the hotel name refers to the school’s Parsons Mounted Cavalry, with its 55 horses and mules as well as its training program for the student Corps of Cadets. The students, by the way, are known as Aggies, all 68,000-plus of them. Welcome to Aggieland, a place of proudly maintained social traditions but little in the way of sophisticated hospitality venues.

Continue reading Rottet Studio Brings Texas Tradition to the Cavalry Court Hotel

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