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, givingspecifiers a place to explore, discover, and collaborate.
“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.
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.
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.
Interested in exploring materials in a revolutionary way? Visit Material Bank Lab on the first floor (#113) of theMART in Chicago.
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?”
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.
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 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.
“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.”
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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.
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.
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 forboth parties”—and it succeeded in pairing number-one choices “across the board.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 didnothing 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.
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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.
“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.”
Interior Design Hall of Fame members Tsao and his life partner Zack McKown were introduced to the Gants by two reliable sources. First wasour owneditor 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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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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.
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.