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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

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Kerrie Kelly, FASID, NKBA, CAPS

Kerrie Kelly founded Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, a Northern California residential interior design firm focusing on new construction and working with home builders, in 1995. Kerrie is an award-winning interior designer, author, contributor, product designer, and multi-media consultant, helping national brands reach the interior design market.

Kerrie is a fellow, board member, and foundation trustee of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); a Houzz Pro Advisory board member; and a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). She is also an avid representative, speaker, and on-air talent for Outdoor Living and Livable Design initiatives, and a Certified Aging in Place specialist (CAPS). Kerrie has authored two books and is the interior design national spokesperson for Zillow Inc., writing monthly articles for their website and speaking to media outlets about interior design, including The New York Times, Forbes, Globe and Mail, and The Wall Street Journal. She also writes a monthly design column for Style Media Group and is on the editorial board of Furniture, Lighting & Décor magazine.
Kelly’s ASID involvement includes serving as past president of the California Central/Nevada Chapter, as an ASID speaker at High Point Market and Dwell on the topic of thriving in place, as chair of the ASID Aging in Place Council, and as recipient of the Nancy Vincent McClelland Merit Award.

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John Cialone, ASID
Director at-Large

John Cialone, a nationally recognized interior designer, leads a team of more than twenty professionals while managing operations at Chicago-based Tom Stringer Design Partners. As a partner and vice president of his firm, John’s enthusiasm for promoting the interior design industry is contagious. With over twenty-five years of experience, his work has been recognized with many awards and has been widely published. John credits his business sense and success to the training he received as a young professional through leadership roles in ASID, particularly in strategic planning, public speaking, and business development.

John is a member of the Guild Board for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago and is a member of the Leaders of Design Council. He has served as a public speaker to many organizations and has mentored students across the country. John has participated in the 1+ Program, donating his firm’s services and aligning his belief that Design Impacts Life with the firm’s work.

John’s ASID involvement started as a student with positions on the ASID National Student Council. He was a member of the ASID Board of Directors concurrently with his position as National Student Council president. He has held committee and board positions in both the ASID Florida South and ASID Illinois Chapters, and has been active in government affairs starting in Florida as a design student and continuing today as a Registered Interior Designer in Illinois. John was recognized as an ASID Medalist in 2017 and is currently the 2018-2019 ASID Illinois Chapter president. John is the chairperson of the ASID Foundation Fundraising Committee overseeing the Society’s efforts to grow the Foundation’s endowment through individual and corporate gifts and legacy planning.

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Ellen Fisher, Ph.D., FASID
Director at-Large

Ellen Fisher is vice president of Academic Affairs and Dean at the New York School of Interior Design.  She is a Certified Interior Designer in New York, and earned a Ph. D. in Architectural Studies/Human Environmental Sciences from the University of Missouri, where her line of inquiry addressed how teachers use the physical classroom as a tool for teaching literacy.  She was inducted as a Fellow of the American Society of Interior Designers in July 2018.

Ellen is the author of the recent book, “HOME: Foundations of Enduring Spaces,” published in 2018 by Clarkson Potter/Random House.  New York School of Interior Design is ranked as one of the top interior design programs in the U.S. by DesignIntelligence, which also named Ellen Fisher as one of 2018 and 2019’s Most Admired Design Educators. A member of the Interior Design Educators Council since 1985, and recently named President-Elect, she has presented numerous times at conference and has served IDEC in many volunteer roles.

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Ken Wilson, ASID, FAIA, LEED Fellow
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Ken Wilson is a design principal and the design director for Interiors in the Washington, D.C. office of Perkins+Will. He is also one of two co-global design directors for interiors and serves on Perkins+Will’s Design Board and Sustainability Council.

Ken has been practicing for over 35 years and his portfolio includes architecture, interiors, graphics, and product design. He is the only architect in the world to hold fellowships in the AIA, IIDA, and the Green Building Certification Institute (LEED Fellow). His projects have been published in seven different countries and have received over 120 national and local design awards.

In 2005 Ken was named “Designer of the Year” by Contract magazine, and in 2018 he received the ASID Designer of Distinction Award which annually honors one professional who has established a body of superior work demonstrating creativity, excellence, and innovation. He serves on the Environmental Task Force for the city of Park City, Utah and is a member of the ASID Design Impacts Lives Steering Committee.

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Elizabeth Von Lehe, Allied ASID
Director at-Large, Allied

Elizabeth Von Lehe is the design & brand strategy principal at HDR. A seasoned design leader with professional experience across multiple industries, she leads the architecture firm’s efforts to advance a holistic approach to design, embracing not only the built form, but branding, curation, and the development of user experience from every angle.

Von Lehe previously worked at ICRAVE Design, where she served as director of strategy, brand, and architectural design for more than seven years. Before that, she worked for both Target and Lands’ End. Her experience includes developing product collections for both fashion and furniture industries as well as guiding master plans and interior design concepts.

Based in New York, Von Lehe is well known throughout the design professions as a leader in the field of experience design. She is a regular keynote and workshop speaker at the national and chapter levels for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), advocating for experience design to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and integration beyond what most designers usually practice.

Von Lehe is chair of the Executive Advisory Committee for ASID and is a regular graduate mentor and panelist for her alma mater, Columbia University. Her work has been featured in several industry publications and she has been interviewed by national outlets such as Bloomberg and NPR.

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Patty Dominguez
Industry Partner Representative

Patricia (Patty) Dominguez, vice president of Architect and Design Sales for Cosentino North America, oversees commercial business development and the kitchen and bath studios business for the global surfacing leader. In her 12 years with Cosentino, the relationships she has cultivated with the country’s leading architects, designers, and kitchen and bath dealers have played an integral part in its exponential growth in the United States, which makes up more than 60 percent of its global sales.

In every role throughout her tenure with Cosentino – Kitchen & Bath sales manager, director of Public Relations, marketing manager, and director of Field Marketing – Dominguez has spearheaded the development and strategy of its invaluable relationships with leading industry organizations, including the American Society of Interior Designers, the National Kitchen & Bath Association, and the American Institute of Architects, among others.

Dominguez’s leadership at Cosentino and commitment to the industry have earned her numerous accolades, including the 2015 ASID Industry Partner Merit Award and the 2010 ASID Presidential Award. Her passion for people and relationships is reflected in her commitment to service and philanthropy. She previously sat on the Board of Trustees for the ASID Foundation, and has given her time to many Houston nonprofits, serving as the president of the Latin Women’s Initiative for three years, and working with Prepared 4 Life, Lemonade Day, the Junior League of Houston, and the Neighborhood Centers.

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