Heart of Glass
Asfour Guzy Architects designs a veil of reflective glass delineating a New York modeling agency's work center.
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 4/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
T MANAGEMENT IS a modeling agency. Capital T sans period stands for Trump, as in Donald, backer/owner of the enterprise. The Flatiron district in Manhattan provides the venue. And Peter Guzy, co-partner with Edward Asfour of Asfour Guzy, is the spokesman and designer. Add to that Annie Veltri, president of the fashion-related business and now a client of the Guzy group, and you have a who-what-where précis of the illustrated project.
Expounding on the background brief, Guzy notes that modeling agents have, in recent years, greatly enlarged their work scope. There is more to do than sign up young starlets qualified to swan down runways or wear the season's approved face when confronting the camera. Modeling, these days, extends to the worlds of entertainment, commerce, sports, and other careers bearing the increasingly tedious "brand-building" label. The accelerated demands call for more aspirants to be enrolled, and thus for more interviewing, scheduling, client reporting, et al. These exigencies and, of course, management's wishes, influence design plans aimed at making operational patterns fit the chosen space.
The mise-en-scène is a 50-ft.-wide-by-120-ft.-long stretch covering two former offices, now merged, and a half-floor above for a total of 7,500 sq. ft. Seen here is the large lower workplace. Typical of the Flatiron area's late-1900s building style, the interior is defined by two horizontal rows of columns and, at the short ends, lined with original windows that direct beams of light at people going in either direction. As for corporate dicta, since T Management is a new firm, there were no inherited rules or preconceived notions relating to past performance. President Veltri, described by Guzy as a pro with a fine 20 years' record in the field, was, one gathers, always a constructive help and never a hindrance.
The evolved plan for action, Guzy relates, was to centralize the staff in an open enclosure—surely an oxymoronic gaffe. Not so. For said enclosure, formed of two shallow arcs obliquely enfolding, but not encircling, the oval centerpiece, is transparent and reflective, thus failing to pass for a conventional surround. It is made of 6-ft.-9-in.-by-4 ft.-9-in. glass panels fastened, six in. above floor level and five ft. short of the 12-ft. high ceiling, to the lower parts of progressively slanted powder-coated-steel posts; neoprene-lined slots in rigid sleeves firmly hold the panes and obviate the need for frames. The multifaceting, adds the narrator, produces a "rich variety of ever-changing vistas." Collectively, the components create a veil of protection and privacy, subliminally distancing the seated bookers from strangers and models' mothers determined to storm the fort so as to gain an advantage for their nonpareil progeny.
The bookers' stronghold—frequently but not exclusively confined to T Management people—is a 30-ft.-long table all but overflowing with computers and work materials for staffers. Guzy likens the group to traders. The pace is fast, conversation bounces back and forth, and assessments of qualifications for selected assignments involve nonstop checking and exchanging of photographs and relevant data. The group's modus operandi, he says, furthermore epitomizes the firm's hierarchical informality: only the president and v.p. have private yet doorless offices, and both are apt to be seen at the communal table. Says Annie Veltri, asked for a wrap-up comment: "Watching all those people communicate with one another, and seeing how beautifully everything flows, makes me very happy."
Senior architect Mark Bixler shares credit with the partners. The job's duration was about seven months.