Rineke van Duysen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
"I believe in freedom, creativity, and conversation; and I believe that tourism is the handmaiden of them all." The words are those of the late Lars-Eric Lindblad, the eco-travel pioneer who founded a luxury adventure company that later became Lindblad Expeditions. Freedom, creativity, and conversation were also key for TEK Architects when Lindblad's son, Sven, hired the firm to take on a 13,000-square-foot loft office space in the West Village.
LEX, as the company is called for short, prides itself on challenging the "clichés of mass tourism" by sailing "nimble" vessels into places where cruise ships simply cannot go, so Sven Lindblad knows the importance of making the right entrance. The office's entry doesn't disappoint. Visitors step off the elevator and into a C-shape tunnel that evokes a ship's hull on its side—in environmentally conscious bamboo rather than teak. "Teak would have had more of an on-deck feel, but it's not nearly as sustainable," TEK senior associate Andrew Ojamaa says. "Plus, it's expensive."
The open side of the C stops just short of a white plasterboard wall punctuated by mounted travel photos as well as niches filled with back issues of National Geographic—bold yellow signifiers among the cerulean marine images. At the end of the passage, the space opens up into a lounge loosely configured as a reception area and a staff kitchen.
In reception, lean black leather-covered armchairs are paired with alder side tables. They may have a strong whiff of Scandinavia about them, but they're not a tribute to the family's Swedish roots. Quite the contrary. "Sven made a point of telling us that he doesn't like Scandinavian furniture," Ojamaa says. "He prefers global contemporary." In fact, he's the one who selected the pink-and-purple striped Tibetan rug.
Past the kitchen, with its cork floor, bamboo paneling, and avocado-green Corian bar, stand the main conference room's doors, a series of blue and green sliding resin panels. Partially open or closed, they "layer over each other to create new variations," Ojamaa explains. Inside the room, he used bamboo again for shelving and the table.
The office areas are business-as-usual. Birch-veneered workstations line a window wall, addressing the basics of head count and acoustics. Fronting the interior offices, frosted-glass panels provide privacy yet allow diffused natural light to spill in.
Although LEX enjoys a ninth-floor view that embraces the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, this eco-friendly home port wouldn't be properly Lindblad without literal access to the great outdoors, so Ojamaa designed a multilevel roof terrace for employee use and client entertaining. Vaguely Asian in style, the 1,700-square-foot area is surfaced in a low-maintenance composite made of reclaimed wood and plastic—with cement-board used for planters containing bamboo and other grasses. For a company that journeys to the ends of the earth, it's a perfectly hospitable place to get down to business.