VennWorks trusted Tom Krizmanic, associate principal, to bring out the best of a duplex New York office
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 11/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Like most entrepreneurs, the founders of VennWorks started small. Employee count went by single digit. And the work of the New York investment firm, which specializes in health-care and technology, was done in a shared office—albeit in a distinguished 1980s "name" building. Although the space had much in its favor, including base-to-ceiling windows admitting splendid 25th-floor views, overcrowding became woeful as the company grew. Seeking comprehensive improvements, VennWorks engaged Studios Architecture, led by associate principal Tom Krizmanic.
A joint site search led to a fairly ordinary 1922 commercial building. Vistas were less than spectacular and the address was respectable rather than prestigious, but the property did have some attractions—including proximity to Grand Central Terminal. Moreover, the 25,000-square-foot two-floor space came with a bonus. At one end of the upper level, a peaked roof created an intimate dormered area below.
Krizmanic began the overhaul by excavating a well between the two floors and inserting a staircase. Leading to the dormered end of the upper level, the stainless-steel stair features glass guardrails, blue resin treads, and open risers. Minimalist stringers set perpendicular to the slanted profile form a diagonal line that adds dynamism, says Krizmanic, and plays off the sloped ceiling above.
Rehabilitation of the rooftop required considerable effort. Weatherworn parts had to be insulated, patched, and generally restored. In an ambitious and ingenious move, Studios inserted three 75-foot-square skylights that, Krizmanic notes facetiously, are perfectly sited to capture the view of the nearby MetLife building's rooftop signage. A breathtaking sight it's not. Without the skylights, however, the formerly windowless space would have been left in the dark. Newly illuminated, this portion of the interior houses the conference center and lunchroom.
The design scheme on the whole is enlivened by the interplay of varied interior light effects. To give the lobby's 9-foot ceiling the illusion of greater height, Krizmanic designed a treatment that emulates a supersize skylight. Made of smoked acrylic set in an aluminum grid, the backlit plane runs from the entrance toward the reception area. Here, another ceiling treatment takes over. This one is a vector of fluorescent tubes, wrapped in acrylic, that subliminally points visitors to either end of the floor plate.
Beyond the lobby, which is vitalized by an oversize mural featuring the company logo, staff occupies 24 offices and 49 workstations spread over both floors. All work spaces feature the same Belgian systems furniture. Desks provide unusually large work counters unencumbered by space-wasting adjuncts such as excess shelving. Poured-concrete floors, left bare throughout the public spaces and corridors, are carpeted in work areas for acoustic reasons. To enhance the flow of light through plentiful windows, Krizmanic divided perimeter offices from corridors with sliding-glass walls etched in a diagonal pattern. "It creates an interior wall of light reflections," he notes. Standard ambient fixtures and clamp-on task lights supplement the abundant daylight.
All of which makes the beginnings of the VennWorks job seem rather a distant, if special, memory for Krizmanic. He speaks of exploring the formerly lightless attic, studying its strange angles and, flashlight held high, poking around to pinpoint the void's potential. "It's as if the building and I had become friends over that 10-month period," he says. "It made the work very pleasant."