Malaparte in Manhattan
Rebecca Flint Marx -- Interior Design, 10/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Asked to design the creative department at New York advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Morris Adjmi looked to metaphor. "We thought of the creatives as the engine of a motorcycle—the idea engine for the whole agency," says the partner of MAP Architects. With that in mind, he set about transforming a labyrinthine telecommunications and support center into an interactive combination of private offices and communal space.
The centerpiece of the 7,500-square-foot, U-shape interior is a giant flight of stairs inspired by the rooftop of the Casa Malaparte on the Italian isle of Capri. To make this piece "more than just a formal statement," Adjmi explains, he sited the structure so that its four steps could act as amphitheater seating for video presentations.
Behind the steps, Adjmi placed a break-out area illuminated by fluorescent fixtures installed in a circular ceiling cutout—suggesting both a skylight and a phosphorescent halo. Farthest back is a conference room, partially screened by a 10-foot-square sliding panel that frames a rotating selection of print ads.
"Because BBH is in the image business, we asked them to help create a visual personality for the space," Adjmi says. "Light and openness were both requests." To take advantage of the industrial building's large windows, for example, he enclosed perimeter offices with glazing.
While full of suggestions about overall look and feel, BBH employees were less specific about materials. Adjmi was fortunately able to exploit the existing oak floor, which he refinished in a natural shade. To lend character to the circulation corridors linking perimeter offices, he designed striped runners—maintaining the space's characteristic linearity yet displaying enough color to combat the asceticism that's too often the byproduct of geometry.
Amid the pervasive natural oak, the dark-stained walnut of the Malaparte steps gives them "their own identity," Adjmi says. The stair volume is also set off at ground level by the pale gray poured-epoxy flooring of the break-out area and conference room.
Polished surfaces and clean lines are clearly the order of the day, but humor still has its place. Take the reception desk, fronted by a glowing white rectangle of frosted acrylic. In the center of this expanse stands BBH's irreverent logo, a black sheep.
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