Extra, Extra! Read All About It
Renzo Piano's home for the newspaper of record also houses a half dozen different offices by Gensler
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
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There's Silverstein Properties's glassy new high-rise adjacent to ground zero. There's the Durst Organization's thrusting eco mega-tower going up on Bryant Park. And then there's the mixed-use behemoth at 620 Eighth Avenue. If you never really hear anyone referring to it as Forest City Ratner Companies's building, that's probably because the developer's name gets eclipsed by those of the tower's architect, Renzo Piano, and marquee tenant, the New York Times.
Intent on leaving its storied neo-Gothic headquarters, the New York Times Company nevertheless needed only about half the square footage envisioned for the site. So executives inked a contract under which Forest City Ratner and ING Real Estate would build a 52-story tower, much of it to the specifications of the Times, then sell back 25 stories to the newspaper. Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner went about leasing the rest.
Behind Renzo Piano Building Workshop's facade, tattooed with the newspaper's familiar logo—so large that the four words span nearly the whole block—are a wide assortment of unaffiliated shops and offices. Nearly all of the latter are the work of one firm. After the paper chose Gensler, Ratner himself and nearly all the other tenants fell in line.
Long before construction began, Ratner commissioned what Gensler managing principal Robin Klehr Avia describes as "pre-design services, a building evaluation." That helped finalize workable dimensions for the rental floors. As a rule, the Times eschews perimeter offices. But knowing that newsroom-style open plans would supply a law firm's clients with neither privacy nor prestige, Gensler fine-tuned the lengths and widths of the floor plates to increase the ratio of attorneys per square foot. "So you don't have a lot of support areas without enough windows," Avia explains.
If that French "Spiderman" who scaled the rungs earlier this year spent any time peeping through the glass on his way up, he would first have seen Times editors at cherrywood desks in vast bays accented by gypsum-board painted an intense scarlet, now known around the building as Renzo Red. The newspaper's floors occupy the most minimal end of the Gensler spectrum. Ascending to 24, he might have noticed the law offices of Goodwin Procter, where the finishes become more luxurious to meet the expectations of a corporate clientele. Another law office, Seyfarth Shaw, is higher up but somewhat less expensively turned-out. Still, claret lacquer and framed Josef Albers compositions give the illusion of luxury.
On 38, the climber could have gotten two very different glimpses of Forest City Ratner's own zone. Part of the floor is a leasing office—all black-and-white urban chic, with furnishings by Patricia Urquiola and Ingo Maurer. But the majority of the space belongs to the brawnier marketing suite for the Barclays Center, the Nets basketball arena that Forest City Ratner has slated for Brooklyn. Gehry Partners, the stadium architect, collaborated with Gensler on this space, the highlight of which is a mock-up luxury box and lounge complete with a Gehry-ified pool table on boxy plywood legs.
We'll never know whether our climber remarked on differences in overhead lighting from floor to floor: Some offices on the non-Times floors do not use the paper's 5-foot grid. However, Gensler principal Edward Wood did his part for uniformity by introducing the occasional designer table and chair at the Times as well as in tenant spaces. Chalk up other similarities to chance. In the 50th-floor office of the financial firm Western Asset, Gensler's Los Angeles design director, Michael Wiener, specified goldenrod-yellow plasterwork not unlike Piano's downstairs. Meanwhile, at Goodwin Procter, Gensler design director Lydia Gould's meeting rooms feature Eero Saarinen's Executive chairs in a color she playfully denies is Renzo Red. She calls them Lydia Gould Burnt Orange.
PROJECT TEAMS BRIAN BERRY; ROCCO GIANNETTI; THOMAS LANZELOTTI; ANGELA LEE; E.J. LEE; KENNETH LUNSTEAD; JULIA SIMET; PATRICIA APONTE; MICHAEL AVILA; WADE LAING; RICARDO RODRIGUEZ; OLIVER SCHAPER; ROBERT SCHULTZ; BOB SEITZ; SUSANA SU-TOM; NAOKO OGURO; CONNIE HO; CHRISTINE NEFF; BRITTANY WHITLEY; HANA RHA; GENEVIVE DESJARDIN; NAOKO OGURO; RINA CONSUELO PARADO; CHRISTOPHER BAGLINO; CHRISTOPHER HOWE; NOUR JALLAD; HIRO KASHIWAGI; NICHOLAS LAWSON; MARIA SPANIER: GENSLER. SUSAN BRADY LIGHTING DESIGN STUDIO; DOMINGO GONZALEZ ASSOCIATES; HDLC ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING DESIGN: LIGHTING CONSULTANTS. PENTAGRAM: GRAPHICS CONSULTANT. AUERBACH POLLOCK FRIEDLANDER: AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT. SEVERUD ASSOCIATES; THORNTON TOMASETTI: STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS. VOLLMER ASSOCIATES: CIVIL ENGINEER. CERAMI & ASSOCIATES: ACOUSTICAL ENGINEER. AMA CONSULTING ENGINEERS; JAROS BAUM & BOLLES; WSP FLACK AND KURTZ: MEP. MEAD & JOSIPOVICH; MIELACH WOODWORK; NJS WOODWORK; RIMI WOODCRAFT: WOODWORK. GALICE: PLASTERWORK. D. MAGNAN & SONS; MIKE PAYNE & ASSOCIATES: FLOORING CONTRACTORS. R.P. BRENNAN; J.T. MAGEN & COMPANY; STRUCTURE TONE; TURNER CONSTRUCTION COMPANY: GENERAL CONTRACTORS. PRODUCT SOURCES FROM FRONT BENTLEY PRINCE STREET: CARPET (CONFERENCE ROOM). KNOLL: CHAIRS (CONFERENCE ROOM, BREAK-OUT AREA, MEETING ROOM). WALL GOLDFINGER: TABLES, CREDENZAS (CONFERENCE, MEETING ROOMS), WHITE-FRAMED DESK (RECEPTION). FRITZ HANSEN: CHAIRS (WAITING AREA). TAI PING CARPETS: RUGS (WAITING AREA, EXECUTIVE RECEPTION, MEETING ROOM), BROWN-AND-TAUPE RUG (RECEPTION). POLTRONA FRAU: TABLE (EXECUTIVE CONFERENCE ROOM). DAVIS: CHAIRS. MATTEOGRASSI: SOFAS (EXECUTIVE RECEPTION). GLAS ITALIA: COFFEE TABLES. HOLLY HUNT: TAUPE SEATING, WOODEN CHAIR, WOODEN TABLE, ROUND MARBLE-TOPPED TABLES (RECEPTION). WINONA LIGHTING: SQUARE RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES (RECEPTION), CUSTOM PENDANT FIXTURES (BREAK-OUT AREA, STAIR HALL). DATESWEISER: TABLE (BREAK-OUT AREA). EDELMAN LEATHER: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY. LOUIS POULSEN LIGHTING: PENDANT FIXTURE (MEETING ROOM). HBF: RED CHAIRS (RECEPTION). ZOGRAPHOS: SQUARE MARBLE-TOPPED TABLE. LUNA TEXTILES: RED WALL COVERING. BLOOMSBURG CARPET INDUSTRIES: BROWN-AND-RED CARPET. INTERFACEFLOR: CARPET (HALL). MOROSO: SEATING (LEASING OFFICE). INGO MAURER: CHANDELIER. GOO SYSTEMS: CUSTOM SCREEN (MARKETING SUITE). PRISMATIC STAINLESS STEEL: CUSTOM PANELS. BREUTON: STAINLESS TABLES (RECEPTION). LIGNE ROSET: CHAIR (HALL).