Sheer Wall: The New York office for a production company exploits the architectonic potential of scrim.
How do you design a workspace that expresses the digital world of flux and virtual reality? Think diaphanously. Or that is how the Brooklyn-based architectural firm Solid Objectives—Idenburg Liu (SO-IL) approached the configuration of new offices in New York City for Logan, a production company involved in commercials, video games, and feature films. “The way we work is very fluid,” says Alexei Tylevich, owner and managing director of Logan. “It's important to have a place that reflects that.”
- Nylon fabric: Gerriets (Trevira)
- Solid surfacing: LG Hausys
- Stretched-PVC Ceiling: Newmat
- Felt walls for editing suites: Felt Studio
SO-IL—founded in 2008 by Dutch-trained architect Florian Idenburg and Chinese-born, U.S.-trained architectural partner and wife Jing Liu—responded with a scheme in which nylon scrim plays a dominant role in defining the interior. Idenburg and Liu, who met when they were working at the architecture firm SANAA, have shown a distinct predilection for ethereal, free-form structures. In recent months their K3 for Kukje Gallery in Seoul gained attention with a gray chain-mail carapace enveloping a concrete structure. In May their snakelike temporary white vinyl tent for the Frieze Art Fair in New York garnered more notice. Not surprisingly, when photographer Iwan Baan introduced Idenburg to Tylevich, the two found a commonality of vision: abstract, surreal—and blurry.
To accommodate Logan's team of producers, filmmakers, designers, artists, and animators, the architects took translucency as the starting point for the bicoastal company's SoHo office. “We wanted to deviate from the standard dark-hole video workspace,” says Ilias Papageorgiou, SO-IL's associate principal in charge of the project.
Working with 6,500 square feet in a landmarked cast-iron loft building dating from 1867 at the corner of Greene and Grand streets, SO-IL created two long, rectilinear work areas separated by a dividing wall of double layers of white nylon scrim. Affixed to steel portals that give access from one space to the other, the layers enshroud a long row of cast-iron columns, painted white. (This same type of thick but lightweight “wall” separates the innermost workspace from a corridor connecting service functions along the eastern perimeter of the office.) “The fabric walls not only diffuse the light but, like a projection screen, change colors as natural light changes throughout the day,” notes Papageorgiou. The client remarks that the fabric also gives its occupants easy visual access to other areas. “The space is translucent and mysterious,” Tylevich says. “You feel both exposed and hidden at the same time.”
In addition, the seamless nylon fabric, 14 feet high, stretches the length of the peripheral brick wall punctured by large windows along Greene Street. It not only mitigates the sun's glare, but recasts the interior architectural elements of the original structure as haunting apparitions of its 19th-century past, replete with shadowy traces of heating pipes and window mullions.
Down the middle of each of the two rectilinear workrooms run 65-foot-long, 5-foot-wide, solid-surface worktables on custom-designed metal bases. They can permit up to 55 nomadic designers to sit communally at the computer stations; many of them, assigned on a project-by-project basis, linger only a few days. The superlong refectory-like tables, the owner notes, encourage the exchange of ideas and information among the itinerant designers.
To provide two acoustically private offices plus a conference room, SO-IL installed single-pane, low-E glass partitions at the south end of the two workrooms overlooking Grand Street. The long white tables, for which Brooklyn-based Situ Studio joined 10-foot lengths of the solid-surface tops with glue to make them appear seamless, virtually shoot through the glass partitions in a continuous path that perceptually extends the workspace. “Connection to the outside and natural light were really important for us,” says Papageorgiou.
Along with the scrim, the design team heightened the ghostly ambience by stretching backlit white polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ceiling panels onto frames suspended above the tables. “The subtle interplay of light changes throughout the day and feels gentle,” Tylevich comments. “Then the backlit ceiling becomes the dominant source of illumination at night—like a futuristic film set.” In addition, Studio Hoon Kim gave the solid wall surface along the north edge of the workspace a sheen from bounced light by treating it with a venetian plaster before coating it with silver wax.
SO-IL did include a few (literally) dark notes: The existing wood floor was painted gray with an ebony stain to create a funereal, smoky plane. The firm swathed walls in the editing suites in thick gray felt to provide total sound isolation.
Logan's interiors offer flexibility and serenity to its itinerant workers and permanent staff in a minimal, uncluttered, evanescent space. It does so happily without resorting to the faddish playpen/dorm-room design of so many high-tech offices today (see “Welcome to Corporate Kindergarten,”). This crisply low-key but memorable workplace demonstrates that it's not necessary to indulge in infantilization to be perceived as youthful. SO-IL and Logan both dare to pose an alternative to the corporate-office look without, as Tylevich notes, “being loud or vulgar.”
Completion Date: January 2012
Gross Square Footage: 6,500 sq. ft.
Architectural designer: Solid Objectives-Idenburg Liu (SO-IL)