DesignerEight Inc.
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Entry Description

Based in New York City, the organization needed not only a larger space, but one that would motivate the staff, delight visitors and serve as a true reflection of their core beliefs and identity. The selected site: An entire floor in a classic NYC loft-type building with few structural columns, high ceilings, and original hardwood floors. This set the stage for an open office layout utilizing functional cores and flexible work spaces, helping to keep costs down and sight-lines open. The design concept: Drawing influences from an iconic schoolhouse aesthetic, the design takes the tools and forms typically found in educational spaces and reinterprets them for the modern office. The reference to classrooms continues in the palette of natural materials and soft tones with bright pops of color, and the use of playful school-related iconography present throughout the space. The space: When a visitor arrives, they are greeted by a custom oak and steel gallery wall that highlights both hand-written thank you notes and digital info-graphics. This gesture represents the two sides of what makes so exceptional- their resolve to push the boundaries of technology while remaining dedicated to the personal and human aspects of their mission. The steel band on the gallery wall is a modern interpretation of the classic old-school chalkboard. It winds its way throughout the office- connecting the major architectural elements and leading the visitor through the space. Once past reception, the gallery wall visually leads the eye to a lively area of activity- Donor Appreciation Land. This prominently-featured space is a lively hub where teacher and student volunteers congregate to organize, document and ship out the hundreds of handwritten thank you notes from students they receive daily. It is an activity that is at the heart of the organization’s mission. The raw wood and steel spine morphs into the conference room block wall cladding, bracketing an open central area affectionately referred to as the “playground”. It is here that the informal and collaborative working environment of the company shines. A variety of flexible furniture arrangements sit in this open space, flanked on one side by the conference room block and on the other by an open kitchen. At any time during the day, one can find someone working on their laptop or a team of three having a breakout session around a table. Through the use of mobile furniture and thoughtful space planning, the space can transform to hold a variety of functions such as all-hands meetings, work-day yoga sessions and after-hours events. Design details that reference schools and teaching are integrated into the space in a number of ways. There are chalkboard walls that feature commissioned chalk murals, hopscotch stencils painted on the floor of the hallways, wooden storage cubbies in the gallery wall, custom floating shelves made from colorful vintage books and curated vignettes of iconic educational objects on display. Additional details that support the unique work culture of include the provision of “focus” and “zen” nooks for private conversations or tasks, a quiet room that functions dually as a maternity room, bike racks for alternative commuters and a new shower in one of the private restrooms. From large scale to small, the details in the space simultaneously evoke nostalgia for a visitors’ school-experience from the past and an excitement for how is changing education for the future.