Contract - May 2011 - (Page 108)
The Moderns’ New York studio buzzes with activity, creativity, and inspiration
By Danine Alati • Photography by Elizabeth Felicella
What does a design and branding firm do when a flood destroys its office? Creative minds seize the disaster-turned-opportunity and redesign it into a workspace that facilitates ingenuity, environmental and social equity, and multidisciplinary branding. In October 2009 when 8,000 gallons of water rushed into The Moderns’ New York office in 10 minutes, Janine James, the firm’s president, solutionist, and chief creative director, dubbed the incident “tsunami for change” and reevaluated what her 20-year-old company would be in future decades before designing a new office. “We brainstormed: What is our brand? What makes us relevant?” James recalls. “Everyone wrote down where they work best. The funny thing is no one said the office.” Instead, they cited at home or a hotel, in an airport or an airplane, on a front porch or at the beach, at a Starbucks or a café. The designers questioned whether or not they actually needed physical space, and decided: “Yes, we want space, but we want it to bridge us to the outside world, as opposed to isolating us from it. And that informed the design,” James explains. “We thought: Why—through paint, materials, and aesthetic—can’t we make it feel like one of those places other than an office?” This brainstorming incited the concept for the new workspace, which The Moderns found in the same building their previous office
occupied. The double-height gem of a space perfectly lent itself to the creation of a workplace that shatters the typical office mold. The 2,500-sq.-ft. floor plan was split in half. On one side, bleachers rise up like an “amphitheater,” culminating in a “front porch” area just outside the executive office shared by James and her partner, Kevin Szell. On this porch, two Artek chairs by Alvar Aalto create a beachy vibe and form a perfect spot for morning coffee, overlooking the conference area below and out through oversized arched windows to the bustling street. The Moderns uses the bleachers area to conduct its “corporate alchemy process,” the brainstorming and innovation methods for the firm’s strategy work, which is very private. A massive door, milled from 50-year-old hemlock beams, slides out from within a wall to close off this half of the office to offer privacy. This side of the space also accommodates a program called “Imagine the Next Friday,” a concept that James and Szell devised to keep their team inspired. The idea is The Moderns work four days a week inspiring clients, and they take the fifth day (Friday) to inspire themselves. Each staff member owns one Friday and can do anything to inspire coworkers—show films or work; engage in a project, social-media endeavor, or self-promotion piece; or bring in speakers or guests. “This space has really been used to activate,” James explains. It’s also great for fundraisers.
contract may 2011
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - May 2011
Contract - May 2011
Resources: Salone Internazionale Del Mobile
Exhibition: Neocon® Preview
Focus: Timeless Tradition
Focus: In the Nude
Green: Does It Cost More to Build Green?
Practice: Gimme Some Slack!
Process: Cultural Connection
Process: Productive, People-Friendly Places
Contract - May 2011