Lever House, NYC
For a private equity firm, Reddymade re-designed the entire fifth floor at Lever House. The firm was growing and wanted to upgrade their image. They needed three conference rooms as well as private offices for the four partners. In addition there were to be offices for their associates, a reception area, a lounge and dining room, as well as enough support space for office staff.
That Wellspring’s office was in a landmark building was key to our design. Lever House, designed in 1951 by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, along with Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building opposite, are pivotal symbols of the glass, and stainless-steel walled, skyscrapers that were a high watermark of post-war, corporate architecture. Reddymade created a dialogue between the needs of our clients and this famous history. Our design offered strong historical references, at the same time using cutting-edge, contemporary materials. The latter, simple, yet refined, paid homage to this legendary setting by being minimal and rich. But the end result, a subtle but lively play of textures and light, was highly contemporary.
Since the client’s offices needed to be light-filled and at the same time offer privacy, we placed them – along with the conference rooms – on the outside of the floor. We installed translucent walls to let the light from these offices flow into the rooms inside as well as into the hallways. To pull this off, Reddymade chose a new and daring material: a composite panel of glass and onyx. (It had yet to be used on a large scale in the U.S..) The translucency of these panels ended up providing the exact balance of both light and privacy needed. In addition they lend a feeling of texture and warmth to the entire office. Architecturally, our design referenced the Bienecke Library on the Yale Campus, another of Gordon Bunshaft’s exemplary designs.
We screened off the main reception lounge from the support spaces by installing a large, lighted cube. Reflecting the clients’ interest in emerging artists, we placed striking and large works – including a piece from the 2004 Whitney Biennial – here, and in the support areas behind. The conference tables were made from a black, reflective, Negro Marquina marble. Their stainless-steel bases mirror the minimalism of Donald Judd. Finally, we removed the dark wood paneling in the elevator lobby replacing it with back-painted glass. This gives an immediate introduction to the lightness and translucency of the glass-and-onyx-walled offices you are about to enter.