Notes from the Bureau: Empire State Overhaul

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Photos by Paúl Rivera, Archphoto, and DFB Sales 

The entire fifth floor of the Empire State Building. Views overlooking 33rd and 34th Streets and 5th Avenue. Seventeen-foot-high ceilings. Seventeen. Spaacesmith had the beginnings of a space of which most design studios can only dream.

The starting point was substantially less glamorous: a multiple-tenant floor without any semblance of uniformity in design. "Once the walls came down, it was almost like a skateboard park with valleys and hills," recalls project manager William Wong.

But over the course of 10 months, Spacesmith worked with Global Brands Group to build a central location for multiple offices that had been scattered around New York City's garment district. "They basically just said, 'We want something with an industrial aesthetic; go with it,'" Wong says. "Having that sort of freedom in design is rare."

What they "went with" is a statement of industrial and utilitarian space- multiple work areas and more than 25 showrooms, each a modern wonderland of clean lines and poured concrete. "There's sort of a tangible, hands-on quality to what the folks on this floor are doing," Wong says. "So we used raw, craftsman-oriented materials like concrete and exposed brick, which we felt was adherent to the processes of garment production."

The wow factor isn't lost on the client, who is working with Spacesmith on a number of other department offices. And though similar design elements undoubtedly will pop up elsewhere, as Wong says,"They won't be on the same scale as this one- it's just impossible to find space like this in the city anymore."