“If you’re not happy kicking around ideas with your friends at seven pm, this isn’t the place for you,” is refrain heard often around the offices at ICRAVE, a Manhattan design firm known for its hospitality work. As with most creative firms, the company’s offices emphasize collaboration and cooperation with an open plan to facilitate the free flow of ideas. Recently, Ken Fox, the managing partner of Stripes Group, a private equity firm in New York, asked ICRAVE to bring some of that spirit into their new Manhattan offices.
Corporate art can have the feel of something found at a painting exhibition at an airport Holiday Inn. It’s bland and so inoffensive. As workplace culture evolves (and not just in creative fields), something is happening. Boring sameness is being replaced—thankfully—in favor of choices that delight and inspire. At the same time, as a trend report ahead of NeoCon points out, health and wellness continue to be priorities when it comes to designing new office spaces, extending beyond circadian lighting and standing desks to biophilic design elements such as live walls and other touches that bring the outside in.
Bryson Reaume knows a little bit about urban frontiers. His company, City Constructors, has had a hand in the transformation of Downtown Los Angeles. Back when he landed in a loft at 7th and Figueroa, though, “It was a ghost town at night,” recalls Reaume. “All the shops were closed—I wanted to get a cup of coffee and nothing was open.” He immediately saw “a huge opportunity to make this a vibrant downtown core,” he says. And, as it turned out, just so happened to be working with some visionary developers who felt the same way, adapting some of the area’s historic buildings to fit 21st-century needs.
His work in the area began with the Douglas Building Lofts, just as Downtown’s revival was heating up. “It was a labor of love for the entire team, and something new for everybody,” he says, so there was a substantial learning curve for all involved. During the renovation, they were able to keep old windows and a mosaic tile corridor. The original elevator design was also brought back to life. “I’m very proud of what was created,” he says.
From there, he rolled in to more historic renovations, including tackling over a dozen projects at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, burnishing the gem. Among them was a gut renovation of the hotel’s Blossom Room, site of the first Academy Awards. “It had been destroyed,” says Reaume, who was asked to bring the space back to its former glory. “We peeled off paint, used old photos to recreate chandeliers and lanterns and found an old fountain.”
Drive down a busy city street, and you spot them—those brightly colored, inflatable figures waving frantically outside car dealerships and fast food places, beckoning you with deals on loans and pizza. Designer Jamie Wolfond (we profiled him last year) has taken the idea and turned it on its head.
Last month, our publisher, Balcony Press, had the pleasure of sponsoring a signing to celebrate the release of Scott Johnson's new book, Performative Skyscraper: Tall Building Design Now. The event featured remarks by Qingyun Ma, Dean and Della + Harry MacDonald Chair, USC School of Architecture. It was held at Johnson Fain Studios in Downtown LA.
To purchase the book, (all proceeds go to the USC School of Architecture) contact Natalie Egnatchik.