Datum/0 brings new meaning to the phrase "web architecture" with its inventive office design for an Internet company in New York.
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 3/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
MOST YOUNG INTERNET firms grow up after a few years in business. Digital Pulp, in contrast, grew down. When the five-year-old company's East 23rd Street headquarters got a little too close for comfort, lofts on the two floors below serendipitously became available. The owners leased both, and hired Guillermo Garita and Julia Mock of Datum/0 to invigorate the stacked spaces with a fresh, progressive look. Working within a modest budget, the designers kept the 6,000-sq.-ft. space clean and unfettered, saving money for eye-popping effects in the most public areas-the main entrance and the adjacent conference room. The project, which spanned six months from concept to construction, took shape around a simple dialectic. "Translucency would represent the digital side of the business," says Garita, while "materiality" would symbolize the bricks-and-mortar component: a suitable metaphor for a company whose work embraces the divide between the visual and the tangible, the virtual and the real.
Throughout, seamless surfaces of acrylic, concrete, and color-saturated rubber distort one's sense of perspective, simultaneously expanding and dematerializing the space. In place of solid walls, Garita designed sliding, floor-to-ceiling translucent panels to define the conference room and private offices. The glowing planes illuminate the windowless reception area, with its milky-white, rubberized poured concrete floors and custom acrylic-and-steel desk. The wraparound waiting unit, sheathed in rubber, envelops visitors in a cloud of powder-blue; although open to the entrance, the nook feels oddly private. Such bold flourishes also harmonize discordant structural conditions. The building is actually two separate but adjoined structures, resulting in mismatched floor heights and an awkward, compressed transition. To "celebrate rather than negate the point of connection," Datum/0 introduced a vivid orange tunnel wrapped in polished rubber, with a soft ramp at either end to smooth over the change in levels.
Movable components lend a degree of flexibility to the space. By sliding open the acrylic wall panels, the conference room can be expanded into the hallway exhibit space. There, a bench pivots out from a storage unit and wall-mounted display panels flip down like Murphy beds to serve as auxiliary work surfaces. Such ingenuity ensured that Digital Pulp's new office is more than just a pretty face. Says Garita, "I was very concerned about the pragmatic end of things. I wanted it to look good, but also function well and represent what the company does."