At Bloomberg's headquarters in Paris, principal Bruce Danzer and associate principal Sonia Jacobs brought the information revolution to an 1880s building
Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 11/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
When financial-news company Bloomberg chose four floors in a Second Empire building near the Opéra National de Paris for a new French headquarters, challenges were twofold. First, the 50,000-square-foot space had to meet specific corporate requirements: streamlined open-plan work areas, cutting-edge technology capabilities, and—a Bloomberg tradition—aquariums. Second, the modern design had to conform to ironclad French regulations concerning historic buildings.
Studios Architecture principal Bruce Danzer, now retired, and associate principal Sonia Jacobs designed a resolution to the conundrum—and built the entire installation within an intact shell. If that sounds easy, it wasn't. But the result seamlessly integrates new and old in a spacious, state-of-the-art workplace.
Almost all new interior partitions and doors are clear glass, with most of those that aren't being accented in turquoise, sea-foam green, persimmon, chartreuse, or cornflower blue. Furniture provides more color, as do LED stock tickers in constant motion.
Glass, color, and a mix of natural and artificial colored light sources create the illusion of uninterrupted space as a counterbalancing measure, because a central staircase—the building's main impediment to the openness Bloomberg prizes—effectively divides each floor. Columns were put to work holding halogen fixtures and plasma-screen televisions.
Direct-broadcast TV screens flicker above rows of red-orange chairs in the ground-floor auditorium, where client training programs and seminars take place. Next to the auditorium, a compact TV broadcast studio is enclosed in a soundproof glass box; cameras are remotely operated from the adjacent control room.
At the foot of the main stairwell stand three huge glass vases holding sculptural arrangements by avant-garde florist Patrick Divert, whose towering reeds, immense foliage, single floral blooms, and gnarled branches appear throughout. The staircase beyond, a composition of marble treads and a stainless-steel balustrade strung with horizontal steel cables, seems to float within a stairwell lined on one side in backlit translucent glass.
The stair leads to the reception area. Here, visitors encounter more plasma screens, carrying international Bloomberg broadcasts, as well as the first of the office's four beautiful saltwater aquariums. Filled with darting tropical fish and unusual vegetation, the aquariums are—like the TV screens—in constant motion.
To one side of reception is the makeup area used for TV appearances and the TV journalists' bull pen. Carpet and acoustic ceilings keep the open area quiet, and camera equipment mounted on the wall allows the journalists to make direct broadcasts while sitting at a desk at the end of a row. (The print journalists of Bloomberg News and the sales staff occupy nearly identical bull pens.) On the other side of reception is another Bloomberg tradition. Entirely fitted in blond wood and polished aluminum, a pantry offers snack-packed cabinets and refrigerators, coffeemakers and other drink machines, and tall tables and stools for the consumption of the aforementioned. An LED stock ticker runs horizontally along the back wall, behind another aquarium. And there are screens everywhere—embedded in a tabletop and even the floor—while another TV image is projected on a glass partition.
A series of second-floor rooms historically classified for their beautiful plasterwork could not be altered. They became training and conference rooms, with perforated-maple acoustic panels, double-glazed windows, and light fixtures suspended from wires. Brass window and door fittings were retained, and the original doors to the corridor stand ornamentally open, behind new doors of transparent glass.
Despite the historic-monument restrictions on Bloomberg and the nearby banks and fashion boutiques, tall glass windows are allowed on street facades. In Bloomberg's case, the windows are opaque and fitted with TV screens and a stock ticker showing the latest market news. There couldn't be a better advertisement for all that's going on inside.