On the Catwalk
Calvert Wright Architecture outfits handsome Soho offices for Bureau Betak.
Henry Urbach -- Interior Design, 4/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
UNDER THE DIRECTION OF Alexandre de Betak, Bureau Betak is a New York-based company that designs, directs, and produces fashion shows and special events. Their impressive client roster includes Viktor & Rolf, TSE Cashmere, Donna Karan, Hermès, John Bartlett, and Giorgio Armani. Until last winter, the company occupied small, cramped offices that inhibited internal activities as well as the possibility of having client meetings at their office. Now reestablished in a smart, 6,000-sq.-ft. space designed by Calvert Wright Architecture, Bureau Betak is in a much better position to perform the magic necessary to stage fashion events worldwide.
The second-story loft space, formerly a Chinese "massage parlor," enjoys limited natural light. Wright began by gutting as much of the space as the budget allowed, and found creative ways to deal with other, more stubborn drawbacks. Because of the way that the building foundations had settled, existing floors and ceilings were up to one-ft. off level. Wright modulated the quirky, sloping surfaces by creating new "project data," horizontal lines that define the bottom and top of all new construction.
The cappucino color scheme—espresso brown and milky white—is one of the most effective ways that Wright imbued the space with an energetic sense of contemporary style. "Initially we wanted to keep everything as white white white as possible," Wright explains. "But once we realized how awful the existing conditions were, we decided to make our insertions very clear, define two primary colors, and keep all partitions away from the existing walls, ceiling, and floor." Working with project manager Jason Tang, Wright organized all program elements into three types of containers: "lines" that serve as work stations, "bars" that provide storage walls, and "boxes" that contain private offices and conference areas. The lines are a series of 40-ft.-long desk surfaces divided by moveable storage cabinets and ambient light fixtures. The bars are walls of storage that shield utility areas and direct particular views across the space. The boxes, which hold partner offices, the main conference area, and the creative lab, were designed without doors to increase the sense of spatial connection across the entire space.
To address the lack of natural light, Wright introduced special luminous elements in addition to the continuous grid of sandblasted, halogen pendants. Behind the reception area and around the creative lab—where design concepts are mocked-up and tested—are luminous boxes made of seamless, stretched PVC membrane backlit by white fluorescent lights. In contrast to the hard surfaces of the other boxes, these have a gently yielding quality. They are emblematic of the company's creative energies, further animating the space with the alluring and ever-changing glow of fashion.