Time for a change
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 5/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Guillermo Garita is a little obsessed by flexibility. He's been known to design corridors that double as conference rooms, lounge chairs that disappear into walls, and rooms defined by sliding panels rather than fixed partitions. "We like to experiment with cross-programmable spaces," says the soft-spoken principal of multidisciplinary firm Datum-zero Architecture. "Spaces that have very specific uses but can adapt as needed for a range of events and circumstances."
Which effectively summarizes the situation at J. Walter Thompson in New York. When the ad agency charged Garita with revamping an underutilized corridor near the main entrance, he managed to coax a lobby, lounge, and conference room out of the 4,500-square-foot space. Garita had free rein aesthetically, but the strategies at his disposal were limited: Merge old and new, or clearly define the boundary between. He opted for the latter, with an intervention that cuts through existing gray carpet and acoustical ceiling tile.
The new zone starts at the elevator lobby, where off-white plaster folds visually from ceiling to wall, terminating at the poured-concrete floor. The floor's J. Walter Thompson time line—printed like a decal on plastic film over the concrete—directs visitors to a reception desk fronted in red rubber. This entry sequence turns right to flow through glass doors into a 90-foot-long lounge, which eventually arrives at the conference room.
As in the elevator lobby, Garita's lounge intervention wraps just one half of the volume, demarcated by white rubber flooring and the polyester paint coating the ceiling and a sidewall. The ceiling angles slightly downward to meet the subtle inward pitch of the wall, imparting a sense of enclosure. "The lounge is defined by interconnections and spatial thresholds rather than by partitions," the architect explains.
The lounge's seating areas suit one-on-one consultations and group presentations. A laptop station is actually a continuation of the reception desk, clad in the same translucent plastic laminate. White vinyl-covered stools surround a cantilevered steel coffee table. An 8-foot-long bench of white-painted wood and steel marks the spot where the lounge dissolves into a corridor leading to offices. At the lounge's far end, frequently annexed by the adjacent conference room, custom furniture tucks away to accommodate foot traffic. A bench rotates into a storage unit; a table swivels into the wall.
The conference room's 8-foot-tall steel-framed acrylic pivot doors were designed by Garita and fabricated by a metalwork shop in Manhattan. "We build and test prototypes as we go," Garita explains. "It makes the engineering process more empirical." And likewise flexible.