May 30, 2014

Portland on the Hudson: WorkAC Brings Wieden + Kennedy to NYC

A surreal segment of TV’s Portlandia features a cameo appearance from the giant nest at Wieden + Kennedy. Actually a small lounge wrapped in woven branches and firmly grounded in the atrium of the famously cool headquarters by Allied Works Architecture, the nest is shown levitating, with help from a hot-air balloon, and bursting through the roof. Don’t expect similar shenanigans at the Oregon advertising agency’s New York satellite office by WorkAC, but matters of ascent did play a part.

To make room for stairs wide enough to serve as bleacher seating for staff meetings, WorkAC needed to remove one of the mushroom columns that march in orderly rows through the converted printing loft. However, prin­cipal Dan Wood explains,  “The landlord wouldn’t give up any capacity on the floors above.” So he and principal Amale Andraos—who happen to be husband and wife—redistributed the load with the assistance of a starburst of steel ceiling beams.

The resulting bleacher-stairs, an up-tilted walnut disk, are indisputably the centerpiece of the 50,000-square-foot office: sited right next to reception, on the lowest of three levels, and oriented toward windows with a sunset view over the Hudson River. At the top is a more conventional stair that spirals up to the top level’s bamboo-lined library. “We went for a sense of connection and intimacy, moving away from an atrium concept in which everything would be revealed at once,” Andraos says.

In addition to the various conference rooms, one with round ceiling fixtures inspired by the lighting at Marcel Breuer’s Whitney Museum of American Art, there’s an unusual alfresco meeting spot. It’s a “park,” a double-height corner space with blueberry bushes growing and glazing removed from the windows. (A glass front maintains climate control elsewhere.) Good times continue in the “gym,” dedicated to the sports of Ping-Pong and foosball, and at the freeform bar, where draft beer flows. Heineken, it turns out, is an agency client.

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