Baseball iconography—like this ash and powder-coated bronze feature wall outside the Home Plate cafeteria—drove the concept of Major League Baseball’s five-story headquarters in Midtown by Studios Architecture.
Baseball iconography—like this ash and powder-coated bronze feature wall outside the Home Plate cafeteria—drove the concept of Major League Baseball’s five-story headquarters in Midtown by Studios Architecture.

Studios Architecture’s Major League Baseball Headquarters in Midtown Forges a New Era for the Sport

When Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred took office in 2015, he charted a new direction for the sport that he calls “One Baseball.” The overarching goal is to increase access to, and engagement with, America’s pastime with the hope of better developing on-field talent and better cultivating a new generation of fans. But one aspect of this unifying strategy was far more literal: bringing MLB’s different business entities under one roof in order to leverage the collaboration needed to make One Baseball a reality.

The Studios Architecture team, led by managing prin­cipal Joshua Rider and associate Jordan Evans, didn’t have to rattle off player stats in the interview to win the commission for the new MLB headquarters in the Wallace Harrison–designed Time & Life building in Midtown, the former home of Interior Design. “‘We don’t hire baseball fans, we hire the best people to work at baseball,’” Rider recalls the MLB reps saying. “They appreciated that this project had to do something transformational.” Armed with a portfolio full of inventive office projects and intimate knowledge of the iconic building—the firm had helped Time Inc. explore staying in the building before designing its new downtown workplace a few years prior—Studios had the perfect lineup to help realize a unified home for baseball.

Surrounded by 30 screens, one for each team, reception features Rodolfo Dordoni Freeman sofas and a Christian Woo Diptiq table on a custom rug, its scheme nodding to baseball stitching and field mowing patterns.
Surrounded by 30 screens, one for each team, reception features Rodolfo Dordoni Freeman sofas and a Christian Woo Diptiq table on a custom rug, its scheme nodding to baseball stitching and field mowing patterns.

The 315,000-square-foot headquarters spans five floors—three in the building’s podium, one atop it with an outdoor terrace boasting views from Central Park down to One World Trade Center, and another in the tower. It accommodates 1,250 employees from the office of the commissioner and MLB Advanced Media who hold jobs as disparate as negotiating labor contracts and designing video games. The Studios team leveraged one of the building’s most chal­lenging characteristics, its deep, vast floor plates, to create a hierarchy of space that puts workers first and inspires collaboration. Facilities that don’t need natural light or, in fact, require darkness—server rooms and screen-lined multimedia and broadcast studios, for example—sit in the middle of each floor, leaving the daylit perimeter for open office, circulation, and meeting areas.

Throughout the office and public sections, walls are lined with supergraphics such as larger-than-life photo illustrations of players, representations of women and youth in baseball, and the MLB logo rendered in materials as varied as neon and wood. They celebrate the history of the game and the principles of inclusion that One Baseball aims to guide the future of the sport, but they also help define space and serve as wayfinding through the massive floor plates, which Studios parsed into smaller open office neighborhoods. After analyzing the requirements of each group of employees, Rider and Evans developed a tool kit of five workstation models, mixing and matching them to meet each department’s disparate needs. Flexible meeting areas that foster collaboration, filled with different seating configurations and enough outlets and laptop tables to accommodate any work group, connect the neighborhoods.

  • Ash treads and risers in front of the up-lit photo mosaic.
    Ash treads and risers in front of the up-lit photo mosaic.
  • Gloves and mitts on display.
    Gloves and mitts on display.
  • The ash-clad reception desk in the main lobby.
    The ash-clad reception desk in the main lobby.
  • Bat handles on exhibit.
    Bat handles on exhibit.
  • A stairway’s neon logo.
    A stairway’s neon logo.
  • Deconstructed baseballs.
    Deconstructed baseballs.
  • A photomural depicting the Polo Grounds.
    A photomural depicting the Polo Grounds.
  • Stitching detail on the reception desk’s leather top.
    Stitching detail on the reception desk’s leather top.
  • A mural in an office area.
    A mural in an office area.

To foster interaction across the floors, Studios developed the concourse, which serves as the project’s social hub. This three-bay hall has one triple-height space flanked by two double-height ones; running down its length is a faceted white feature wall that serves as a projection screen for highlight reels and live-streamed games. The concourse unites many office amenities, including the fifth-floor cafeteria and coffee shop, the latter offering a leather-topped bench for employees to watch whatever game is being projected on the feature wall; there are also pantries on each floor.

Supergraphics of players appear throughout the interior, including this powder-coated one of Jackie Robinson.
Supergraphics of players appear throughout the interior, including this powder-coated one of Jackie Robinson.

But supergraphics and video are not the only ways that the iconography of baseball is evident here. Nearly every material selection was made with a reference to the sport in mind. Be it red lines tracing through carpets, conference room mullions, and upholstery that nod to the stitching on a baseball; leather upholstery that hints at the hues of gloves and mitts; or the seven types of ash in everything from casework to ceiling slats that owe a hat tip to the baseball bat. “We did a labored study of all of the materials in all of these wonderful things in the game, but we wanted to hit them in a subtle way,” Evans says. “The project is bold in its scale, so the materiality wanted to be a bit more discreet.” Even the facets on the concourse’s projection wall are in on it: They are an abstraction of the geometry of a baseball diamond.

Seven types of ash, referencing the baseball bat, are used throughout, including in a wall depicting the MLB logo created by graphic designer Jerry Dior in 1968.
Seven types of ash, referencing the baseball bat, are used throughout, including in a wall depicting the MLB logo created by graphic designer Jerry Dior in 1968.

The new headquarters opened in late 2019, scant months before COVID-19 emptied Manhattan’s offices and streets. Studios helped MLB navigate the return to the workplace, and now that it is once again at capacity, the needed transformation is complete: Before, an MLB employee in one office might never meet a coworker in the other. Now, face-to-face chats between different departments, be it in a break-out space or taking in the eye-level view of the glittering Radio City Music Hall sign from the cafeteria, are the norm.

As for how MLB feels about its new headquarters, “The end result is a perfect embodiment of our philosophy of One Baseball,” MLB chief communications officer Pat Courtney says. “This sport is meant for everyone, and we want each person who comes to our offices to feel a part of the game.” ­

project team
Studios Architecture: frank gesualdi; nelson tang; lee sewell; rebecca frederick
esi design: graphics consultant
lighting workshop: lighting consultant
acoustic distinctions: acoustical consultant
diversified systems: audiovisual consultant
click­spring design: studio set designer
flda lighting design: studio lighting designer
thornton tomasetti: structural engineer
ama consulting engineers: mep
bauerschmidt and sons; svend nielsen limited: woodwork
jrm construction management: general contractor
sterling project development: project manager.
project sources from front
lite brite neon: custom sign (hall)
9wood: custom slat ceiling
tai ping carpets: custom rug (reception)
minotti: sofas
through the future perfect: coffee table
viccarbe: side table
optic arts: recessed ceiling fixtures
dado: receessed wall fix­ture
bensen: chairs (reception, lounge), side chair (conference room)
cooledge tile: ceiling panels (hall)
newmat: ceiling system
kubik maltbie: custom walls
carvart: custom elevator portal
ecosense lighting: linear fixtures (stair)
cmfpA: custom stair
uhuru: stools (coffee bar)
walter knoll: sectional, side tables (auditorium lounge)
bernhardt: sofas (lounge)
arco: tables
halcon: custom workstations (office area)
bisley: lockers
through the commission project: custom mural
herman miller: chairs (office area, conference room)
arper: ottomans (lounge), side table (con­ference room)
Add tag via side panel:
datesweiser: table (conference room)
carnegie: fabric panel
extremis: tables (terrace)
Magis: tables
landscape forms: seating
throughout
drive21: custom wall graphics
linder group: custom perforated walls
topakustik: custom perforated ceilings
amerlux: light fixtures
bentley: carpet tile
zonca terrazzo: epoxy flooring
benjamin moore and co.: paint

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