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.
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.
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.
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.
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 sources from front
- acoustic distinctions
- ama consulting engineers
- bauerschmidt and sons; svend nielsen limited
- benjamin moore and co.
- clickspring design
- cooledge tile
- diversified systems
- ecosense lighting
- Eric Laignel
- esi design
- flda lighting design
- herman miller
- jrm construction management
- Katie Gerfen
- kubik maltbie
- landscape forms
- lighting workshop
- linder group
- lite brite neon
- Major League Baseball
- optic arts
- Rob Manfred
- sterling project development
- Studios Architecture
- tai ping carpets
- thornton tomasetti
- through the commission project
- through the future perfect
- Time & Life Building
- walter knoll
- zonca terrazzo
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