September 1, 2012

Their Own Best Advertisement: TPG Designs The 4A’s New Offices

Larry Berger was practically born to design advertising agencies. TPG Architecture’s studio director has overseen scores of creative and swanky renovations for ad shops from Salt Lake City to Hamburg, Germany. And many have been in New York, of course. Industry veterans still talk about how, back in 1986, he helped move Geer DuBois away from legendary Madison Avenue. Scandal! Throw in TPG’s deep resources, starting with the support of managing partner Fred Strauss, and Berger was a shoo-in to overhaul the American Association of Advertising Agencies, aka the 4A’s. Plus, he had already designed for its colleagues at the Ad Council. 

The 4A’s president and CEO, Nancy Hill, describes the previous location as “dark, dank, and silo’d, like an insurance company” despite the Chrysler Building address. “With the H-shape plan there, sometimes you wouldn’t see someone else for weeks.” The new space would be in a side-core 1960’s tower, also in Midtown.

To get started, Berger and Strauss relied on a few tricks familiar to ad types from consumer focus groups. One was visual imaging, a process of comparing notes on likes and dislikes. Hill and her staff encouraged TPG to brighten up surfaces, calling for “Color, color, color!”

Orange-red accents now bring dynamism to the rationality and efficiency of the open plan. In reception alone, the color can be found on the front of the desk, a pair of Womb chairs by Eero Saarinen, and a rug. TPG further enriched and softened the setup with a feature wall paneled in reclaimed balau and a leather-covered tufted chesterfield. Beyond reception, a third of the space serves member gatherings. There are not only 11 conference and meeting rooms but also a large, flexible area for up to 70 people. “We’re more agile and responsive to one another and to our member agencies,” Hill confirms. Private offices bit the dust. Hill herself sits at a 120-degree workstation.

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