June 4, 2018

TPG Architecture Makes Headlines With Its Office for the Associated Press in New York

What’s black and white and read all over? The old newspaper joke may seem dated—we now get our information in myriad ways, many of them electronic—and yet it comes to mind at the entrance to the Associated Press, the centuries-old nonprofit news cooperative headquartered in New York. The venerable AP logo that greets employees and visitors is indeed black, white, and red, and so is the reception area surrounding it—serious-minded, but not without flair. TPG Architecture came up with many such sharp vignettes for the new headquarters, located in the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed Brookfield Place. Composed of three contiguous executive floors plus a separate newsroom floor, it’s the mother ship for 263 offices spread among 106 countries—and an ode to transparency and connectedness.

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Relocation was prompted by rising rents at the AP’s previous, much larger office further uptown and the realization that the current staff of 600 required less space than the employee count 14 years ago. TPG was thus presented with 172,000 square feet of raw space—and the challenge of conceiving a workplace that would ring as on-brand for one of the world’s oldest news organizations, founded in 1846. The scheme had to look both backward and forward. “It needed to reflect the importance of AP’s journalistic tradition,” TPG creative director and project lead Doug West says. “It’s long and rich history.”

In the newsroom, the radial plasterboard ceiling hides mechanicals. Photography by Eric Laignel.

That mission is borne out by the reception gallery, where a parade of uniformly sized and framed photographs and articles that have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize hang on black-painted walls. Similarly, at the entrance to the newsroom floor below, a more ethereal area formed by backlit walls memorializes the AP journalists who’ve died on assignment. Anchored by river rocks, names are etched on clear acrylic rectangles and strung on cables, so they appear to float.

Amid these backward glances, however, “We made sure were we were creating the newsroom of the future,” the designer adds. That means a state-of-the-art control room, video-production facilities, and, perched in the glass corners of one of the floors, broadcast studios.

Able to be closed off by rectracted glass panels, the meeting room known as the fishbowl centers on a table by Joey Ruiter. Photography by Eric Laignel.

Despite the organization’s sober mission, “We’re not an investment bank,” AP vice president and treasurer Jeremy Carmel states. “We wanted a few design quirks.” One such quirk appears in the staircase connecting the floors. At the top hang hundreds of tiles, many canted at an angle like papers blown in a breeze. Some are felt-backed aluminum, while others are backlit LED panels. The shimmering flock flows from the ceiling of the top floor down to form a wall along the staircase. “The metaphor was that the AP is producing thousands of stories and photos every day,” West explains. “So we thought What visual interest can we bring to reflect that? The panels interpret the news-gathering process.”

Canted planes continue in the café, where white acoustical squares seem to flutter along the ceilingscape. Their liveliness is mirrored in the swooping curves of Verner Panton’s famous chairs standing below, yet TPG specified them in restrained gray and white. Actually, the overall palette is rather “subdued,” West says, with an occasional blue, the main accent color aside from the entrance’s red, added to the black and white. Glass is everywhere, including enclosing the staircase. The use of it and tile—porcelain floor tile runs throughout most of the headquarters—West believes, transmits a hard-news edge: “Those solid, crisp materials equate with balanced reporting.”

In the café, PearsonLloyd chairs stand on ceramic tile in shapes that echo the stairway installation. Photography by Eric Laignel.

The emotional heart of the operation, the newsroom, occupies an unusual, octagonal volume. It is expansive—some 30,000 square feet—and reads round when inside it. So, West and his team devised an ingenious layout: a central hub “like a spider web,” he says, that funnels radially toward the top editors at the center (the opposite of the old days, when the bigwigs sat in perimeter offices looking out). The crisscross ceiling echoes the plan and reinforces the concept of the flow of information. Its radial lines, formed by boxy enclosures of white plasterboard, also hide mechanicals.

Although what West calls a “wide-open feel” predominates, occassional glassed-in phone booths provide privacy. Flexibility is necessary in this profession, so TPG built it in. All desks can move between sitting and standing height at the push of a button. A glass-enclosed meeting room known as the fishbowl can be opened up, since its segmented panels are hung on a ceiling track and retractable.

Patricia Urquiola chairs serve the memorial area dedicated to deceased journalists. Photography by Eric Laignel.

The AP staffers have had a chance to settle into the new digs, which have since been awarded LEED Gold certification. As you might expect, good news travels fast. As Carmel says, the office “compliments who we are as an organization.” That includes a bit of spirit, as seen at the perimeter of the café. There the white floor tile bursts into a confetti of colors, as if celebrating the much-decorated news agency.

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Project Team: Jim Phillips; Michael Hayes; Susan Pav­Lovsky; Julia Nabiullina; Cesar Santana; Jacquelyn Haas; Rachel Starobinsky; Gladys Yue; Amanda Mullooly:  TPG Archi­tecture. One Lux Studio: Lighting Consultant. Diversified Systems: Audiovisual Consul­tant. Thornton Tomasetti: Structural Engineer. Robert Derector Associates: MEP. Cerami & Associates: Acoustical Engineer. Amuneal: Metalwork. William Somerville: Woodwork. J.T. Magen & Company: General Contractor.

> See more from the May 2018 issue of Interior Design

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