Open Society Foundations’ Offices – New York City

  • Client Open Society Foundations,
  • size 160,000 sqft
  • Year 2013
  • Location New York City, New York, United States,
  • Industry Non-Profit / Government,
  • Architecture and design firm Tirmizi Campbell has completed the design for the Open Society Foundations’ office in the Argonaut building, located in Midtown Manhattan. The organization brought on Tirmizi Campbell to create a democratic, equitable, open, and flexible space that would reflect the fundamental principles and the global identity of their organization.

    Tirmizi Campbell completed a gut renovation of the interior, including ten floors of office space and the rooftop, to accommodate the Open Society Institute’s 400 employees. Firm principals Asifa Tirmizi and Scot Campbell worked directly with an appointed committee that represented various programs within Open Society Foundations. After Tirmizi Campbell presented each phase of the design process, the committee then submitted comments and voted on design options for each area within the multi­floor office. Throughout the collaborative process, Tirmizi and Campbell negotiated design solutions to bring the committee to agreement. When they came to an impasse on the office layout, the designers’ hybrid solution was to vary the floor plans slightly on each floor, providing private offices for some and generous six­by­eight foot workstations for others.

    The architecture of the landmarked structure, built in 1909, set the physical parameters for the design. Tirmizi Campbell stripped the structure down to its bones in some areas, exposing the building’s steel columns, creating a less corporate aesthetic. They restored the historic lobby and added two custom light fixtures bringing contemporary touches to the space’s gothic aesthetic. A dramatic floating staircase ties the lobby to the lower level, which is home to a spacious conference center and a gallery where rotating art exhibits are curated by the Documentary Photography Program. The lower level is also outfitted with minimalist yet monolithic elements, such as large stone slabs, antique brass, and dark wood slats, that help transition the space from the historic lobby to the floor’s conference and gallery area.

    Upstairs, each office floor has its own identity. Tirmizi Campbell applied four different color palettes一red, blue, yellow, and aqua一to eight levels so that the staff could identify each floor by a given color. Each office floor has a pantry with seating, a conference room with windows looking out onto 57th Street, open meeting areas, and workstations with ample space.

    Lunchtime provides a unique experience for OSI staff. The dining room, filled with natural light thanks to its glass­enclosed structure, is located on the top floor. Inside, punches of color found on upholstery are set against a neutral color palette with gray at the forefront. The top floor’s terrace offers a dining option outside with an abundance of greenery, steel mesh seating, small cafe tables, and a view of Midtown Manhattan. The exterior walls of the dining room are finished with bright orange panels to add fragments of color for those sitting outside.

    Tirmizi Campbell’s transformation of the OSI office resulted in an open, flexible space that reflects the company’s values, mission, and community.

    Design: Tirmizi Campbell
    Photography: Eric Laignel