In Manhattan, downtown indicates more than just an address. It attests to a way of life, a philosophical statement about one's persona. In the case of @radical.media, a multimedia production company, downtown means a sprawling loft space with an industrial ambiance designed by a Manhattan-based creative team including architect David Rockwell of Rockwell Group and lighting designer Paul Gregory, IALD, of Focus Lighting.
For @radical.media, downtown also means very specific interior design choices. "The client wanted a low-tech industrial environment," says Rockwell, who designed the interiors as well as some of the furniture for the firm's 25,000-sq.-ft. (2,250-sq.-m) open space on the sixth floor of a Hudson Street building in lower Manhattan. The floors are of polished concrete, with concrete ceiling slabs, exposed ducts, and wiring adding to the utilitarian look. There is no concealment of the wiring which runs in surface conduit across the ceiling and beams.
The furniture is retro with conference room tables and chairs from the 50s used in conjunction with scaffolding that looks like it belongs on a film set. The design of the chair rails, sliding doors, and particle-board partitions all fit within the industrial atmosphere of the loft, yet overstuffed sofas in the front reception area add a homey touch. "We added soft finishes to an industrial space to make it feel like it had been there forever," Rockwell notes. "The lighting was designed to stay out of the way as background lighting and let the space work."
Lighting choices were site-specific, with simple wall sconces as decorative elements and fluorescent light bouncing off the ceiling. Located on a high floor in a space with large windows and views of Greenwich Village rooftops, @radical.media has the luxury of natural light coming from eastern and northern exposures. The natural light floods secretarial pools and office areas located around the perimeter of the space. To balance the brightness of sunny days and add light when the sky is overcast, Gregory used 80 industrial Metalux two-lamp fluorescent fixtures (with 3500K T8 lamps) fitted with perforated steel reflectors.
These 50s-style rectangular white metal shades are mounted upside down to uplight the concrete slab ceiling, which is also painted white for greater reflectivity. The fluorescent uplights help diminish the contrast between a bright sky outside and a seemingly darker room, and at the same time make sure the room is bright enough on a rainy day or at night. "The perforated metal allows the light to filter through and keeps the shades from looking dark and heavy," says Gregory.
The computer workstations are placed in a central core of the loft where less natural light penetrates. This means that true colors can be seen correctly when working and editing on the screens. "The designers work on computer screens, not on paper," says Gregory, "so they don't need a high level of task light on the work surface. The lighting is not about task light, but an environment for creative people." To make the computer screen the focal point of each workstation, Gregory hung 80 galvanized Spero steel stepneck dome pendants with zinc-plated wire guards. Some of these pendant fixtures have dimmable 200W A-lamps or Silverbowl half-silvered incandescent lamps controlled with Lutron Nova wall box dimmers. Others have self-ballast medium screw-base compact fluorescent lamps.
One interesting challenge for the lighting designer stems from the fact that @radical.media is not a space used by people who work with a lot of paper. "This project needed a much lower light level than usual," Gregory says. "It was exciting to work this way at a time when energy efficiency is so important." Jon Kamen, the owner of @radical.media, was instrumental in helping Gregory understand the amount of light the office had to have, and how little light the office needed to function well. "He wanted to convey an image of careful and intelligent use of limited resources to achieve maximum performance and a unique image," says Gregory, who underlines Kamen's desire to impress his clients with the quality of his product and not with overly expensive offices.
In dressing up @radical.media's bare-bones design aesthetic, Gregory chose a careful mix of very simple lighting fixtures to blend in with the architectural elements. For the employee cafeteria and hallways, he selected Stonco vapor-tight cast-aluminum wall brackets with customized sandblasted globes and 100W incandescent lamps. Clear glass globes were sandblasted to hide the lamps from view and add a flourish to utilitarian fixtures.
"These are the simplest fixtures you can imagine, but they work and retain the industrial feel of the space," says Gregory. "The sandblasted globes add a softness to the space that is very pleasing." Juno white round-back PAR-38 lamp holders on pendant-mounted single-circuit track accent photographs depicting @radical.media's work. A small number of Lightolier 100W recessed downlights were used in storage areas and rest rooms.
"The space has a raw, fresh feeling with a careful, cohesive design," says Gregory. "It's a beautiful environment to be creative in." Some of the furniture, including comfortable sofas with a flea-market look, contrasts with the industrial feel of the office section. "There is a nice juxtaposition of the two looks," says assistant lighting designer Carlos Inclan. "The space is very straightforward and they didn't want fancy fixtures. We carefully positioned the lights to work within an industrial style." Focus Lighting will go on to redesign @radical.media's California space, no doubt bringing a West Coast aesthetic into play.