Putting the High in Highrise

I’ve never worked in an architecturally significant building, never really stood inside of a structure designed by one of the world’s architectural greats and been able to see a future for myself within its spaces. But that changed today when I showed up for work at the new Times building at 40th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan’s midtown. It was designed by Renzo Piano, and whether it fits your taste or not, it’s hard to deny that it’s the most notable new skyscraper to rise on the island this decade.

You’re the Fifty-story Highrise for Me

Below: Higher and higher. The new New York Times Building. It’s still under construction, but our design group was among the first wave of migrants starting this week.

From top to bottom, the new building is all metal and glass, like some kind of throwback to the early optimism of modernist impulses. But it feels not all anachronistic; rather, walking its hallways and staring out its windows, it’s almost brashly futuristic. There’s an amazing, self-adjusting ‘curtain’ made of ceramic surrounding the whole structure that responds to the amount of incoming sunlight and dims accordingly, like some kind of Venetian blind brought back from another galaxy. My office senses when I’m there and when I’m not, and adjusts the overhead lighting automatically. All that remains is for me to be able to command aloud, “Computer, tea, earl grey.”

It’s early yet, but I think I’m completely enraptured by this building. Maybe it’s just my first time being exposed so intimately to fine, contemporary architecture, but the whole structure feels energizing to me. And it makes a certain kind of sense, too; Piano eschewed organic curves and aesthetically suspect design flourishes in favor of a wonderfully, wonderfully rectilinear construction. It’s an ornate, beautiful grid, in essence; of all the buildings in Manhattan, I feel like this is the one that makes the most sense for me to spend my working days. Forgive me, but I feel like a lucky bastard today.

  1. I now work right across the street from this and I’ll get to gaze at it lovingly everyday out my window. Khoi, would you be up for having visitors – cough, me, cough – come to your office … even for a moment? I’d love to see it in greater detail.

  2. The red boxes would be the elevators that the construction crew uses to access each floor. That is an awesome looking building though. New York is still on my list of places to visit.

  3. If that’s the future then I need to meet some rich, clever and possibly handsome timelord that can take me back to a time where buildings where made from stone surrounded by grass and a cow or two.

  4. Nice. I’m really looking forward to going to New York in June. I was going to visit the United Nations for its architecture, I wonder where else I can go (that will let me in).

    P.S. Because it’s a mistake I’ve made in the past, I don’t think you mean ‘enervating’.

  5. Did you take the photograph? This looks incredible. What’s inside like? Particularly notable or straightforward offices?

    Early grey? Is that like Earl Grey, just served more quickly?

  6. khoi, you *are* a lucky bastard. piano is one of the greatest architects alive and this being (his first, one of his first) skyscrapers makes him the stuff of legend. like i told you over IM the other day, after this, there’s no turning back (to yesterday’s workplace architecture). you are going to be a spoiled brat.

  7. The AIA New York’s Center for Architecture had an exhibit earlier this year featuring the Times Building. It included scale models of the entire building and of floors, as well as blueprint books. It was pretty fascinating to see all that goes into a skyscraper.

  8. Wow. You should feel like a lucky bastard. That building is AWESOME! So nice to see some good modern architecture that hasn’t gotten completely neutered in the design process.

  9. Khoi, when you’re in Seattle for AEA, you’ll have to come visit MSNBC.com in Redmond and realize even more acutely just how lucky you are…

  10. Welcome to the neighborhood! My office is in a slightly less notable building around the corner on 39th Street.

    My team has been able to watch the entire building process for your office, starting with digging a big hole in the ground. Then it went up with great speedy speed. It’s nice to know someone’s finally moved in. And we have you to thank for the influx of new places for grub, like Mandler’s Sausages and Rita Mae’s soul food on 8th Ave.

  11. i have to say, while the interior sounds cool, the exterior looks ugly like a mug. those outside walls look like giant slatted closet doors.

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