is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
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
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.