Biber Architects

Biber Architects

New York, NY


Biber Architects Studio

It was worth the wait to be a tenant in The Woolworth Building, a 1913 skyscraper designed by Cass Gilbert (also responsible for the New York Life Building, George Washington Bridge, US Supreme Court and the US Customs House in NYC) that remained the world's tallest building until bested in 1930 by the Chrysler Building. The lobby is the original 'cathedral of commerce' with a church-like cruciform plan, vaulted tiled ceilings, murals, balconies and gargoyles of F.W. Woolworth, Cass Gilbert, Louis Horowitz the builder from Thompson-Starret, and Hubert Parson, Woolworth's accountant who managed to pay for the building in cash (truly the four corners of any architectural project).

The building has a big blocky base topped by a tower that has been unoccupied for a decade. It was vacated to be condos, or a hotel or both, when 9/11 postponed the plans. A few years later the economy postponed conversion plans again. It will be, when finally converted, one of the most remarkable addresses (and views) in New York, with views of the whole city (including the new Gehry building that looks back at the Woolworth Building) and its own zipcode.

Building a new office is the ultimate expression of who, professionally, you are. It is as true for architects and designers as it is for lawyers and media companies. Ours is a small,  highly efficient, relaxing and visually elementary space. We have, as much as possible, gotten rid of paper and catalogs. We tend to show presentations by projector rather than on giant sheets of paper that will be discarded. And while we still have books (everyone has a weakness...) we are as efficient as technology allows.

Our office barely needs electric illumination during the day...with operable windows and north and east exposures we get a full day of (mostly) soft light, helped by the white interior; walls, ceiling, floor and furniture, (all tones of white or black). But when it does need light we fixtured the space with high efficiency LED and dimmable fluorescent that makes it glow for well under 1 watt per square foot. And that's if every light is on at the same time and undimmed. Normally we use well under half that.

My favorite parts of the office?
The 'book cube' filled with all my books is a perfect little conference/library and a beautiful piece of sculpture (with nods to Rachel Whiteread). It's already turned into everyone's favorite spot.
And the bike room downstairs must be the finest bicycle parking in the world; directly below the lobby 'crossing' and reached via a grand marble stair, the space is adorned with 4 murals and all the original building details. It is the crypt to the Woolworth's cathedral; directly below the sacred crossing, dark and a bit mysterious. A crypt for bicycles. Commuting by bike has just moved a bit closer to godliness. And the kitchen, of course, where we serve lunch everyday and where the Nespresso machine is never quiet.


Images ©Peter Mauss ESTO 2012

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Status: Built
Location: Woolworth Building, New York, NY, 10279