Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cook + Fox: A biophilic office for sustainability leaders

On Wednesday April 10th, our field trip takes place to the office of the architecture firm responsible for the renowned Highline restoration and Leed Platinum certified One Bryan Park tower, the greenest skyscraper in the world.  Cook + Fox, which reads Cook plus Fox, is located in the landmarked lady’s mile district of Manhattan.  While modern, the design does not feel overly high tech as one could anticipate from such a fast-forward thinking company. I personally like how humble the place actually feels.

When walking in the office space we first notice that the architectural firm has preserved the original details of the interior of the space including a dramatic array of windows laid out as a semi-circle on one whole side of the office. In a city where most of the office workers are alienated from nature, it is good to see that from each workstation, one can see through a window. By offering not only daylight to the creative staff but also a view of NYC and 600 square feet of extensive green roof terrace, the office prides itself in following the biophilia philosophy.  And it shows!  Starting with the carpet tiles from the innovative company Interface that are laid out randomly to resemble a forest ground.  As the visit proceed, we also enjoy highly filtered air and I have to say overall the office “feels good”. There is a calming effect that I have not experienced in an office set up before. The combination of careful use of indoor sunlight, natural and artificial ambient and task light is “just enough”; I actually notice that it reinforces the balance between prospect and refuge of the space.  In terms of materials, the custom made plywood-base furnishings was finished to show the grain of the wood.  Thanks to the choice of the flexible materials the architects were able to create a spatial layout that feels organic and “natural” with curving forms and nooks (as opposed to typical lined up desks and cubbies). Interior plantings are striving across the office, adding to the biophilic features of the space.  

Overall the successful office proves again that the practice of biophilic design and connecting people with nature does provide not only comfortable but very productive places.

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