Hudson’s Bay Company

SOM’s state-of-the-art design transforms a workplace into a showcase for modern masterpieces. Photography by Magda Biernat. Artwork by Pierre Dubreuil, set of 96 backlit vintage diapositives.

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With names like Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Gilt under its banner, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) needed a corporate hub that would blend form and function for its new headquarters in New York. The retail group turned to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to design a 350,000-square-foot space that consolidated the operations of each brand into one location—the Brookfield Place shopping center in Lower Manhattan.

A primary goal of the project design was to meet HBC’s day-to-day business needs while also providing an aesthetically pleasing environment for its employees. “The fashion and artwork activate the space,” says Jason Anderson, senior designer and project manager. “They are the protagonists.”

Gallery-like design showcases art
Indeed, the gallery-like setting is the first thing that catches the eye. With white walls and an expanse of windows in every corner, the attractive views of the harbor and city are highlighted to their best advantage.

Yet just as important as the unobstructed view of the skyline was the proper display of artworks that are part of HBC’s extensive holdings, a worksite amenity that is as priceless as the art itself. Begun when the company was first founded in 1670, the collection now boasts more than 3,000 pieces that are featured in its corporate offices in the United States, Canada, Germany, and Belgium.

Currently, there are more than 1,000 selections in the New York headquarters alone (and counting). “The works encompass the great masters and pioneers in creative photography, as well as pieces from a new generation of artists,” says Lisa Baker, director and chief curator of the HBC Global Art Collection.

Baker worked with her team to help design the ideal environment for displaying the assemblage. Filippo Brassesco, an independent Italian architect, handcrafted a detailed reproduction of the office, complete with furniture. “A large-scale model was made with each of the seven floors, which can be stacked together or displayed separately,” Anderson says. “Each piece of art has been reproduced to scale as well, so that the installation of the collection can be considered across the entire space holistically.“

Flexible spaces display fashion
So that the compositions would be the focus, neutral tones and streamlined detailing were used throughout. As Anderson notes, “The palette is very minimal and uniform so that it doesn’t clash with the art.” The result is an eclectic mix of traditional black-and-white images, computer-generated landscapes, and digital animations.

The visual splendor is not confined to the office, however. Employees and guests alike are encouraged to learn more about the works, even after the day is done. “Visitors can easily access additional information about the artworks and artists exhibited through the use of a mobile app,” Baker says. ”Interactive captions provide specific content relative to each piece, and all of the artwork that is catalogued is available to anyone on the collection’s website.”

There is a homogeneous look throughout the offices, but that doesn’t mean the areas are lacking in personality. Store photos, advertising imagery, and logos were culled from the HBC archives. They were then reproduced and placed in key areas to reinforce the distinct identity of each brand. As Roger Duffy, the design partner on the project notes, “There was room for branding in the lobby and the collaborative areas.”

After pulling the visual elements together, the team focused on HBC’s work functions, and the challenge of storage. While most office spaces need room for filing cabinets and standard shelving units, for the HBC group, high-density storage and display options for garments were essential. Conference rooms double as showrooms where the newest collections can be seen, while the clothes are displayed on stainless steel mesh grids that are easy to hang and tuck away when not in use.

There are also plenty of meeting areas and nooks indoors that foster a sense of camaraderie, as well as shops and restaurants just steps away. “Brookfield Place is like a small village,” Duffy notes.

For Baker, however, it is the art that’s key to bringing everyone together. “The artworks are exhibited in specially designed areas, and in dedicated working spaces throughout the offices.  They are intended to stimulate conversations and inspire associates and visitors to think differently.”

Interior designer: Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP. Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP project team: T.J. Gottesdiener, FAIA Managing Partner; Roger Duffy, FAIA Design Partner; Jason Anderson, AIA Senior Designer/Project Manager; Judy Betts, IIDA Lead Interior Designer; Brian Kaplan, AIA, IIDA, LEED, WELL Lead Technical Architect; Lauren Kosson, Materials Specialist. Project Management: Gardiner & Theobald. Fine Art Specialists: HBC Global Art Collection. HBC Global Art Collection team: Lisa Baker, Director and Chief Curator; Tania Brassesco, Associate Curator; Lazlo Passi Norberto, Associate Curator. Lighting: Onelux
what Wallcoverings: Maharam; Wolf Gordon; Forbo. Fabric wrapped panels: Knoll Textiles. Paint: Benjamin Moore; IdeaPaint. Laminate: Lamin-Art; Pionite. Interior lighting: DeltaLight; LF Illumination; Modular Lighting Instruments; Zumtobel; Flos; Holly Hunt; Robert Abbey. Glass: McGrory. Furniture: Herman Miller; Wilkhahn; Vitra; Bernhardt; Arper; Andreu World; Millwork and Upholstery; Lamin-Art; Kvadrat; B&B Italia; Fritz Hansen; Knoll; Walter Knoll; Tacchini; Kristalia; Porro; Agape Casa; De La Espada; Benchmark. Office Fronts: IOC. Hardware: Omnia; Rockwood. Tile: Basaltina. Ceilings: Armstrong Techzone. Carpet and Resilient Flooring: Mohawk. High-Density Filing: Spacesaver. Appliances: GE Monogram. Window Shades: MechoSystems. Plumbing Fixtures: Lovair; Kohler; Toto.

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