DEVELOPING MODERN AESTHETICS FOR A LEADING TECH COMPANY’S OFFICES IN MANHATTAN WAS MADE MORE CHALLENGING BY THE 87-YEAR-OLD HISTORIC BUILDING’S ARCHITECTURE.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC LAIGNEL

Creating a workspace for one of the most renowned technology companies in the world in one of the most famous landmarks in America is no easy feat — especially when that company is LinkedIn and the location is the Empire State Building.

IA Interior Architects – a globally recognized design firm with offices that include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C., as well as Toronto and London – was tasked with designing the 28th floor of the company’s Manhattan sales office space. The result is an impressive and innovative mix of hospitality and workplace elements that seamlessly blends corporate branding with individual personalization for its employees.

According to Gary Bouthillette, Senior Lighting Designer at IA Interior Architects, “It was important for the space to retain and reflect the character of its location in the Empire State Building, but still have the freedom to convey LinkedIn’s branding identity and core values in creative ways. IA’s interiors and environmental graphic design teams established a number of engaging themed design zones around the floor, so supporting each theme through lighting was our mandate,” he says.

Not only does LinkedIn’s 28th floor feature eye-grabbing color, but there is also a nice mix of lighting fixtures. IA selected two varieties of fixtures for this space for several reasons. “The open office, meeting, and circulation area fixtures were intended to not draw much attention, even though many occur in open ceilings and are very exposed,” Bouthillette explains. “Luminaires such as the adjustable cylinder lights from Lucifer Lighting are very simple, but have a lot of flexibility to be focused and aimed where needed. The open-office fixtures by Birchwood are surface-mounted to the deck above, but throw enough light up and to the sides to [illuminate] the open ceiling pretty well to enhance the feeling of spaciousness. The other group of fixtures is more decorative and help support the design themes of the various vignettes located around the floor,” he notes, adding, “There are a lot of one-offs like the red Lumetta drum in the ‘red lounge.’ Many of the decorative fixtures support historical imagery in the interior and graphic designs.”

Bold color and distinctive lighting visually divide the open work area to create comfy seating areas that afford privacy and a more laid-back vibe.

LinkedIn’s office space is a great example of innovative next-generation workplace surroundings, and the lighting plays a critical role in ensuring its success. “The lighting aims to enhance the mood of each micro-environment that staff and visitors encounter as they follow blue architectural ribbon around the floor,” Bouthillette reveals. “You pass through zones of very dappled light at the informal lounges, brighter but soft light as you enter office areas, and see a variety of lighting eye candy along the way.”

Bouthillette points out that the branded elements are more fixed – such as the customized “in” lightabove the pool table – while zones that could be personalized by the staff allow for more flexibility and re-aiming, such as the “picture frame” corridor.

The lighting fixtures run the gamut in styles and brands. For general and accent lighting, products from Birchwood, Lucifer Lighting, Focal Point, USAI, Prudential, Tech Lighting, CALI, XAL, and 3G Lighting were installed. For decorative lighting, the design team utilized a mix of fixtures from Sonneman, Lumetta, Restoration Hardware, Innermost, Baselite, and Bourbon Street Lightworks. Color Kinetics was chosen for the color-changing lighting effect in the elevator lobby, and Enlighted was selected for lighting controls.

For this casual, but elegantly appointed, lounge area, white track fixtures provide ambient lighting that blends into the ceiling while a decorative chandelier adds character.

Every project has its own particular challenges, and this one was no different. It was the structure itself that Bouthillette and his team found to be the most complicated. “The Empire State Building is such a unique building, there’s a surprise around every corner! No two beams are alike, no two column bays are alike,” he recalls. “When designing there, you really have to accept the fact that changes will need to happen along the way. It’s best for the lighting elements to be flexible by design.”

Overall, it’s the process of successfully overcoming design hurdles that keeps Bouthillette on his toes and creatively motivated and inspired. “I think there’s much more of a sense that if you have a unique design idea, there’s a lighting manufacturer or fabricator out there willing to help develop it,” he concludes. “Of course technology has helped with that too, like LED light sources we can rely on. The fact that the lighting industry itself feels more innovative is what’s exciting.”

After completing LinkedIn’s 28th floor in the Empire State Building, Bouthillette and his team designed the lighting for 20+ floors at the LinkedIn Tower in downtown San Francisco.

GALLERY