Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade
The soon-to-open IAC/InterActiveCorp headquarters in New York is primarily being hailed as Frank Gehryys first building in the city, but it is so much more. Sited on the Far West Side in Chelsea, the ten-story billowing glass structure, which resembles a crystalline snow globe by day and a Creamsicle by night, is a flagship building for the booming Internet company.Yet it is also a catalyst to further development in the area that will sooner rather than later transform the neighborhood it was designed to complement. Right now, that neighborhood includes truck garages and storage warehouses, a womenns prison, and, lately, a few chic galleries. But they serve the IAC building well as a gritty brick backdrop against which its milky white slopes can swell and stand out.
The setting that shows this dynamic gem off to best advantage is changing fast. Across narrow 19th Street, excavation is underway for Jean Nouvells 20- story condo that, in renderings, appears to be encrusted in giant mirrored Post-it notes. Immediately behind the Gehry building, 520 West Chelsea, an 11-story condo by Annabelle Selldorf, is rising with just enough space between the two, purportedly, to squeeze in a condo-cumgallery in the near future by Shigeru Ban. Other apartments by Robert A. M. Stern and Neil Denari are also in the works well within visual encroachment range. Such an embarrassment of riches makes one wonder if a new zoning rule stipulating only one icon per block ought to be put into effect.
Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade
The IAC headquarters has a compact, dynamic scale that more than holds its own against the behemoth Chelsea Piers that stretches for blocks just across the West Side Highway. The tall-shipsat- full-sail metaphorran incredibly romantic conceit for jaded Manhattann that inspired the buildinggs form is experienced most immediately and effectively by the cars whizzing by on the adjacent highway, making the IAC the cityys first LA building. The pedestrian experience is less welcoming: sheer featureless walls on all three street sides with a slight bulge and no signage to speak, not even an easily discernible entrance. Apparently, Barry Diller, IACCs chairman and chief executive officer, was adamant that no signs should mar the structurees monolithic It-ness. Bruce Mau, hired to handle graphics throughout, has complied with an exceedingly diffident aluminum bar protuberanceea kind of anti-marqueeeover the main entrance, on 18th Street.
Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade
In a January 11, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal, Diller was quoted as saying he wanted a building that was a wondrous environmentt of its own. And so it comes as a surprise that the interiorssapart from a few very glitzy gesturesshave such a scattered look. The flashiest feature is the 118-footlong video wall in the lobby (one of two envisioned by Gehry and Mau and produced by McCann Systems, Trollbbck + Company, and Warren Z Productions) powered by 18 12,000-lumen projectors and streaming a collage of images of flowers, client product endorsements, and art projects. The video screen will be somewhere between advertising and art,, said Eric Levin, an associate director in the companyys real estate department, on a recent tour that included a stop behind the video wall to see a sound-andlight setup worthy of a Madonna tour.
The treatment of the glass curtain wall makes for a more contemplative but no less technologically daring display. Much has been written about how the curvature in the glass was achieved by coldbending the glass on-site. Less familiar is the fascinating fact that it was not the flexibility of the glass but the tensile strength of the silicone adhesive anchoring the fourth corner of each sheet of glass to the frame that determined a maximum torque (up to 4 inches). Oddly, the best place to see the effect is on the back side, where the building rotates up to 150 degrees as it rises unbroken from the ground up. (A zoning- mandated sixth-floor setback breaks up the volume on the front and sides.)
Up close, the glass surface has a busy, pulsating pattern. Clear across each middle section (at a point where people of average height might stand to look out), the glass then shades gradually to opaque white due to miniscule ceramic frit dots arranged in irregular waves that collect at their densest at top and bottom. This irregular wave patterning creates a striated look recalling a Xerox machine thatts running out of toner ink. The glass, like the building itself, seems intended for viewing from a distance.
Studios Architecture designed the interiors on all the floors except the sixth, where the executive offices are located. The partnership with Gehry (who was responsible for the interior of the lobby and the sixth floor) is a compatible one, marked with a predilection for bright colors, lots of patterns, and shiny surfaces. The glass partitions and doors leading to the private offices on nonexecutive floors are the color of Tropical Fruit Lifesavers. Austin Powersorange seating pods dot the floor, and supergraphics by Mau cover the elevator landing walls. Gehry installed a rug with a tiger-striped pattern in Dillerrs executive suite. It all screams Youth! Creativity! Energy!! which could become tiresome in the long run.
Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade
Attempts at unifying the interior space fall flat. Each floor has a constant 8-foot wall that serves as a datum line to counteract ceiling heights that are the 91⁄2 feet on lower floors and the 101⁄2 feet on upper floors. A plenum below each floor slab is recessed from the angled facade, creating space for a constant 4-foot-deep perimeter cove light, which accounts for the buildinggs nighttime glow. A problem arises, however, at the messy juncture of cove edge, private office clerestory, and tilted facade.
At the Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT in Boston, which opened in 2004, Gehry was allowed more latitude in plugging things together with an ad-hoc haphazardness that comes across as vigorous and dynamic. Here, attempts to tame irregularities merely look slipshod and fussy. For instance, columns along the perimeter are planted parallel to the glass, meaning they tilt, some as much as 20 degrees. Meanwhile, interior columns are straight but not arranged in any particular rhythm. They align instead with the columns above and below on floor plates that are themselves rotated. Trying to impose visual order is a losing proposition here, and aesthetically counterproductive. Let creative impulses reign.
If only the approach to the interiors had been executed with the same spirit of derring-do as the building itself, the IAC would be the wondrous object Diller intended. As is, passers-byybe they on foot or in a car, without much time to pick out detailssare the ones who can best enjoy its considerable thrill.
JULIE V. IOVINE IS AN'S ARCHITECTURE CRITIC. SHE CONTRIBUTES TO THE NEW YORK TIMES, ART & CULTURE, ART REVIEW (UK), DEPARTURES, AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS.
IAC Headquarters In Detail
CURTAIN WALL CONSULTANT AND FABRICATOR
Frank Gehryys designs have often challenged manufacturers and contractors to develop new systems. In the case of the IAC/ InterActiveCorp headquarterss curtain wall, Gehry Partners and building envelope engineer/manufacturer Permasteelisa collaborated using a centralized 3D computer model to accomplish everything from the design and fabrication of its panel shapes to the positioning of its anchoring system.
Unlike a rectilinear building whose curtain wall units are by and large identical, skinning IAC required a variety of panel shapes to form a tight wrapper for the designns billowing sail-like forms. The designers determined the shape of each panel on the model and then fed this data directly into an automated fabrication process that cut the aluminum and glass. Of the 1,450 curtain wall units, 1,150 are unique.
Permasteelisa manufactured the panels flat, but once on site, bent them into place, in a process called cold warping. Installers connected three corners of each unit first then manually forced the fourth into place, literally contorting the glass and metal and giving IAC itts curvy looks. This puts enormous stress on each panells perimeter seal, so to prepare the units for cold warping, Permasteelisa specially designed each silicon seal with the glass fabricator.
This created an extremely rigid cladding system that required construction tolerances much smaller than most contractors are used to working within. According to Alberto Gobbi, president of Permasteelisa, the curtain wall had only 1⁄8 inch of flub room, whereas the concrete frame could be expected to vary an inch in any direction from the idealize model. To address this issue, Permasteelisa designed a special anchoring system that could absorb tolerances between frame and curtain wall. Composed of horizontal and vertical aluminum brackets, the anchors bolt to the slab edge and can slide three dimensionally until the connection point is reached. To find the connection point, Permasteelisaas survey team used the 3D model in conjunction with a GPS system and lasers to triangulate the exact location.
This is Frank Gehryys first major glass building, and as it turns out, titanium and stainless steel are a lot easier to make conform to his signature curves than glass panels. Although the solar shading company MechoShade had worked with Gehry Partners before on projects like Bard College Performing Arts Center in the Hudson Valley and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, The IAC building literally presented us with a new twist,, said company vice president Glen Berman.
More than three-quarters of the unitized glass panels that make up the IACCs cladding have a compound curve, so standard roller shades would never match both the window head and sill. In order to conform to the buildinggs irregular geometry, MechoShade (with the support of Studios Architecture) created more than one thousand customtwisted shades, all individually motorized. By modifying the systemms hardware, we were able to twist the shades up to 30 degrees, matching and exceeding the slight twist of IAC glass panels,, said Berman. We developed an innovative technology for these types of structures.. Berman hopes that the new system will be ready for market very shortly, because the IAC is clearly not the last building that will use twisted and torqued forms.
STICK-BUILT WALL SYSTEM
DIRTT ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS
Designing interiors to match a building by Frank Gehry can be a daunting task. When DIRTT (Do It Right This Time) heard that much of the budget for the IAC building was devoted to the facade, and that the custom scheme by STUDIOS architecture (the firm in charge of the interiors) was prohibitively expensive, the 2-year-old Canadian company pitched its Stick-built modular wall system to the construction manager. The Stick Built walls not only conform to the irregular shapes dictated by Gehryys design and maintain STUDIOOs vibrant color scheme but they also fit the budget. It saved them a ton of money,, said Akua Lesesne. The savings stem from the modular nature of the walls, which are essentially a lattice of steel frames into which DIRTTTs or locally-sourced glass can be installed. Lesesne said that unlike custom work, the Stick-Built Walls eliminate the waste and time of cutting and disposing of glass on-site, or shipping it from the factory, both of which save time, money, and the environment.
Corporate art is so passs: These days, video screens often adorn a businesss walls instead. IAC/InterActiveCorp has even gone so far as to make video an integral part of the design of its new headquarters. Motorists on the West Side Highway will catch an eyeful of the 118-foot-long video wall displayed in the buildinggs lobby like a huge indoor billboard. At night, the bright projections will be visible through the buildinggs glass facade. Prominent design firm Trollbbck + Company has created advertising for IAC brands such as Ask.com and Match.com for the wall, but this is just the beginning. By June, the programming will include a mix of projects from video artists, students, and even community organizations.
While its sheer size and visibility make the west video wall the flashiest display in the building, itts far from the only one. On the east side of the lobby, a finely detailed image of Earth will shine on a 20-by-11-foot display surface. Using handheld touch screens, lobby visitors will be able to spin the high-res virtual globe to find the companyys offices around the world, get real-time statistics on Web traffic for IACCs many businesses, and launch live TV feeds from a company network. Warren Z and Tank Design helped to create the content for the interactive installation.
Elsewhere around the building, staffers will use video for virtual collaboration.The headquarters is designed to be a gathering point for employees from around the world, and when people cannt make it to New York, video is the next best thing. The buildinggs eight office floors feature more than 20 meeting facilities outfitted with highdefinition videoconferencing equipment and large plasma smartboards devoted to video or the Web.
Not surprisingly, the IAC had to enlist a full-time AV engineer to oversee the buildinggs videoconference equipment, video walls and other audiovisual systems, said Eric Levin, an associate director in IACCs real estate department. But the payoff is clear: For a company whose mission to promote interactive technologies, a high-tech ddcor is more than a luxury.