The Story Behind Brookfield Place
Scott Spector April 22, 2015, 2:42 p.m.
Sometimes the most important parts of a project are the ones that no one can see.
Case in point: Several weeks ago, I, along with many others, took a subway ride down to Brookfield Place for the project’s much anticipated grand opening celebration. It was one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever taken Downtown. After all, I had been visiting Brookfield Place regularly for more than a decade now, witnessing the early phases of design into heavy construction and now, coming full circle, the realization of all those ideas for all to see and experience. However, many people there that day, including those of you who have been reading article after article about the site’s transformation, had no idea what an intricate behind- the-scenes effort went into the Brookfield Place that stands today.
As executive architect, we had the task of coordinating and overseeing the project’s many team members, from design architects to specialty consultants. We were charged with making sure the overarching vision was achieved. We worked closely with Brookfield to develop the “master plan” concept and then divide it from a massive project into smaller, more manageable pieces. The challenge of that was that each separate component needed to work well or the sum of the project could be compromised. Adding to the complexity was that each piece has its very own budget and schedule that needed to be adhered to.
We reviewed design detail after design detail, checking for consistency and measuring each concept against that ultimate vision for Brookfield Place. Our missives? To refresh and revamp the World Financial Center; to bring about a cleaner, more modern look without a substantial change to the footprint; and to make the retail element truly shine.
It sounds much simpler than it was. For this to be possible, a deep understanding of the existing buildings and infrastructure was needed. We spearheaded this role, literally climbing through the cellar to see what could be moved and what couldn’t. It was critical that we understand the bones of the building, even if it required a hands-on approach, so that we knew the limitations of what could be done (and what couldn’t) and could communicate them to the team.
While many were focused on the beauty of what would be Le District and the pavilion, our minds were on details such as proper egress and tenant guidelines. Without this kind of attention, the headline-grabbing development many turned out to see that opening day would not have been possible.
For instance, had we not worked with the team to figure out a solution and coordinate a new path for the ductwork that runs through the tenant and retail spaces, the design would have needed to be altered significantly. The solution we came up with saved money and preserved the design integrity. At one point, we had to figure out how to place the fire command station so that its presence did not interfere with the retail facades and elevations. We were able to achieve this by relocating the station within the design of the stairs. Mission accomplished.
After nine-plus years of tireless work from the entire project team, the big day had arrived. We were pleased to be part of the back work that helped bring Brookfield Place to fruition. Walking through those crowds last month, I smiled knowing that what could not be seen by the everyday passerby could certainly be felt.