Yes, That’s a Climbing Wall in the Office. RFR’s Seagram Building Debuts ‘Playground’

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Before the pandemic, Wells Fargo decided to give up 400,000 square feet at the Seagram Building, leaving half of the Park Avenue office tower vacant. 

RFR, the owner of the 38-story Modernist monument, decided it would need to add a new amenity center to the building in order to fill an anchor tenant-size hole. 

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Dubbed “the Playground,” the new space occupies 23,500 square feet in the cellar and subcellar, taking over part of Wells Fargo’s former offices and some of the building’s parking garage. The upper floor includes open lounge areas and conference rooms. The Playground covers only half of the lower floor, allowing the architects to glass in two walls that look out over a double-height basketball-pickleball court with a climbing wall in back. When people are hanging out in the upstairs lounge or the conference rooms, they’ll be able to see co-workers climbing or playing basketball downstairs. 

“When you’re in a meeting and you see someone climbing by, it’s not expected,” said David Burns, a principal at STUDIOS who worked on the project.

The architects wanted the space to feel whimsical and fun. The two floors are linked by a black steel staircase, facing a wall screen printed with an abstract image of a basketball hoop in red and yellow hues. It leads to a bright yellow lounge upstairs, which features a wall of shelves lined with basketballs, volleyballs and books about the history of the Seagram Building. There are also two large conference rooms upstairs — a boardroom and a presentation-oriented training room — that overlook the court and climbing wall.

There are other exercise options on the lower floor. Just off the court is a group cycling room with spin bikes, a weight room, a multi-
purpose room for yoga and pilates, and a high-intensity interval training area with punching bags. The court floor is designed in varying shades of blue, with yellow outlines for basketball, and a large feature wall has been screen-printed with images of iconic Manhattan buildings in blue. The court can also be converted to an all-hands meeting area with retractable wooden bleachers, two different retractable screens, projectors, chairs, and backboards that swing up and out of the way. 

Another open lounge rounds out the lower floor with Modernist gray armchairs, an open kitchen, red modular couches, a pingpong table, a strip of artificial turf beneath the stairs, and two sets of white circular cafe tables with matching chairs. 

While design work on the project started in September 2019, construction didn’t begin until the fall of 2021 and wrapped a year later. David Must, an associate principal at STUDIOS who worked on the project, said that the focus was on attracting younger companies that might want to take smaller office footprints. 

“Initially, it was just conferencing and a lounge,” said Must. “In order to attract newer, smaller companies, they needed to appeal to a totally different demographic. There was some back and forth on [removing] parking. They were using this time when the building was not as occupied as it would be, and they saw it as an opportunity to take advantage of this downtime.”

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com