Inside Architecture Firm FXCollaborative’s New Brooklyn Office

Airy, collaborative and bright: Here's what happens when the architect is on both sides of the blueprints

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Five years after signing the first lease at what was then an under-construction office tower in Downtown Brooklyn, architecture firm FXCollaborative has unveiled its new 40,000-square-foot office at One Willoughby Square. 

FXCollaborative also designed the building itself, a 34-story office property at 420 Albee Square, adjacent to City Point shopping mall. The T-shaped lot presented some challenges, which FXCollaborative figured out how to use to its advantage when planning its offices.

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“It can be challenging to plan a T-shaped office on that site,” said Michael Syracuse, a partner at the prolific residential architecture firm. “In the base of the T is all the restrooms, the elevators. Then you get a great large studio space that is 50 by 100 feet, and column-free, a long span that’s daylit. We planned our offices to leverage that layout.”

FXCollaborative occupies the seventh, eighth and ninth floors, which are the first stories after the building’s setback. As a result, the firm gets two terraces: a large one off its seventh-floor gathering space and another on the ninth floor. Every other floor of the building includes a terrace. (The second through sixth floors are to be occupied by a design-focused public high school, dubbed DesignWorks, opening this fall.)

The seventh floor is FXCollaborative’s “public-facing floor,” said Syracuse, and includes the reception area, an open gallery space with chairs and tables for events and meetings, a kitchen and three large conference rooms. The gallery will display art from outside artists, and it has recently hosted meetings for the American Institute of Architects and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. The attached, covered terrace features a wooden ceiling, adding a design element to the outdoor seating area. 

The overall aesthetic is quite minimalist, with a rectangular reception desk covered in black and silver panels, a gray and white kitchenette, light wood floors, white walls and a white ceiling. A black-painted steel center stair begins by the reception desk and snakes through all three floors, complete with wooden steps and railings.  Each floor also has large, open work areas with bench-style desks, paired with smaller open meeting areas next door and a handful of enclosed phone rooms and smaller conference rooms. 

“The democratic nature of the studio space is important,” said Syracuse. “We’re all benching. There’s not separate partners [offices] or anything like that. And giving everyone access to daylight and natural views is important. From a technical perspective these open areas can be challenging, so we have a white noise system throughout the space.”

A system of speakers plays what Syracuse described as “a noisy HVAC system” to help cover up the sound of conversation in the open office.

The firm also secured LEED Platinum status for the space by modifying the ventilation system to bring in more outside air, adding 270 sensors that adjust the lighting based on occupancy, and installing 40 thermostats that change heat, temperature and ventilation based on how many people are in the office and where they’re sitting.

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