Pentagram Design
New York Office

When I joined Pentagram we were located at 212 Fifth Avenue high above the corner of 26th and Fifth. It was a beautiful space with large copper-clad windows and spectacular views. But it was a designed years before the arrival of the newest younger partners (Michael Bierut and Paula Scher, preceding me) and we needed a place to call our own.

Every day on the way home I would pass a remarkable building, just steps away, at 204 Fifth Avenue. It was once home to MK, an era-defining club that just a few years earlier had opened in what was then called West Chelsea. A short while later MK was gone, leaving a succession of less and less inventive nightclubs until the Department of Consumer Affairs closed it for 'forgetting' to pay their taxes.

The building, designed by CPH Gilbert was built in 1913 just as the more famous architect Cass Gilbert (apparently no relation) was building the Woolworth Building. Built for Lincoln Trust, a bank later bought by Chase Manhattan Bank, 204 Fifth Avenue was sold in 1976 to a family clothing business, A.Altman, who used it for a dozen years before renting it to MK.

One day in 1994 I passed the building and noticed a small fluorescent green hand lettered sign in the arched window: "For Rent". I toured the beer-soaked building that day amidst the remnants of a flooded basement and blacked out front and rear windows. It took a few days to figure out how Pentagram might fit into the building and almost no time to convince my partners that we should pursue it. We couldn't pay as much rent as a club might, but we promised to actually pay the rent (unlike the latest club) and take good care of the building. The Altmans agreed to a reasonable lease and we spent a whopping $43 per square foot renovating the building.

We moved one day without even leaving the sidewalk as everything simply rolled to the new address. Immediately it felt like home, with my own dog in residence (and later Paula's two dogs), a street level entrance and a domestic scale matching some Fifth Avenue townhouses further north; we finally had an office of our own. The move occurred just as computers were a necessity for every designer and the new office was built for this game change. The elevation of Pentagram's visibility, with new partners and a new home identifiable to all who passed, was game changing as well. The building is now an integral part of Pentagram's identity in New York. Until the next time some young partners want to make a place to call their own!

The early renovation shown here has been updated a number of times (note early CRT monitors!) in the 15 years since we first moved in, but the structure is essentially unchanged.

And my new office is in the other Gilbert building (this one by Cass) built in 1913; the Woolworth Building.