VSP Global has established a new home in The Shop East, an innovation lab that focuses on developing technologies for the physical and digital aspects of eyewear and eye care. For its new location on West 40th Street in New York City, VSP Global tasked Kostow Greenwood Architects to create a workplace design that would meet the demands of its team of creative entrepreneurs — designers, technicians, and researchers who are pushing the boundaries of industrial design and alternative manufacturing for the eyewear industry.
The result of a technology design firm collaborating with an architectural design firm was an efficient, solution-oriented, visually appealing work environment that is also fun, flexible and casually comfortable. The Shop East at VSP Global is a workplace designed to encourage creative disruption within an organized work environment. The intent is to maintain an open collaborative space, while simultaneously defining zones for different types of work for teams and individuals.
Design challenges for the new 13,500 square foot space, on two floors, included:
- An unfinished interior with little natural light despite having windows on three sides. It is anticipated that there will be even less natural light with the future completion of new construction blocking the western exposure.
- Connecting two floors to allow easy circulation and communication between the executive offices and the work teams.
- Creating a fun, flexible and open environment answering the diverse needs of technicians, fabricators, designers, executives, and visiting clients.
- A desire to have break-out work areas adjacent to the open office desks to support social and small group work interactions.
- The collaborative collective consciousness of the work team produces a trail of ideas that need to be captured and easily displayed in a way conducive to their workflow.
The new space features two executive offices, one management office, 24 open workstations, three technology areas (known as The Toaster, The Color Library, and The Rapid Prototype Machine Room); three conference rooms; and two break rooms with pantries. Desired design features included:
- A playground space for creative, open workspace that encourages collaborative working sessions and exchange of diverse viewpoints within the studio.
- Specific areas are designed for group collaboration. Standing-height long narrow “tables” with writable surfaces are located between the workstations and are ideal for brainstorming and sketch sessions.
- The suspended soffit articulates the open loft space of the early 1900’s commercial building. It visually defines the open work areas and the support spaces, terminating at the floor in two locations — as storage cabinetry in The Color Library and a drink station for one of the pantry areas.
- The soffit houses the recessed lighting over The Color Library and work counter adjacent the spiral stairs. The soffit is also the boundary for the major mechanical equipment thus hiding the locations of supply air grilles/ductwork that feed the open workstations and keep the main space ceiling open. The soffit, along with the circular lights, delineate a ceiling plane within the exposed ceiling system and neither item extends above this line, making the underside of the structure above appear higher than it actually is.
- Customized storage solutions. Since product design is an evolutionary process, the cabinetry in The Color Library was designed to permit effortless storing and retrieving of eyeglass storage trays which contain countless design iterations.
- Extensive felt tackable wall facilitates group work processes, efficient exchange of information, brainstorming and decision-making. The felt wall covering also provides some sound absorption to mitigate some of the acoustical challenges of creating an open space that supports creative work and collaboration.
- Economic and sustainable results of having selected certain energy efficient elements like LED lighting.
An example of the intersection of design and technology is The Color Library at VSP Global. The color specialist there shared the following insights:
How many settings for the overhead light?
The countertop controller allows for four customizable scenes which are programmed from a computer where the lights to any color in spectrum can be altered. Each of the four settings can also be dimmed up or down from the countertop controller.
What are the different light settings and how do they differ? Why are different settings important?
The four preset scenes are: Daylight, Retail, Incandescent, and Stadium. Daylight and Retail are probably the two most used to understand how the product will look in context.
Briefly describe the types of work tasks performed in this area.
The color library area with the overhead color correct lighting was designed mainly for accurate color selection from color chips to final product. The types of work tasks depend on the phase of a project. Tasks can range from pulling initial material samples to begin to “sketch” what direction a project might take, or presenting final samples for production.
How is this area designed to best allow you to perform the tasks, both individually and working with a team?
Having a dedicated space to physically arrange materials and products makes for a much more inclusive and collaborative process. We have had this before in the past, but always in a separate room and not integrated into the greater design area. Ideally everyone, designers, technicians, and researchers, will use this area to brainstorm and develop new design. This way of working relates directly to our mission that color is not the last step of the design process, but is an integrated part of the design process from beginning to end.