Redevelopment factory area
Said property had gone through several metamorphoses since its genesis in 1902. Located at Inner Harbor East, now a redevelopment area, the 00,000-sq.-ft. Bagby building is made of masonry bearing walls and timber frames, and originally housed its manufacturing facilities.
At some stage, the factory was retired, and the entire space was given over to showrooms. Long before then, in 1907, a metal structure housing a kiln for storing and drying timber (today it’s a 1,000-sq.-ft, conference center) was acquired, and a 1962 concrete-block addition (now linked to the main body by an atrium with skylight) brought the square footage to 100,000, in 1990, Bagby went out of business. In 1996, Gensler was awarded the twofold job of rehabilitating the building and designing Eisner Communications.
Objectives topping the client’s wish list, Banks and Trujillo report, were: to preserve the venue’s industrial character; to accommodate the creative staff in quarters conducive to maxing morale and titillating teamwork; and utilize the structural openness so that visiting clients and prospects, encouraged to tour the premises, come to know that nothing is hidden and that, in fact, they and their agency are partners in the creative process.
The layering of open levels scored with catwalks and, at midpoint, stairs, rooms, indeed forms a grand route for people-at-work viewing.
On the point of industrial character, much preparatory work had to be done by way of reincarnating, repairing, and excising before constructive work could start. (Speaking with feeling, Trujillo recalls his first impression: “Dirty, dangerous, and a floor full of holes.”) Two loading docks were deleted, but the massive 9-ft.-by-6-ft. metal doors, complete with original hardware, were retained.
New ductwork, wiring, HVAC, and three passenger elevators were installed. As mandated by the Maryland Historical Trust, replacement windows, the original glazing being beyond redemption, had to match old single-pane models. And brickwork, rather than being scraped and scoured, was sprayed with high-pressure water so as to cleanse the surface yet preserve traces of the original white paint. (Nostalgia knows no bounds.)
To these legacies of decades past, the design team added, where appropriate, under-lit glass floors at selected corridor ends; textured and translucent fiberglass panels screwed to wood studs; pendant, track, commercial toilet, sofas, and marine light fixtures bought mainly from industrial catalogues (i.e., they were cheap); and interior scaffolding from/on which to hang, insert, mount, prop, or clip posters, print adverts, graphics, you name it. Daylight, cross-filtered through the translucent panels, is a prime source of illumination.
Dubbed “brand factories”–brand being the new-age heir to corporate image, but factory fitting the industrial theme–workplaces for creative teams ranging from senior account execs up to writers are spread over three large sectors.
One is behind the reception desk, two are on the second floor. Staffers have private offices, and all engage in collaborative efforts. The habit of forming and regrouping human nuclei to consider and dissect all sorts of ideas is somewhat similar to architects’ design studios, the Gensler duo notes. Of 120 Eisner employees overall, less than ten percent toil from open work stations.
Including preliminary studies, the designers spent about three years on the job. Other key participants were project principal Diane J. Hoskins, designer Barbara Noguera-Frye, project manager Anne Runow, graphic designer Stephen Magner, and project architects Ebong Ukor, Tom Gregory, Eric Stultz, Matthew Ford, and Hansoo Kim. Construction costs came to $15 million.