APELLA, NEW YORK, NY - Overlooking the East River of Manhattan on the campus of the East River Science Park, the design of this 16,000-square-foot state-of-the-art conference center metaphorically refers to the beacon-like illumination and guidance offered by the ancient lighthouse at Pharos, the symbol of Alexandria Real Estate the developer of the site.
After ascending a helix-shaped staircase from the building lobby, conference guests enter a luminous environment for the exchange of ideas that literally radiates light. Overall, a consistent palette of gloss-white ceilings, translucent glass walls and buff travertine floors tie the variety of meeting spaces together, even though each of these surfaces are separated by continuous slots of glowing light. Woven through this sparkling setting are a series of unexpected materials and spaces that support the metaphor of the lighthouse as a means to show the way to knowledge while simultaneously creating unexpected delight and wonder in the guests’ minds. Two glowing walls, comprised of thin slices of open-cell foamed aluminum (normally used as high-impact crash protection), act as material ‘guides’ that greet then lead guests from the reception area to the outlying meeting rooms. A screen wall of circular lenses, also at the reception area, magnifies the lacy texture of the luminous aluminum by directly utilizing prismatic lens technology first developed in the 1800’s by Augustin Fresnel to improve the intensity and focus of the light from lighthouses. A radiant ‘drapery’ of ten foot tall sandblasted resin tubes envelops the 120-seat main conference room, identifying it as the metaphorical source of light for the center and, by extension, the center from which knowledge will be disseminated. An undulating ceiling plane and the chalkboard-clad ‘service’ core at the center of the building are immediately adjacent to socializing and refreshment areas. These are characterized by oxidized raw steel walls and ceilings that have been pierced by solid glass hexagonal prisms originally used to channel light through ship decks into the cargo holds below.
The use of light and lighthouses in the design as a metaphor for the showing of the way to knowledge, combined with the unexpectedness of the conference center spaces and the materials that define them, kindles the creativity of every guest and sparks lively conversation between them.