What If Goes For It

Innovation pioneer ?What If! redesigns its NYC office to reflect the company’s unique blend of creativity and know-how

05/03/2013 By Elianne Halbersberg
Photography by James Chororos

What If lobby light What If Lobby Reception What If Kitchen What If Supercow What If Beehive What If Beehive 2 What If Cafe What If Cafe Banquette What If Phone Booths What If Playground Entrance What If Extrovert Room What If Meeting Room What If Lobby Floor What If Stuyvesant Polyclinic building

When you spend your days daring others to be different, there comes a certain expectation that you’ll follow your own advice. For leading innovation company ?What If!, the renovation of its U.S. headquarters proved to be just the opportunity.

Housed in the East Village’s historic Stuyvesant Polyclinic building since 2008, the company had outgrown the facilities and needed an environment that more accurately reflected their corporate ethos—a unique blend of audacity and authenticity that has attracted clients like Google and Kraft.

“They’d grown up there, and they needed something appropriate to display their sense of community and how they work,” says Colin Brice, principal of Mapos, the NYC design firm tapped by ?What If! to lead the project.

Mapos limited its work to the building’s interior, creating a range of open workspaces, meeting rooms and private spaces in existing areas and with minimal demolition. The limitations proved to be both challenging and advantageous for the design team.

“We have several tenets that we live and work by, and one is ‘Challenges equal opportunities,’” says Brice. “?What If! had this asset: this beautiful, historic building. Sure, it was a bit run down, but let’s leverage the existing textures and materials, uncover them, clean them up and put on a fresh coat of paint, and let the building be the star of the show.

“The opportunity is ‘Let’s balance that,’” he continues. “We’re not going to put on a historical pastiche. Let’s put in some clean lines, bring in contemporary furniture, design some custom light fixtures, new materials, great new colors, and put them in this beautiful, old setting. That balance of old and new, to us, was a great personification of the ?What If! brand: a collection of things that, when done right, really work well together.”

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