Corporate Transparency: Rafael Viñoly reimagines the glass office building with a continuous workspace that wraps around a central atrium.
Architects & Firms
East Hanover, New Jersey
To visit Building 337 on the Novartis campus in East Hanover, New Jersey, is to walk through it with awe, something akin to what visitors to Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building must have felt a century ago. Just as Wright transformed the workspace with that long-demolished Buffalo, New York, icon, architect Rafael Viñoly has reimagined what has since become the ubiquitous glass-box office building with a light-filled, spatially innovative, and flawlessly executed structure whose spiraling interior invokes another Wright masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum.
Though not quite a ramp, the spiral rises through five levels within the 75-foot-tall structure thanks to a generous 167-foot-by-333-foot footprint. The project would not have been possible in an urban location, since a smaller site would not have allowed for the gentle slope needed to wrap the workplace as a continuous floor. The walkway-cum-workspace—which culminates in two rooftop gardens at opposite corners of the building—invites occupants to climb on foot to their workstations. Should one choose to take the elevator, buttons call out “neighborhoods” rather than floor numbers. Composed of 55-square-foot modules, for which the architects designed over 50 configurations of workstations and freestanding demountable conference rooms, each neighborhood is separated by three steps, and accompanied by an ADA-compliant ramp. Maple lines the floors and ceilings, adding warmth to work areas within an open structure dominated by clear glass, painted steel, and exposed concrete. While private offices were eliminated, individual workstations—developed in collaboration with Vitra—are luxurious by contemporary standards.
The largest of three recently completed office buildings for Novartis's oncology department on the campus's East Village Promenade (and connected to its two neighbors via the basement), the 286,000-square-foot structure accommodates 800 workstations for the development team. To facilitate the collaborative nature of that endeavor, three large conference rooms span the center of the building's atrium and are offset from each other at various levels. Suspended from solid steel rods hung from the roof structure, each is subdivided into a small and a large meeting room for up to 12 and 20 people respectively, and features electric privacy glass that switches from transparent to opaque when in use. The ground level includes a 300-person conference center flanked by smaller video conference rooms and pre-function spaces. At the opposite end of the floor, adjacent to the building entrance, is a casual employee restaurant with a slanting geometric ceiling—the building's one whimsical gesture.
Though it may appear that glass fins running along the height of the building are strictly an embellishment of the facade, in fact, the 2-foot-deep panels contain a subtle frit pattern and serve as an external shading device. Placed perpendicularly to the triple-glazed panels of the exterior walls, the fins are installed without steel mullions, their structural glass able to transfer lateral wind loads. By turning the corner at the roof rather than abruptly ending there, the glass facade takes on the appearance of blurring into infinity.
The interiors have an infinite feeling as well. Triple-glazed skylights span the entire roof, bringing daylight deep into the building's open core and allowing views up to the sky from ground level. A photovoltaic array on the roof provides 8.22 percent of the building's energy. Chilled beams provide heating and cooling, and air is distributed laterally through the skylight support steel.
Impeccably constructed and beautifully furnished, this building seems to be one in which no expense was spared—though not in an ostentatious way. According to Rolland, however, employing a simple palette and limiting finishes kept costs reasonable. He also points to Novartis's intelligent management of the process. For example, the client built a full-scale facade mock-up right after schematic design rather than during the construction phase, so adjustments could be made before bidding to avoid change orders.
Viñoly has taken a lot of flak for his recent London office tower, dubbed the Walkie Talkie: the building generated enough glare and heat from the sun bouncing off its curved facade to melt the plastic parts and paintwork of cars parked nearby. But Building 337 seems to be beyond reproach. The architects credit Novartis as an extremely enlightened client that understands the design process, challenges the architect, and reaps the rewards of design innovation. The result is one of their best buildings. In Viñoly's words, “It is the very rare example of a pure design idea making it to reality uncompromised.”
Formal name of building:
Gross square footage:
Total project cost:
Total construction cost:
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Engineers (MEP / FP / Sustainability Engineers):
Engineers (Structural Steel and Glass Engineers):
Acoustics, AV / IT, and Vibration:
Waterproofing and Roofing:
Food Service & Waste Management:
Wayfinding and Signage:
Bruce Damonte Photography
286,000 square feet
List type, e.g. concrete or steel frame, wood, etc.:
Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project: Steelfab, Inc. fabricated the structural steel framing for the building as well as the specialty structural steel for the long span staircases and the atrium glass boxes.
Nordic Contracting Inc. cast the exposed architectural concrete walls.
Stainless Steel and Glass Curtain wall +Metal Panels, : Gartner
Elastomeric: Custom Sarnafil roofing assembly created by Gartner
Curtainwall Glass: Saint Gobain Triple Glazed Units (Double Insulated)
Skylights: Saint Gobain Triple Glazed Units (Double Insulated) with High-Performance E Coating
Other: Structurally Glazed Atrium Conference Rooms with Electrified Glass by Pulp Studios 'Switchlite' and installed by National Glass & Metal Co.
Interior glass panels (translucent) by VIVID Glass 'Vivichrome'
Entrances: All glass revolving doors by Blasi
Metal doors: L.I.F. Industries
Wood doors: Custom Solid Core Maple Doors by Legere
Fire-control doors, security grilles: Custom Automatically controlled + Insulated Stainless Steel Door Louvers in the Curtain wall as part of the Smoke Control System ' by Gartner.
Special doors (sound control, X-ray, etc.): Operable Acoustic Partition in Conference Center by Modernfold
Closers: Dorma Norton Exit devices: Sargent
Security devices: Security Gates by Tansa Security
Other special hardware: Hafaele Rixson
Acoustical ceilings: Acoustical Wood Grille Ceilings by Armstrong
Suspension grid: Suspension grid by Armstrong
Demountable partitions: Adotta Demountable Partition meeting rooms
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom cabinetry and millwork by Legere Group, LTD
Toilet Partitions: Wood Veneer Toilet Compartments by Thrislington Cubicles Stainless Steel Partitions by Hadrian
Wall coverings: Custom DBF Xorel fabric wrapped wall panels by Legere Group, LTD
Paneling: Custom curving intertwined maple wood wall panels by Rulon 'Curvalon'
Plastic laminate: Abet Laminati
Quartz surfacing: Quartz Surface (at the restaurant) by Zodiaq
Floor and wall tile (cite where used): Bedonia Stone Flooring (Lobby and Exterior Entrance) by Stone Source
Carpet: Carpet Tile and Broadloom Carpet by Constantine/Miliken
Special interior finishes unique to this project: Architecturally Exposed Concrete Cores
Office furniture: Custom Designed Vitra Workstations
Reception furniture: Bernhardt Design 'Gaia Sofa' Bernhardt Design 'Gaia Lounge Chair' Bernhardt Design 'Accent Coffee Table'
Chairs: Kusch + Co 'Trio Chair' Herman Miller 'Eames Chair'
Tables: Datesweiser 'Highline' Custom Conference Tables
Upholstery: Unica Veav
Interior ambient lighting: Axis Lighting Kurt Versen Vode Lighting XAL
Downlights: Kreon 3G Lighting Selux Lucifer Lighting
Task lighting: LED Horizon Task Light by Humanscale
Dimming System or other lighting controls: Daylight Harvesting and lighting controls by Lutron
Elevators/Escalators: Elevators by Otis
Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.): Fully accessible with ramps that intertwine all the way up the building
Fixtures are: Toto 'Helix EcoPower' Faucet
Energy management or building automation system: Active Chilled Beams (Price)
Photovoltaic system: Sunways custom perforated (transparent) mono-crystalline cells in laminated low-iron operable glass panels integrated into the skylight glass framing system.
Contractor ' Onyx Solar
Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Curtainwall contribution to energy efficiency: Triple Glazed High-Performance Low-E Curtainwall System