New York City


The energy-drink company Red Bull (RB) tends to engage the public in unconventional ways. As it plunges into adventurous youth culture—extreme sports, high-risk aviation feats, edgy art and music—it’s never just paying to affix its logo to a Formula 1 racecar or a radical skydive. Rather, the company owns and runs the teams, as well as such endeavors as Red Bull Air Force—generating a following without ever mentioning the product per se. An analogy might be, instead of buying roadside billboard space, RB creates the road, setting the route and pulling in traffic.

A similar spirit inspired RB’s two New York venues, both in  the same 1910 brick high-rise in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The company enlisted Brooklyn firm Inaba (now Inaba Williams) for the initial project, completed in 2013, transforming the street and basement levels into a 21,400-square-foot duplex for Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA), a cutting-edge recording studio. That duplex, by design, had to serve the ambitious needs of an academy scheduled to last just a month—and then adapt to other creative uses.

On floors seven and eight, the architects created RBMA’s temporary administrative and experimental spaces. Nearly a year later, RB brought Inaba back to convert those upper stories into offices for its eastern U.S. business hub.

Founded in 1998, RBMA offers immersive workshops in a different city each year—London, São Paulo, and Tokyo among them. Participants, competitively selected, attend without charge (flown in, fed, and put up by RB). These intense two-week summer sessions, with 30 students each, bring together talents including instrumentalists, DJs, songwriters, vocalists, and recording engineers, in genres spanning from jazz to hip-hop. The experience revolves around living room-sofa-style lectures by music legends (such as Brian Eno or Philip Glass) and “bedroom studios,” where randomly mixed participants collaborate. “Like think tanks, they’re containers for creativity,” says RBMA cofounder Many Ameri. “Imagine a New Zealand drummer, an American jazz pianist, and a Czech techno producer connecting for the first time in one room.”

RB also runs a music festival around each Academy—at venues as diverse as museums, street fairs, and nightclubs. So the duplex needed flexible space for tied-in parties and events.

Like RB’s headquarters, in rural Austria, the understated Chelsea duplex has no exterior signage (and barely any interior branding). Inside its glass storefront, a long, midnight-blue reception desk curves at one end, leading to a similarly colored steel stairway that winds down to the lower level. Dramatic against white terrazzo floors, these dark sculptural forms appear in a 3,400-square-foot space with few other permanent elements besides a purple-lit broadcasting booth and a black bar, with clear acrylic tubes overhead, rimmed in rings of white light. Small glass-faced fridges, wall-inset like medicine cabinets, hold cans of Red Bull—the closest it gets to branding here.

A side door leads to a men’s room bathed in red light, reminiscent of nightclubs, while the women’s room next-door glows yellow. Downstairs, a dark-surfaced performance space sits below a ceiling inlaid with dash-like LED lighting.

Since people work at the studios deep into the night on varied activities, says principal architect Jeffrey Inaba, “we created spaces—discrete volumes in a range of scales—with distinct qualities of light.” Hypersaturated wall colors intensify the effects of neon, fluorescent, LED, and other illumination types.

The first project’s success led to Inaba’s second RB commission, replacing the temporary Academy facilities upstairs with permanent offices. “If downstairs was about stark, dramatic color contrasts, artificial lighting, and a tech environment,” says Inaba, “the idea here was very different, far subtler in its tonal ranges, more about qualities of daylight.”

Unlike the original semi-underground duplex—now operating as Red Bull Studios, with event, art exhibition, and free recording spaces—the offices have windows on three sides and function mainly during business hours. Inaba’s strategy was to animate a daylit, predominantly white interior with sparks of color, favoring ambient or indirect illumination over visible fixtures or focal points of light, as he had done downstairs. Here, the sun’s rays filter through translucent and dichroic glass, or reflect off such surfaces as a deftly placed mirror or a vitreous wall panel, casting gently modulated light and color into the interior.

Across the open offices, glassed-in meeting rooms provide acoustical buffers, performing simultaneously as dividers and transparent connectors.

Inaba joined the two floors with a wide central stair—a monolithic, glossy-white glass-fiber-reinforced-concrete (GFRC) form—giving the workspaces additional light and views. Half amphitheater, half regular steps, split down the middle, the stairway is slightly unnerving to descend, but also a novel twist on familiar stadium seating for in-office screenings.

Though this upstairs/downstairs duo presents two projects vastly different in program, public interface, light, and color, both encourage collaboration. (And, somehow, the bar, laid-back sofas, and Red Bull fridges show up in each of them.) Ameri recently articulated a key characteristic of the Academy that could as easily describe the new offices: “It’s about making space for conversation, places where ideas get shared and things get created.”


Client/Owner: Red Bull North America

68 Jay St. Suite 427
Brooklyn, NY 11201
T: 7185226800

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Jeffrey Inaba: principal
Ostap Rudakevych: project architect
Yoichiro Mizuno: associate, project architect
Alan Kwan: project designer
Sean Connolly, Steven Tsai, Shuning Zhao, Allyn Hughs, Stephanie Lee, Richard Yoo: designers

Architect of record:
SLAB architecture, PLLC
55 Washington Street, Suite 804
Brooklyn, NY 11201
T: 718 666 3330
F: 718 666 3332

Jill Leckner, principal, registered
Matthew Voss
Min Chen

Structural Engineer
Buro Happold Consulting Engineers PC
100 Broadway (23rd Floor)
New York, NY 10005
T: 212 334 2025
Jeff Thompson, PE

MEP Engineer
Kam Chiu Associates, Inc.
54 Howard Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10013
T: (917) 743 3267
Kam Chiu

Tillotson Design Associates
40 Worth St.Suite 703
New York, NY 10013
T: 212.675.7760
Principal: Suzan Tillotson
Project Designers: Erin de Vries, Christopher Cheap
Wald Studio
110 West 40th St. Suite 2405
New York, NY 10018
T: 212.938.1150
William Armstrong
Kelly Roberts

Grassot 48, ent 2a
08025 - Barcelona
T: +34931185847
Fax: +34935312803
Mob: +34661172458
Skype: imar.acousthink

40 Worth Street, Suite 800
New York, NY 10013
T: 212.766.8100

William Vitacco Associates, Ltd
299 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
T: 212.719.4578

Environmental Graphics:
45-50 30th St. 7FL
LI.C, NY 11101
T: 718.663.8448
Glen Cummings, principal
Aliza Dzik, Art Director

General contractor:
Richter + Ratner
45 West 36th st, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10018
T: 212.936.4500

Greg Irikura
56 Bogart St. 3rd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11206
T: 646.416.6329

Naho Kubota
T: 201.208.3388

Owner’s Representative (Office):
Lisa Tilney
T(917) 753-4884


Studio: 21,400 square feet; Office: 16,800 square feet



Completion Date:

Studios, April 2013; office, November 2014



Structural system
Studio: Entry Steel Stair by Brakewell Steel Fabricators
Steel at Entry Stair Opening by Maspeth Welding Inc.

Office: Internal Steel Stair by Maspeth Welding Inc.

Wood frame: Bauerschmidt & Sons Inc

Studio: Competition Architectural Metals, Inc.

Office: Mistral Architectural Metal + Glass Inc.

Studio: Bauerschmidt & Sons Inc
Office: GER Architectural Manufacturing, Inc

Sliding doors:
Studio: Competition Architectural Metals, Inc.; New Amsterdam Metalworks

Office: Mistral Architectural Metal + Glass Inc.

Special doors:
Studio: Custom Acoustical Door by Bauerschmidt & Sons Inc

Studio: Sargent Assa Abloy
Office: Orion Hardware Corporation


Interior finishes
Decorative Concrete: Get Real Surfaces

Terrazzo Floor: D. Magnan & Co., Inc.

Color epoxy floorHoffman Floor Covering corp.

Acoustical ceilings:
Custom FRG vault ceiling by Flatcut
International Cellulose Corporation K-13 Spray-on insulation

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Studio: Bauerschmidt & Sons Inc
Office: GER Architectural Manufacturing, Inc

Paints and stains:
Benjamin Moore
Glitsa Stain
Stonhard Epoxy

Wall coverings:
Studio: Brush Tile by Robin Reigi

Solid surfacing:
GFRG Column Enclosure by Moonlight Molds, Inc.
Cellar Canopy Ceiling Cove by Flatcut
Cellar Canopy Floor Cove by Flatcut

Office: Corian

Special surfacing:
GFRG Coving by Moonlight Molds, Inc.

ABC Carpets

Special interior finishes unique to this project:
End Grain Wood floor by Kaswell Flooring Systems

Office furniture: Watson, Vitra

Reception furniture: Furniture Masters, Knoll, Geiger

Chairs: Vitra, Design Within Reach, Geiger, Knoll, Blu Dot

Room and Board, Herman Miller

Interior ambient lighting:
Vario LED Flex Venus
Custom 12mm Neon Strip by Let There Be Neon


Task lighting:
AL Lighting, Ltd


Dimming System or other lighting controls:

Accessibility provision:
Savaria ADA lift

Haw Water Fountain