Breakfast at The (New) New York Times Building

dsc01325_edited-1.JPGIn New York City last week, I had breakfast at the new New York Times building at 41st and Eighth Avenue. The multi-hued Renzo Piano designed effort includes a 51-story, ecologically sensitive tower (28 floors for NYT), and on the ground floor, The Times Center, a “public amenity” that includes a 350-seat auditorium for lectures, concerts, etc.

NY Times interactive personnel were the first employees to occupy the space, and they have wonderful, wide-open spaces for meetings. Research head Michael Zimbalist and his team of futurists — presently occupied with a mobile project — occupy a totally different floor. They can all get together in the beautiful cafeteria with a high up view of burgeoning Eighth Avenue. The subsidized, creative and gourmet food has nods toward the Silicon Valley employee eateries. (I probably should have gotten the mulled apple cider with bits of apple in it.)

For me, the wide-open windows, and tangerine and green and red walls, and blonde wood floors are very pretty but kind of a culture shock for a company I literally think of as the “gray lady” — although there is plenty of gray in the building, mostly on supporting pillars that take on the changing colors of the sky throughout the day. The center of the lobby is dominated by a public art exhibit called “moveable type” that has hundreds of PSP-size screens, all showing ever-changing lines of text from The Times archives. It is something you could watch for a few minutes.

What is the anomaly is the old-fashioned, very gray sculpture of legendary publisher Adolph Ochs in the corner of the lobby. Eventually, maybe they will get rid of it.

I am not sure I totally felt like I was in the headquarters of The New York Times. It is more like the Pompidou Center in Paris and the JP Morgan Library, which is not surprising, since Renzo Piano did those buildings too. But it also made me feel like I would like to work in that building, and that The Times had a future, and that its future was not attached to printing presses, but to multimedia. It is a real success.

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