One of the many benefits of joining the EY family in December 2015 was that we were able to move our team into an incredible new space. A space that was once home to a leading architectural firm — that we would completely rehab so that it would become the kind of beautiful, functional and creative place that would make its previous occupants proud.
Here’s how it all happened: at the time of our acquisition, we were coming up on the end of our lease in Manayunk, a community in northwestern Philadelphia that we’d been a part of for years. Our team had grown so much that we had set up shop in two different buildings separated by an alley. We were eager to all be together again.
We had our eye on 4236 Main Street — a building in which our team actually used to occupy one level. We knew what a special space it was and that its tenants were thinking of moving out, so with our new resources and contacts at EY, we were able to not only secure the lease, but also make plans to completely redesign its interior.
Another lucky coincidence: our EY Real Estate liaison, Chris Smith, once worked at Venturi Scott Brown, the award-winning architectural firm whose offices used to be at 4236 Main. What are the odds of that? So we knew that we were in good hands. We also had enormous support from two of the EY executives involved in our acquisition — Hank Prybylski (Americas Vice Chair of Advisory Services) and Anthony Caterino (Vice Chair and Regional Managing Partner, Financial Services Organization) — who let us take the creative reins as we began work with the EY architecture firm of record, Gensler.
We had a big job ahead of us, as we previously occupied a disjointed 13,000 square feet and now had 17,000 square feet of blank canvas to work with after deciding to almost completely gut the building. We started off by helping Gensler get to know us, understand what we do and learn about the history of Manayunk, which was once a mill town. There are lots of different kinds of structures here and it’s a bit of a commuting village — many people leave from here to go to the Center City area of Philly.
After absorbing that context, Gensler came back to us with concepts revolving around brick, steel, stone, transportation and trains to inspire people to think about materials and design. Part of our joint design concept was to keep just about everything structural or functional in the building exposed: beautiful steel beams with rivets, the sprinkler system, ductwork, pipes, wiring and well-worn wood floors. We took great care to not only preserve as much of the original material as possible, but also put it on display.
We had also researched innovative office designs and were inspired by The Barbarian Group. They have something in their space called a “super table” that twists around the length of their office, even rising to make an arch people can sit under as a little nook. Our version is an almost continuous work surface that wraps around the two floors we work on, accommodating both those who want to sit and stand, and then snakes through the kitchens, where people like to meet.
It was important to us to have an open floor plan so we could collaborate. As in, no offices. A communal area was another priority, and a 2,500-square-foot space just inside our entryway that we call “the Commons” now serves that purpose. It opens to the outside via a large garage door that helps bring both fresh air and a street vibe into the office. This area is where we hold client workshops, host happy hours and have lunch together on a huge picnic table most days.
As we are situated on one of the busiest intersections in town and have giant windows that wrap around the corner, our new space has really helped bring attention to Manayunk as an up-and-coming tech center in Philly and expand our digital and creative brand in the region. We also think it will help attract talent — and other digital firms — to the area. Along those lines, we’ve already hosted several industry get-togethers and events here so that other design studios can take a look at what we’ve done with the building.
It’s now been about nine months since we moved in and we’re happy to finally be a family under one roof again. This place makes our team feel special. It fits the way we work — the layout and design are functional and smart. And the vibe is incredible. In addition to our first-floor windows that double as walls, we have huge windows everywhere else to let in as much natural light as possible.
Speaking of windows, the finishing touch on our new home is the Intuitive Art Space, our art exhibition area on the ground floor that is viewable from the street. We held our second installment in May and couldn’t have been more excited about it. We’re a creative group of people, we care about the arts, and this is a creative space — it just all makes sense.
Now more than two years after our acquisition, our redesign of 4236 Main serves as proof that EY values and wants to preserve our uniqueness and creative spirit, and is also eager to continue investing in and supporting groups like ours. We’re quite proud anytime an EY colleague from another office visits and is blown away by what we’ve done here. Now we’re back to the business of wowing our clients with our user-centered work and adding new members to our team … since we finally have the space to grow.
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Photography by Matt Lewis