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If there is one thing Sam Gores has learned over decades of buying up smaller talent agencies to build Paradigm into a full-service player, it’s that you have to create a work environment as dynamic as your clientele. “Architecture,” he says, “is as much about how you feel as it is about how it looks.” That was foremost on his mind when the chairman decided to consolidate his East Coast operations, with 200 employees, into a single location — a 50,000-square-foot space on two floors in a 1967 skyscraper on lower Broadway. Often referred to as the Marine Midland building, it is marked by the huge red Isamu Noguchi cube at its entrance, and has spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows as well as Hudson and East river views.
The agency, whose clients include Zoe Kravitz, Stephen King and Ed Sheeran, had shared a space on Park Avenue South with indie booking shop Windish, which Paradigm acquired in January along with AM Only. AM Only, which represents some top names in electronic dance music, including Skrillex and David Guetta, had been in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood for 13 years (founder Paul Morris first struck a partnership with Paradigm in 2012).
Gores and Morris, who brought some works from their own art collections into the space, were fortunate to have a resident downtown aesthete on hand to help shape the project and lend some of his own meticulously curated pieces: DB Burkeman, the London-born DJ who was an early AM Only client and now does A&R for the East Coast music division. Wherever the eye rests in the public spaces, there is art — from the likes of John Baldessari and street artist Swoon — while the usual gold records and framed concert photos are relegated to offices.
Greeting visitors as they step off the elevator is a temporary exhibition of works for sale by an emerging artist of Burkeman’s choosing. Currently it’s Mark Mulroney, a California-raised surrealist now working in upstate New York, but it will change every three months. “A client may fall in love with something and want to have it,” Burkeman says. “Wouldn’t that just be fantastic?”
Working with Studios Architecture, Burkeman advocated for a raw yet refined sensibility, evident in the updated midcentury curve of the furniture and the exposed ductwork and concrete floors. It was the perfect way “to bring together the more mature feel of Park Avenue South with the cutting-edge Dumbo space,” says Studios’ Jean Chandler.
The center of the space, a two-story-high entryway and reception area, is dominated by tall wood bleachers where staffers can listen to musical artists who play on an isolated platform (which prevents sound vibrations from passing between floors). When they’re not being used as seating, the bleachers, with a staircase beside them that connects the floors, are a sculptural anchor.
Many of the agents’ glass-walled offices, as is traditional, are placed along the outer rim to take advantage of the windows, with assistants arrayed in the interior. But at Gores’ insistence, there also are long stretches where assistants are given the view. Says Gores, “It sends a message.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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Melvin Van Peebles