180 Varick Street

A look at the work spaces inside New York City’s infamous design address.

The office building at 180 Varick Street in Manhattan’s West Village is sometimes sarcastically referred to as an architecture ghetto. It’s filled with studios, each of them packed with the mundane objects and tools that make up the working life of today’s designer. In some, assistants and associates are all strung gallowslike from iPods in front of pristine rows of computer monitors displaying 3-D renderings and floor plans, with the partners set apart in private rooms from which they exercise their fanciful authority. In others, desks are piled high with stacks of blueprints, samples of carpets and flooring are spread across every surface, and the principals roam around in a spirit of openness and collaboration. In this series of photographic still lifes, we use 180 Varick as a frame to survey the work spaces of graphic designers, architects, and landscape architects on the scale of the desk, the conference room, the library, the materials library, and the model-making table, documenting their physical character and looking for the germ of a firm’s creative process in the tools it uses to get the job done.

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