|PROJECT NAME||Great Bowery|
When the hip photo-licensing bureau decided to expand, creating a consortium of fashion-industry creative agencies, it called on to design the new HQ. The Romanian-born, Columbia-educated talent—an alum of and —was an obvious choice: His nine-year-old firm had masterminded the client’s previous New York location. The self-effacing Matei is known not for a signature look but for his meticulously detailed modernism, on display in retail spaces for Philosophy and Origins and the workplaces of and AR Media.
This time around, the task was to renovate the top five stories of the neo-Renaissance on the Bowery, which had served for nearly 50 years as the graffiti-strewn live/work space of photographer . “The structure had barely been touched for a century; it was like a time capsule,” says Matei (who coincidentally lives right across the street). “It didn’t make sense to reinvent the space, but rather to preserve as much as possible while introducing a modern language.”
He selected simple, graphic materials—plate glass, black and white lacquer—to demarcate all that is new, from window frames to built-in furniture. Period details were refurbished, such as the mosaic flooring and a decommissioned copper elevator cab, now a phone booth. Meanwhile, the clients so loved the Germania Bank’s “GB” logo in the original details that they renamed their company .