These days, workplaces often contain cafĂ©s, wellness rooms, and lounges galore. But a bar? Not as likely... let alone four of them. But such is the case at the North American headquarters of the Campari Groupâthe Milan-based company famous for its bright-red namesake aperitifâthat now also counts more than 50 other beverage brands in its portfolio, some of them, including Wild Turkey and Skyy Vodka, AmerÂican. Mix them all together, and it makes Campari Group the sixth largest spirits company in the worldâa feat worthy of celebrating. Gensler helped the group do so with its new two-story New York office.
But first, some background. When the U.S. became Campariâs biggest sales market, executives decided to move the company from its San Francisco headquarters east. New York would be closer to Milan and other parts of its empire and help recruit top talent. âItâs the center of the action,â Ugo Fiorenzo, Campari America managing director, says of the city. He and his team selected two upper floors in the landmarked W. R. Grace building, doubling work space to 65,000 square feet and affording views of neighboring Bryant Park. âWe were looking for that wow effect,â Fiorenzo adds.
âDonât think all anyone does is party around hereâforemost, this is designed for work.â
To live up to the expectation, Gensler principal and design director Stefanie Shunk made a pilgrimage to Milan to steep herself in the companyâs 159-year history and culture, which includes decades worth of art, among it posters commissioned in the early 1900s from Fortunato Depero and Leonetto Cappiello. Once back, she translated her inspirations into the design of the workplace, drawing on furnishings from such companies as Foscarini and Minotti and employing such luxe materials as Italian leather. âYou gotta love it,â Shunk says as she trails her fingers over the hide covering the walls of the elevator lobby. She and her team specified it and much of the furniture upholstery in a deep blue similar to that in the Campari logo.
Further in, not a typical reception desk but an espresso barâwith baristaâgreets visitors, looking like it could have been spirited from Corso Magenta in Milan. In the shape of the letter C, its counter is topped in marble, Italian, of course, and features a brass footrest. Just behind it is another wow element: Gensler carved a double-height atrium through the two floors and inserted a 16-foot-tall cerused-oak wall assemblage inspired by a Depero brick artwork on a building facade in Italy. The installation here serves as a backdrop to a full-scale bar, also C-shape but in buffed brass, on the floor below. Dubbed the Fortunato bar, the environment has the look and feel of an urban five-star hotel.
The feeling changes to that of floating inside a bottle of Campari in the stairway connecting the floors. Walls, floor, and ceiling are drenched in carmine red, and LED strips along the coves and treads instill a nightlife vibe. A grid of steel-mesh lockers at the landing exhibits bottles of rare liquors produced by the Campari Group. Glimpsed through the lockers is an ornate crystal chandelier. Arrive there to find it suspended over yet another bar, this one inside a tall, slender jewel box. Intimate and hermetic, its walls are covered in an old-fashioned taupe damask pattern, and the bar proper is an elaborately carved mahogany antique. Inspired by a prohibition-era speakeasy, this Boulevardier Barânamed for the cocktail of sweet vermouth, bourbon, and, yes, Campari originating at Harryâs New York Bar in 1920âs Parisâis where top customers visiting the HQ are invited to sip special-edition whiskeys, rums, and liqueurs. Itâs a wonder of a space.
Making sure the Campari bars not only look exceptional but also function extremely well âwas the thing that kept me up at night,â says Shunk, who watched GoPro videos of bartenders at work to learn exactly where the sink, ice, and other components needed to be. That knowledge was essential to designing the officeâs lablike academy, where master mixologists concoct cocktails and bartenders come for training. The cafĂ©, which occupies a whole corner of a floor plate, functions as yet another bar, one that, with its brick wall, large windows, and Campari mottoââtoasting life together,â rendered in neonâwas intended to evoke and bring in the city.