Climate Initiatives’ New York office shines with sustainable design
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Climate Initiatives’ New York office shines with sustainable design

Climate Initiatives, an investment and philanthropic venture, was founded nearly a decade ago, operating out of a rented, furnished office in New York City for several years. But by 2022, as the company grew and gained traction for its mission to reverse the tide of climate change by incubating startups and funding projects that promote global decarbonization, the co-founders decided the company should have its own space.

The list of requirements included a workplace flexible enough to accommodate further growth, which is especially difficult to nail down given the changing work patterns resulting from the pandemic and not knowing how many people might be in the building on any given day; an environment that’s comfortable and sophisticated, with a homey feel; and, most importantly, a space that reflects the Climate Initiatives’ mission. That meant everything from the finishes to the furniture had to be “filtered through the lens of sustainability and carbon footprint,” recalls Aaron Schiller, founder and principal of Schiller Projects, the architecture firm chosen for the job. His studio is well-versed in designing with low-carbon materials and processes, having recently renovated a 19th-century Brooklyn carriage house with a solid-timber frame.

two people sitting in a room with work tables surrounded by hanging lamps and a white oak floortwo people sitting in a room with work tables surrounded by hanging lamps and a white oak floor
In the New York office of Climate Initiatives, an investment firm dedicated to promoting global decarbonization, run by Schiller Projects, natural materials and light reign supreme, as evidenced by the white oak flooring in the common area and the Akari pendant lamps made of washi paper, designed by Isamu Noguchi.

Consider the partitions that divide the 6,000-square-foot floor space Climate Initiatives leases in a Manhattan building. Instead of being made of standard drywall, they are made of vertical Douglas fir slats, bringing out the warm, natural material. The slats, made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, define the areas while allowing sunlight to filter into the all-employee zone at the center of the plan, with inspiring views of Central Park to the north and the Empire State Building to the south. “The ‘wood wall’ was conceived as a device that would never block but filter, a tool to enable and organize focus or collaboration through light and connection,” Schiller explains. Where acoustics and privacy are an issue, glass panes were added above the slats. If the company relocates, the wood elements can be dismantled and reused, minimizing waste. “It’s like a kit,” adds Schiller Projects partner Colin Cleland. “Nothing is permanent.”

Around the perimeter of the floor are offices for the founders and directors, as well as a myriad of flexible spaces, each fronted by glass so everyone has access to light and views. There are two large conference rooms, as well as a series of smaller meeting rooms, about 10 by 15 feet, each equipped with a desk and chair, and a separate table with chairs that can serve as conference spaces or private offices, depending on the needs of employees.

open office space with plenty of seating and open shelving on the wallsopen office space with plenty of seating and open shelving on the walls
Eoos designed Aesync office chairs and Bouroullecs Tyde 2 desks in the open-plan office space, where a Doug Fir partition acts as shelving.

Aesthetics were as important as functionality. The co-founders “shared concerns about offices designed by men for men,” Schiller says, adding that they asked for their offices to be inviting and “not too overtly masculine.” So here, textured wall coverings add color and tactility to the chosen spaces. Instead of the usual wall-to-wall carpet, there are abstractly patterned wool and cotton rugs that liven up the polished concrete floor. That transitions into planks of FSC-certified white oak in the all-hands area, where more than a dozen Isamu Noguchi paper lanterns in various sizes and shapes enliven the ceiling landscape. Other accent lighting comes from local manufacturers like Fort Standard in Brooklyn and Stickbulb, a certified B corporation in Queens that uses reclaimed wood from decommissioned New York water towers in its LED lighting fixtures. Heirloom furniture by midcentury and contemporary masters like Jean Prouvé, Antonio Citterio, and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec has rounded, organic silhouettes. Paintings from clients’ collections are mounted in slots in the slatted walls, each niche sized to accommodate a specific work of art; other niches are equipped with display shelves. “Where we’ve converged with still moments, like building columns, we’ve made barriers disappear by giving depth to the partition system, hanging art in it, or making it interactive by placing books and objects related to the clients’ work,” Schiller says.

The waiting room at the end of the elevator lobby has a particularly residential feel. In other workspaces, it might be a reception area. But this space—with its curvy sofa and ample armchairs in sage green and light pink velvet, respectively, anchored by a plush carpet whose vibrant pattern suggests rare gemstones or paving stones—can serve as a waiting area for guests, a place to relax during events in nearby conference rooms, or a comfortable place for employees to work on their laptops or phones.

living room with geometric carpet, green sofa and view of surrounding conference roomsliving room with geometric carpet, green sofa and view of surrounding conference rooms
The Hybrid sofa by Dune Studio and Sejour armchairs by GamFratesi are adjacent to the Jean Prouvé Guéridon Bas table in the living room, while in the background is one of the office’s two conference rooms.

One measure of the project’s success is how well the office has adapted to the company’s evolution. At the beginning of the process, the company had about a dozen employees; now it has more than twice that. It also changed its name, starting with something more abstract. So the company recently adopted the more direct Climate Initiatives, to explain how the office is certainly doing what it’s all about.

Discover climate initiatives‘S Sustainable oasis

Elevator lobby with plaster-covered acoustic panelsElevator lobby with plaster-covered acoustic panels
A recess carved into the ceiling of the elevator lobby has been fitted with plaster-covered acoustic panels and hidden LED diodes.
two people sitting in a room with work tables surrounded by hanging lamps and a white oak floortwo people sitting in a room with work tables surrounded by hanging lamps and a white oak floor
The custom partitions are made from Douglas fir, and the oak floorboards are Forest Stewardship Council certified.
room with quartz worktop, red chairs, white oak walls and hanging lampsroom with quartz worktop, red chairs, white oak walls and hanging lampsroom with quartz worktop, red chairs, white oak walls and hanging lamps
Behind a custom 10-square-foot quartz-topped work table with Beetle office chairs by GamFratesi in the all-employee area is a pair of Petit Repos club chairs designed by Antonio Citterio.
close-up of furniture in the living roomclose-up of furniture in the living room
Notes regarding your stay in the entrance hall.
office space with white meeting area and green carpetoffice space with white meeting area and green carpet
A Båstad wool rug under a custom-designed desk in the co-founder’s office sits alongside Mark Müller’s Vox conference table set on a Plus cotton rug by Alexander Girard, topped with a Counterweight hanging lamp by Fort Standard.
conference room with white oak table and work spaceconference room with white oak table and work space
Softshell chairs by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec positioned around a Ryvit table with a white oak top in the conference room.
conference room with art and blue wallpaperconference room with art and blue wallpaper
Raf Simons wall covering and chair fabric bring a tactile quality to another conference room.

PROJECT GROUP

SCHILLER’S PROJECTS: ALBERTO RODRIGUEZ; ALISON HOCHMAN. STAMP ARCHITECTURE: RECORD ARCHITECT. LIGHTING WORKSHOP: LIGHTING DESIGNER. ROBERT DERECTOR’S ASSOCIATES: Member of the European Parliament. MILLER BLAKER: JOINERY PRODUCTS. TKO: PROJECT MANAGER. STRUCTURE TONE: MAIN CONSTRUCTOR.

PRODUCT SOURCES

FROM THE FRONT OF THE NOGUCHI STORE: PENDANT LAMPS (ALL). LOST: WORK CHAIRS. PUBLIC DESIGN: STOOLS (ALL-HANDS, NOOK). FLOWERS: CARPET TILES (HALL). NANIMARQUINA: CARPET (LIVING ROOM). DUNE: SOFA. DWR: ARMCHAIRS (LIVING ROOM), SWIVEL CHAIR (HALL). STAINED GLASS: COFFEE TABLES (TUG, ALL-HANDS), CLUB CHAIRS (ALL-HANDS), CHAIRS (CONFERENCE ROOMS), DESKS (OPEN OFFICE). CAESARSTONE: TABLETOP (ALL HANDS). HUMAN SCALE: TASK CHAIR (MAIN OFFICE). TUOHY FURNITURE: CUSTOM-MADE DESKS (OFFICES), ROUND TABLES (CONFERENCE ROOMS). SOFT LINE: DRUM TABLE (HOLT). CORIAN: TABLETOP (CONFERENCE ROOM). Tsarist Carpets: RUG. KEILHAUER: CHAIRS (CONFERENCE ROOM, FOUNDER’S OFFICE, OPEN OFFICE). RBW: WALL LAMP (ARM). NORDIC KNOTS: GREY CARPET (FOUNDER’S OFFICE). STANDARD FORT: HANGING FIXTURE. NON-CAMPERS: TABLE. MAHARAM: GREEN CARPET (FOUNDER’S OFFICE), WALL COVERING. IN ALL PORCELAIN: FLOOR PANES. TECHNIQUE: OFFICE FRONTS. BENJAMIN MOORE & COMPANY: PAINT.