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The Revitalization of Brookfield Place

The new Brookfield Place. Image © Gensler

The area of Wall Street and city hall has always skewed utilitarian. It’s never catered to the leisure and fashion-oriented crowd, or given tourists a reason to traipse south to upgrade their wardrobes. But this long-held stereotype of our city’s financial district is set to change with the opening of Brookfield Place this Thursday.

Just as One World Trade center is transforming Lower Manhattan’s skyline and bringing iconic companies like Condé Nast to the stomping grounds of financiers and city bureaucrats, Brookfield Place has introduced the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Hermes Paris and Tory Burch, all the way downtown. The newly opened Brookfield Place also features a rejuvenated set of restaurants via Hudson Eats, recently praised in the press as the lunch destination of choice by several newly relocated Condé Nast employees (High praise from these well-heeled workers who used to have the privilege of lunching in Frank Gehry designed cafeteria at the publishing company’s old headquarters.)

Located in the space formerly known as World Financial Center, Brookfield Place exemplifies how rebranding and curated redevelopment can transform an underappreciated space into a vital and authentic neighborhood landmark. Our Gensler team worked closely with Brookfield Properties to establish Brookfield Place as a premier downtown lifestyle destination. We were brought on to help tackle eight million square feet of complex way finding and digital customer experience, and at the onset of the project we realized the overall vision we helped develop would not just impact Brookfield Place but recast the surrounding downtown community in a new light.

Previously, the World Financial Center was seen as a stereotypical commercial office complex with a few shops and restaurants sprinkled throughout a disjointed layout. The tenants complained that the space was confusing to shoppers, and they showed little interest in the arts events and other functions that took place in the property’s shared spaces. To fix this paradigm, the Gensler team identified the need to conceptualize a naming, signage, and way finding strategy capable of alleviating confusion and creating a holistic leisure experience. Brookfield Properties had a specific vision: they wanted World Financial Center to feature hi-end shops that could serve the needs of the downtown community. They also wanted the space to retain the commercial tenants. To help them accomplish this, we focused on leveraging the overall design to achieve a branded and defined user experience for every person who sets foot in the property.

The new Brookfield Place. Image © Gensler

We started by conceptualizing a system that uses static signage, digital signage and displays, and smart technology and custom directory content. We teamed up with Local Projects to design the smart technology that delivers digital messages regarding events and sales via Brookfield’s free Wi-Fi. The goal of the system is not to bombard visitors with pointless advertisements and directions, but to instead allow them to opt-in to a customized system that speaks to each visitor’s lifestyle preference and shopping habits. We also developed exclusive brand attributes, such as traits or characteristics that help define the brand experience of the entire property, to inform the tone of communications and drive the visual look and feel of the space. The design concepts are intended to be timeless and to reflect a simplified vocabulary of materials, texture and pattern, as well as embody the new Brookfield Place’s personality.

One of the biggest challenges inherent to revamping an existing property is changing people’s existing perceptions. Once a location has established a certain reputation, it’s quite difficult to get people to let go of past impressions and show a willingness to see the property in a new light. Signage and way finding systems often get overlooked in discussions of what makes a lifestyle destination work in this regard, but they play integral roles in shaping the retail, tenant and tourist experience at locations like Brookfield Place. Shifts in naming conventions, site access, traffic flow and amenity offerings all require a consistent hierarchy of information and a site identification system capable of efficiently directing guests throughout the environment.

At Brookfield Place, we also wanted to use the system to reinforce the brand wherever possible. Little touches like having entrances into amenity spaces always identified by “Brookfield Place” allow us to quickly capitalize on how people refer to the places they are shopping at within the space. In the space’s previous iteration, shops and restaurants didn’t have an umbrella brand associated with them. The new way finding system consistently reinforces “a sense of place” by organizing these premier brands within the Brookfield Place brand. As a result, new retail tenants saw opportunities to maximize their brands and connect with customers in new ways. These elements layered into the overall brand experience platform and helped Brookfield Place quickly reach their leasing goals.

We like to believe that by thinking of Brookfield Place as a singular entity whose image and appeal stems from the success of the individual tenants that call it home, we’ve made it easier for lower Manhattanites and others to see the space, and the neighborhood which surrounds it, as something much greater than it’s been in the past. And as downtown continues to recast itself as a fashionable and upscale neighborhood, we hope Brookfield Place works as an example of how such rejuvenation is an attainable goal.

The new Brookfield Place. Image © Gensler

Brian Brindisi is a design director for the Lifestyle-Brand Design studio and Regional Brand Design Leader at Gensler's New York office. His portfolio includes education, mixed-use, cultural, and corporate projects. Outside of Gensler, Brian continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Visual Arts where he teaches visual identity and branding.contact him at brian_brindisi@gensler.com.

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Reader Comments (2)

There are some FAQ related this subject. You can talk about me that is fine if you can sending an e-mile.
03.27.2015 | Unregistered CommenterFanjackets
Is Gensler's antidote to Wall Street's utilitarianism illegible decoration? The poor users are left to twist their necks and squint at misoriented, low-contrast text to get a sense of where they are and where they are going. While there is a unification of design, it comes at the very costly expense of usability.
04.8.2015 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Di Angelo

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