Challenging Times Create a ‘New’ Culture

April 8, 2002
Anatomy of a Building - Part 2
One of CIBC’s greatest concerns was in handling the merging of two company cultures with the greatest sensitivity. “What we didn’t want to do is take one or the other,” explains Mancini. “We marry the cultures to this new building that matches the management style. Fortunately for us, CIBC management had a clear picture of what they wanted to accomplish. The result will be very sophisticated and elegant – a bridge between Early American and Traditional.”Trying circumstances also cemented the evolving culture throughout the firm’s workforce. “One of the difficulties was we were in two different buildings,” notes Norton. “On 9/11 and 9/12, things changed. All the people that were downtown – about 800 – arrived at 425 Lexington Avenue (one of CIBC’s current locations) the next day, and we converted every conference room, every space, even a courtesy telephone closet, into work areas. As a result, people got to know each other.”Such camaraderie is just as evident among members of the project team. As each discusses an aspect of the new and interim projects that have been top-of-mind over the past several months, it’s obvious there exists a genuine affection and respect among the personalities, as well as a shared sense of accomplishment.A Building EmergesAs steel rises above street level following completion of excavation and foundations at year-end 2001, the 35-story structure begins to reveal its ultimate presence to passersby. The facility will offer 47,000-square-foot floorplates on Podium floors, then set back to 28,000-square-foot floorplates on higher Tower levels. Bands of granite and ribbon windows have been designed on 5-foot modules to give the financial firm both sizable office areas and the flexibility to adapt spaces as future needs change. Granite was selected for its image of stability (“We’re committed to New York City, and we’re here to stay,” notes Griffin); and the double-paned, thermal-efficient glass system offers exterior views and minimizes outside noise, but keeps energy costs within reason.“One of the things that came out of a study – and I was amazed with all the years that I’ve managed buildings – is that the efficiency factor of an extremely good glazing system cuts your heating bill down to one-sixth. That’s a huge number; I was shocked. To be honest, I didn’t believe it, so I went back and tested the theory with some buildings that were single-glazed against those that incorporated high-efficiency glass, and it’s true.” There is a similar reduction in the air-conditioning load.A dynamic entranceway will be framed by 40 feet along 42nd Street and 40 feet along Madison Avenue, culminating in a 120-foot-high atrium that can be viewed from Grand Central Station. It’s very prominent and stands out as a special entrance to a very special building, according to the base building architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. One of the longer design debates involved the top of the building, and decisions went from ornate to peaked to an eventual monolithic effect that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional for the structure’s cooling towers and air systems. “The hardest part of doing a building is designing it on paper so it really works,” notes Griffin. “I said this to somebody the other day, and they just shook their head. I said, ‘The easy part is building it.’”

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