Hurd is a Silicon Alley firm that renders and animates intricately detailed bodies and body parts for pharmaceutical companies (tiny ones like Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb), health care organizations (also small, such as the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health), websites (a little something called iVillage), and other medical professionals.
The stop-frame animation software employed by Hurd was a major influence on the design of its new 1,800-sq.-ft. offices. (A 1,000-sq.-ft. addition is currently underway.)
According to architects Scott Specht and Louise Harpman, “Hurd Studios composes its diagnostic sequences in single, meticulously rendered frames, which become fused when multiple images are animated. The dominance of the individual frame, which recedes as it becomes part of a seamless animation, inspired us to create another kind of frame system for the construction of the studio.”
A serendipitous moment occurred during the design process. The architects moved their offices to a new location in the city’s garment district and soon after came upon a local welding shop where they saw highly skilled fabricators in action.
The design team developed a framing system for Hurd Studios’ offices and engaged the local welders to create the support structures. Everything–desks, walls, doors, storage, lighting, ductwork–is integrated into the system, which is comprised of translucent plastic panels, cherry plywood panels, welded tabs, and one-in, steel tube stock.
The seamlessness of Hurd’s completed animation projects belies the time, energy, and skill required in producing them. The same can be said for the design and construction of the company’s offices.
The interior looks simple with its four-part construction system. But the extensive steel tubing system was drawn frame by frame and modeled to scale by Specht Harpman so that the welders, highly skilled metalworkers who had not worked previously with architectural drawings, could produce the necessary steel skeleton. All the tubing was welded off-site and assembled on-site. According to the architects, the longest stretch of framing, running 38 ft. along the full length of the space, was just one-quarter of an inch off the mark when installed.
The plan is roughly an inverted L, with a square workroom connected to a long, narrow corridor that encompasses the reception zone, storage wall, pantry, and conference area.
The framing system is used throughout the interior. A freestanding steel robe “cage,” as the architects call it, contains the four semiprivate offices, which have sliding doors, and forms a threshold into the workroom from the main corridor. In the workroom, steel tubing becomes shelving.
Along the corridor, the framing is an armature for seating, storage, pantry, and exposed ductwork. Throughout the interior, the frame is infilled with sheets of cherry plywood and translucent plastic panels.
Without recourse to the strained posturing and theatrics of so many new high-tech companies, Specht Harpman’s design fulfills Hurd Studios’ mandate with clarity and skill.