Role of Gensler

Gensler provided The New York Times buildings with its energy-efficient interior spaces. Elements of an open and well-lit space are complemented by the building’s architecture from the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and FXFOWLE Architects.

New York Times Building, USA by Gensler - Sheet1
The 8th avenue entrance showcasing red furniture, grand lighting, rows of elevator, and ‘The New York Times’. (Source: Dawlud, online)

Visual Narrative of the Building

This building is intrinsically tied to the design of New York City. The building’s simple and primary design, as the Renzo Piano Building Workshop proclaims, is meant to follow the street grids of Manhattan. There are several visual features of its architecture that are distinct, of which all of it serves the building’s purpose of hosting one of New York’s largest newspaper companies. Its standout design philosophy is the building’s visual intention of looking as transparent and permeable as possible to reflect the newspaper’s culture of openness. 

There is a New York Times article by Nicolai Ouroussoff on the day to day experience of working in the New York Times building. In it he writes that the office’s previous building, an 18-story neo-Gothic structure, was a depressing place to work. A place that is captured best with the wording of the article’s writing,  “…labyrinthine warren of desks and piles of yellowing newspapers were redolent of tradition but also seemed an anachronism”

So when the office moved to this corporate Modernist building, reminiscent of New York’s corporate buildings of the 50s to 60s, there was this visual narrative that they would be brought out of the dark ages.

Planning and Design Solutions

A 52-storey tower that meets the ground at 8th avenue. Floor zero to four steps out behind the tower to house an auditorium and a section of the building nicknamed ‘the Bakery’, a room for journalists to work all night in preparation for next day’s paper.

There is a public element to the building’s ground floor that gives credence to Ouroussoff calling it a continuous public performance. There is an open-access lobby that acts as a public shortcut from the 40th to 41st streets for anyone to pass through. The view from the entrance on 8th avenue is an open atrium garden located in the center of the building with rows of elevator and a backdrop of red furniture from the TimesCenter auditorium. 

The four-storey podium, as a whole, is a performance of a bustling crowd of people passing through engaging in day-to-day activities.

New York Times Building, USA by Gensler - Sheet2
View from the Times Center Auditorium overlooking the atrium and elevators (Source: Lehoux, N. Denancé, M. Zimmerman W, online)


The rest of the tower is a slender, cruciform shaped layout building housing corporate offices and having 22 floors dedicated to the developer Forest City Ratner. The view from above becomes an expanse of the city. And by the time anyone gets to the 14th floor cafeteria, the whole city comes into view. 

New York Times Building, USA by Gensler - Sheet3
Showcasing the interior design of offices created by Gensler. (Source: Gensler, online)


Double skin facade was the ideal solution for expressing the crystalline transparent look of this imposing structure. It is also a solution that is quite practical for the building, as the outer skin serves as a protective barrier against harsh outdoor elements, while the second double glazed skin serves to allow light into the spaces and create the impression of a transparent building.

The outer skin is made of 175,000 horizontal off-white ceramic rods. Thin steel frameworks act as light structural elements joining the floor-to-ceiling double glazed second skin. These rods block 50% of direct, harsh sunlight which allows the second skin to be highly transparent in order to allow a lot of natural lighting in the building.

There is a fading visual to the facade where the ceramic rods are more widely spaced out as one rises the 32 meter tall vertical facade.

New York Times Building, USA by Gensler - Sheet4
Cross-bracing of exposed steel frame facade next to ceramic rods. (Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, online)

Unique Technologies

One of the main challenges to creating a giant tower was the control of lighting to a good portion of the working spaces. The cruciform plan layout of the tower gave it direct access to sunlight on three sides of the tower. There are of course issues still related to harnessing the maximum usage of lighting to the building and the prevalent problem of harsh glare on certain times/seasons. Hence, several innovative technologies were implemented.

Daylight “harvesting” technologies were implemented by attaching photosensors on the ceiling to determine the amount of electric lighting needed inside the building during certain times of the day. Certain areas could have electricity automatically turned off if the interior space was illuminated well enough.

Another form of technology that provided aid to the building’s daylighting strategy was the implementation of automated roller shades. A fabric is wrapped around a horizontal tube, and such fabric was determined with five preset heights aligned with the facade of the building. Other factors such as the color of the fabric and openings of the fabric were considered based on the context of the floor of the building. Considerations were taken into account where glaring would have had a worrying effect. Low sun angles, especially from the southwestern side of the building, require specific tuning of the roller shades. A manual override touchscreen of the roller shades allows control of the rollers by the occupants of the floor.

Pictures from a video showcasing the automated rollers from morning to evening


An article by Stephen Lacey for Green Tech Media brings about an interesting report on the New York Times Building annual energy consumption. When comparing the building to a standard building efficiency code it performs as so, “reduced annual electricity by 24 percent, cut heating energy use by more than 50 percent, and reduced peak electric demand by 25 percent.”

Sustainable aspects tie in with proper lighting designs from daylight harvesting technology providing optimal lighting, to filtering sunlight to illuminate a lot of spaces safely. 

More questions to ask

Despite its criticism of harkening back to the architectural values of many of New York’s offices of the 50s to 60s, it has a building performance and interior that is well suited for a 21st century office. Although the building’s facade is nothing too innovative or dynamic, it does seem to be climate adaptive and high-tech in the way that it implements many mechanical elements to improve building performance.

Gensler’s particular touch of red furniture to highlight the New York Times front office seems to be quite a strong visual choice for attracting people to look towards the space. Its cruciform shape is quite smart in that it allows light from all sides to enter the building with its core being left for private spaces.

What would be interesting is to see how the building stands up to certification such as LEEDS Energy Rating to see how it performs as an energy efficient office. Another thing would be to ask how people who work for the New York Times feel about the office that has served them. 

Has the New York Times building truly brought its workers out of an office that was outdated and depressing? It was built in 2007, so 16 years of age should test how the building has aged.


Arquitectura Viva. ‘The New York Times building, Nueva York.’ [Online] [Accessed on 29th September 2023]

Lacey, S. (2013) ‘Why the New York Times Building Is Saving So Much Energy.’ 28th of February. Greentech Media. [Online] [Accessed on 1st of October 2023]

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. ‘The architectural approach.’ [Online] [Accessed on 30th September 2023]

Ouroussoff, N. (2007) ‘Pride and Nostalgia Mix in The Times’s New Home.’ 20th of November. The New York Times. [Online] [Accessed on 30th of September 2023]

Renzo Piano Building Workshop. ‘The New York Times Building.’ [Online] [Accessed on 29th September 2023]

Image Sources

  1. Dawlud, R. ‘Tribute to the New York Times Building – Full 3d’. CGArchitect. [Online image] [Accessed on 2nd of October 2023]–ba170074a240fe36c369ac43b022e6260cc469d8/eyJfcmFpbHMiOnsibWVzc2FnZSI6IkJBaDdCem9VY21WemFYcGxYM1J2WDJ4cGJXbDBXd2RwQWxZRk1Eb0tjMkYyWlhKN0Jqb01jWFZoYkdsMGVXbGsiLCJleHAiOm51bGwsInB1ciI6InZhcmlhdGlvbiJ9fQ==–a140f81341e053a34b77dbf5e04e777cacb11aff/96e6426a.jpg
  2. Lehoux, N. Denancé, M. Zimmerman W. ‘Large glass window overlooking garden atrium’  Arquitectura Viva. [Online image] [Accessed on 30th of September 2023]
  3. ‘New York Times office showing red staircase.’ Gensler. [Online image] [Accessed on 1st of October]
  4. Lehoux, N. Denancé, M. Zimmerman W. ‘Steel cross bracing next to ceramic rods’  Arquitectura Viva. [Online image] [Accessed on 30th of September 2023]

  1. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (2004) ‘Time-lapsed images of shade on February 23, 2004 in the daylighting mockup’. [Online video] [Accessed on 30th of September 2023]

A Part I architect is my qualification, and I am on the verge of starting my architectural career. While having this title would mean I will forever be known as the ‘architect’ to most, I enjoy graphic novels, video games, illustration, and any kind of art medium.