Monday, December 28, 2009

Fashion School Tries On A New Home In An Old Manhattan Building

A New York fashion college branded as LIM (and formerly known as the Laboratory Institute for Merchandising) has carved out a beautiful new home in one of the city's older buildings at 12 East 53rd Street.  

A full press release follows the photos.



NEW YORK – Award winning architecture firm Butler Rogers Baskett (BRB) has created a new, state of the art facility for LIM, the College for the Business of Fashion, in the heart of midtown Manhattan, just steps away from Fifth Avenue. The gut renovation of this 1880, 6-story townhouse-school at 12 East 53rd Street creates an important presence for the College in the heart of some of the city’s most fashionable retailing.  Established in 1939, LIM grants bachelor of business degrees in fashion marketing, management and visual merchandising. 

Due to their unique status as the only institution in the United States committed to providing specialized education focused on the business side of the fashion industry, LIM wanted a strong connection between the students’ academic training and their future professions in the fashion industry.  “We wanted to make every square foot of the design part of the learning experience,” Barbara Zieve, BRB’s Design Director says, “and an expression of LIM’s mission. That meant that the design itself had to be both the creative expression and a component of the LIM educational experience.”

Program areas included fashion studios, classrooms, computer labs, student and faculty lounges, and offices for administration and for student and academic affairs. The challenge for BRB was to create a “hip”, creative environment on a modest budget that would remedy the architectural changes made throughout the school’s 30-year evolution in this location.

After many years of accommodating change in an ad hoc manner, the townhouse was in need of updating. What was originally built as a private residence with a gracious interior incorporating high-ceiling spaces was, over time, divided into smaller rooms devoted to classrooms and offices, all with suspended acoustical ceilings, poor lighting, and little natural daylight, giving it a claustrophobic, inward-focused feeling. BRB’s goal was to perceptually increase the sizes of spaces, investing meaning and levels of importance to key areas throughout the building.

On the ground floor, BRB created a multifunctional, public space that could be used for 75-person lectures, fashion shows, and fashion industry social events. A 20’-0” long, sliding, red lacquer millwork door with a clear glass, elliptically-shaped window is designed to separate the student entrance from the multipurpose room when needed and is one of the key “image-defining” objects in the new design. The development of this elliptical shape has evolved into the school’s newly branded logo and is a theme used throughout the building to identify and reinforce areas of importance. 

To meet the challenge of narrow, vertically stacked floors in this 6-story townhouse, “way finding” became an important central theme. What had been an 8’-0” ceiling height in the main corridors and classrooms is now transformed into a studio loft experience with the original exposed, 16’-0”high concrete beam ceilings and light fixtures such as the large, round, illuminated globe light fixtures in the corridors.  In addition, each floor’s identity is characterized by a different color theme with memorable moments of display are located at each corridor terminus and at each floor entry.

The main student circulation is the open central stair, which is much used and thus promotes communication and interaction. To encourage that flow, the two student lounges are located at opposite poles, on the ground and top floors.  A highlight of the renovated space is LIM’s “Vertical Timeline”. Archival photos that tell the story of where fashion – and LIM – were in each decade from the 1930’s onward have been placed on each floor of the townhouse’s sweeping center staircase accompanied by a quote that captures the spirit of the times.  These are classic reminders of the heights of fashion and business achievement, two themes central to LIM’s mission.

About Butler Rogers Baskett Architects
Butler Rogers Baskett (BRB) is a New York-based architectural firm specializing in the design of facilities for institutions of higher education and independent schools, professional and corporate office interiors, sports and club facilities, and specialty retail and historic preservation projects.

BRB’s educational practice is committed to a sustainable future. Because their clients are building for future generations, BRB promotes quality construction and energy efficient high-performing building systems, which, though they may cost more initially, prove to be the prudent choice for the long term. The firm understands that healthy buildings improve learning and promote a greater sense of well being. BRB is excited to see how their advocacy for the natural environment has proven to be contagious, as energy-efficient, and earth friendly building features have become teaching tools and sources of institutional pride. This is an indication that BRB is headed in the right direction, and it reaffirms their commitment to a practice that participates


About LIM, The College for the Business of Fashion
At LIM, The College for the Business of Fashion, students learn the business of fashion. Since 1939, LIM has been focused on educating tomorrow’s business leaders.  The College grants Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degrees in fashion merchandising, visual merchandising, marketing and management and offers a Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) in Fashion Merchandising. An LIM education combines in-class instruction by professors who are experts in their field with required internships where students gain real-world skills and experience. LIM is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


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