Built in 1914 and located in Manhattan’s Garment District, the Lord and Taylor Building stands as a testament to New York’s rich heritage of innovation and entrepreneurship. The 5th Avenue landmark served as the retail giant’s flagship store for over a century, helping to shape the city’s identity. Now this building has been transformed from a department store into a modern workplace for one of today’s most innovative technology companies. “Hank,” named in part after a unit of textile measurement, is the company’s New York tech hub and social mixer. Amazon purchased the Lord and Taylor Building in March 2020 and enlisted owner’s representative and development manager Seneca Group and architect and interior designer WRNS Studio to manage and design this dynamic new workplace, which welcomes 2,000 people.
Interior design embraces a spirit of re-use over replacement, intertwining stories of memory and renewal, urban stewardship, employee well-being, and low carbon. Design honors the Lord and Taylor Building’s layered history, paying homage to the collective memories of New Yorkers who came to acquire their first formal attire or marvel at the holiday window displays. Every aspect of the project plays off the New York experience, from materials that echo the neighborhood’s iconic cast iron and steel structures to panoramic views showcasing the city’s enchanting rooftop water towers. The work of local artists celebrates the textile traditions, while artifacts from the former department store enliven new spaces throughout the building.
Connection + Light
The centerpiece of the project—connecting old with new, daylight to each workspace, and employees with one another—is a grand stair that stretches from the second floor to the rooftop courtyard. This nine-story monumental stair unifies the former department store and connects the building internally with the neighboring Dreicer Building, also renovated as part of the project. Capped by a transparent lantern, the staircase repeats the footprint of the rooftop courtyard to channel natural light into the deep floorplates and to encourage employees to move about the building. This intervention supports Amazon’s goals for energy efficiency, minimized carbon, and employee well-being. The elegant black staircase recalls Manhattan’s ubiquitous fire escapes, a beautiful detail rooted in place.
Well-being + Choice
Hank houses a variety of different teams from Amazon. Workspaces are organized with social space centralized around the stairwell and open desking near the windows, accommodating the full spectrum of collaborative-to-focused work. Meeting rooms line a promenade that runs from the elevator core to the stairwell while gracious lounges surround the stair on each floor. Textile artist William Storms’ hand-woven montages, composed of multicolored rope, cloth, and wood, grace each landing, welcoming employees and visitors. Playful colors, wallpaper, tile, and art further distinguish the lounges from one another on each level. Agile work configurations embrace unassigned seating, an approach that promotes space efficiency and flexibility; all seats contribute to the headcount and workspaces double as informal social zones. With operable windows and easy access to amenities, employees enjoy comfortable and personalized work environments that offer choice and a sense of domain.
Community + Place
The project derives energy from the bustling street, amplifying the unique character of the neighborhood. The workplace encourages employees to step outside and enjoy local offerings—especially important in cities still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic. Highly visible from the street, the ground floor accommodates food vendors and restaurants, welcoming both employees and passersby. Public-facing training rooms signal Amazon’s commitment to supporting the professional growth of its community, and several spaces support partnerships between industry and academia. These spaces will be used by different institutions throughout the region, including the City University of New York (CUNY), for classes and other academic events. The project’s proximity to a variety of local transit choices makes it easy to access while supporting the company’s Climate Pledge to reach net zero carbon by 2040.
New dining and event spaces are perched atop the existing structure in the glass enclosed addition anchored by a new terrace and a refurbished sunken courtyard. The addition operates as a multi-level events center stitched together by a new spiral stair connecting floors 11-13. The terrace invites employees outside with a perimeter pathway, a dog run, and access to the historic courtyard. Paying homage to the themed restaurants in the former department story, Level 12 is primarily dedicated to food service. “The Birdcage,” a former restaurant remembered by many, has been reinterpreted by WRNS Studio and local artist Brit Kleinman as a circular hand-woven enclosure in which people enjoy lunch or coffee. The top floor is an expansive events space capable of hosting up to 200 people. These spaces bring the Amazon community close to some of New York’s most striking landmarks, including the Empire State Building and the Main Library.
Artifact + Memory
Artifacts and historic details serve as defining features in prominent social areas, inviting people to notice, touch, and tap into the collective stories of this place. Where historic elements were found to be well-preserved, they have been revealed and given new life. Cast iron arches and glass windows that once framed the building entry now “fold” down into an arched banquette while the new solarium now features a renewed original chamfered skylight. Terracotta found in the ceilings and column capitals, bearing layers of details, have been left exposed.
Likewise, throughout the building, historic artifacts have been repurposed for new use. Tiles from the former flower market now frame the signage for a restaurant that pays homage to Dorothy (Dot) Shaver, the first woman to lead a major retail company in the United States. Wood panels that were originally imported from a Scottish castle grace a new fireplace and brass lintels salvaged from the old elevators have been remade into a sculpture. To complement these historic features, new materials, colors, furniture, and fixtures were carefully selected to reflect the craftsmanship of 100 years ago. This approach captures the spirit of this place, while minimizing carbon and waste.
Hank takes a deeply-connected piece of urban infrastructure and breathes new life into it, offering a low-carbon, healthy workplace environment for the Amazon community. The design team’s thoughtful space planning, imaginative interventions, and the repurposing of old materials ensures this New York City landmark’s enduring appeal.