Collision Lab at Cornell Tech

As the premium on innovation compels transformational shifts in workplace design, Two Sigma’s Collision Lab models an accelerator for the future—with a DNA that comes from science. The inaugural tenant of the Tata Innovation Center, Two Sigma wanted their new workspace to harness the vision for Cornell Tech’s campus on Roosevelt Island: “to spur the commercialization of new products and technologies by bringing together the best in academia and industry.” Two Sigma has been joined by Citigroup, Ferrero International and Tata Consultancy Services on this growing campus.

For their design of Two Sigma’s Collision Lab, WRNS Studio wanted to bring the scientific method and advances in data science to life while also focusing, as Two Sigma does, on the importance of talent and culture in the workplace. Echoing Two Sigma’s investment approach, Collision Lab’s interior architecture takes inspiration from the scientific method to spur innovation for a revolving roster of engineers, students, and venture-funded entrepreneurs. With the elasticity and informality of a lab as the central organizing concept, this is the place to roll up your sleeves and experiment, together. The simple, open layout, which pulls in views of island, river, and city, feels equals parts maker-space, student union, and modern workplace.

To distinguish the Lab from its headquarters in SoHo, New York, Collision Lab offers a variety of interpretive work settings, with design, furniture and materials selection driven by specific needs. Plug-and-play workstations adapt to team size and function, just as moveable desking, whiteboards and seating embolden personalized configurations. The open interior is bisected by a central community table and sculptural acoustical canopy, designating softer and louder corners of the Lab. Conference rooms, the concealed pantry, and other support spaces are bound to a complimentary pair of pavilions trimming the north and south perimeters. The pavilions house a series of conference rooms ranging in size and formality, from a seven-person war room to an intimate ‘crawl’ space. Serving as the control, a raised platform unfurls from the south pavilion, centralizing social interaction and doubling as a stage for all-hands meetings and panel discussions. The platforms occupies the geographic center of the Lab to underscore how teaching and collaboration are values interwoven into Two Sigma’s culture.

The team developed the concept of ‘Tech Ethereal’ as a testing ground for future agile workspaces. A crisp, elevated take on tech interiors is emphasized with a palette of earth tones and bright organic colors that play off of Two Sigma’s branding. Chartreuse upholstery contrasts mottled cork in the conference rooms while a trough of Irish Moss embellishes the white oak central gathering platform. Natural daylight floods into the Collision Lab through floor-to-ceiling glass windows presenting a striking tableau of midtown Manhattan and yielding transparency from the Cornell Tech campus below.

Collision Lab plays off the two core conditions of knowledge work—the ability to interact with others in order to conceive, share, or develop information, and autonomy over the processes of one’s work. The success of the space thus hinges on the manner in which entrepreneurs—the academics from Cornell Tech and practitioners from Two Sigma and venture-funded partners—“collide” in the space and make it their own in order to innovate.

 

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