THE NASDAD stock exchange cannot be found on Wall Street, nor on any other street. The company’s corporate offices are near the government regulators in Washington, while its computers hum in a cool, dim facility in Connecticut. But as a stock market without a trading floor, Nasdaq wanted a three-dimensional ad for its tech-friendly brand, a space the public would recognize as the exchange’s home. In an age when financial news is both information and entertainment, “we had two audiences,” says Jorge Szendiuch, design principal on the project for Einhorn Yaffee Prescott. “One was the broadcast audience” that follows the market on TV, he explains. “The other was the audience on the street.”
And not just any street. Nasdaq found a home for its MarketSite–the hint of Internet-speak is surely intentional–in a prominent corner of Times Square, the urban crossroads where edifice and information meet. There, in the fall of 1998, it leased the first two floors of the corner drum of the Conde Nast building, then under construction, as well as the titanic sign above. New York–based EYP was hired to carve a broadcast studio, public exhibition space, and corporate facilities from the 25,000 square feet below what would become an instantly iconic billboard: a virtual home for a virtual stock exchange.
In late 1998, EYP embarked on the design-build project with a drop-dead deadline of New Year’s Eve, 1999. The initial budget was around $20 million, but that amount was contingent on the vagaries of the budget for the whole building. “We could not be rigid,” says Szendiuch. “We had to have a clear idea, but we had to be able to improvise as we went along.”
In fact, EYP’s design, created in collaboration with Harout Dedeyan, designer of Nasdaq’s original broadcast facilities in downtown Manhattan, was guided by two clear ideas. The first was to exploit Nasdaq’s real estate at the “Crossroads of the World.” To that end, EYP rejected the initial design for an exterior of columns with glass-filled openings. For maximum transparency, the designers opted instead for the Pilkington system of glass panels held in place by invisible cables. The manic streetscape seems to pour into the interior, while from the street, nothing obscures the 20-foot-tall stock-tracking video wall that backs Nasdaq’s ground-floor TV studio. “It’s not unlike a sign in Times Square,” says Szendiuch. “It’s just inside.”
The second idea was to work off the strong form of the exterior drum. The designers did this in part by removing a portion of the second floor and adding a circular mezzanine to creat a multitiered glass donut. Upon entering the space, visitors walk past the security desk and around the curved back wall, which is sheathed in translucent glass. The cylinder’s milky surface is broken by two clear openings, one of which reveals the broadcast control booth. The other, a transparent ribbon at mezzanine level, exposes the banks of computers that control the video wall. “We weren’t interested in hiding the equipment,” Szendiuch says. “We wanted to highlight the technology, because that is what gives Nasdaq an identity different from the New York Stock Exchange.” MarketSite certainly accomplishes this objective, playing on the contemporary culture surrounding the Nasdaq brand and the neighborhood surrounding the building. The project not only blurs the line between inside and out, but confounds the differences betwe en information, entertainment, technology, and commerce–like Times Square itself.
Debra Goldman is a New York-based writer specializing in consumer culture.
ZRCH SMITH I Tourist, Los Angeles, CA
What do you like best about the Nasdaq interior? It’s visually captivating.
Would you want to work there? Sure.
You wouldn’t feel overloaded being there all day? Doesn’t look like overload; it looks like command control.
What would you change about it? I’d have it hooked up to VR goggles so I could just sit there and! wouldn’t have to look anywhere; I could just stare straight ahead.
Do you play the stock market? Yeah, I do. But you said it just right: play the game. It’s a game.
Does this make you want to invest more in the stock market? No, but it definitely makes me want to look at it. It’s more interactive.
Do you think the interior meshes with the outside of the building, with the new Times Square? Sure, and it shows where you are on the outside of the building [through a closed-circuit TV]. It’s beautiful. It makes me want to come back tomorrow and go in when it’s running.