Looking Glass Factory is a team of inventors and artists creating the holographic future in which pieces of 3D digital spaces live in the real world through holographic displays and interfaces. Real 3D in real life, no VR or AR headgear required. The company was founded in 2014 by Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein with its headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn - also known by most of the company as “Greenpoint, Home of The Hologram.”
From 2015 to early 2019, the team at Looking Glass Factory worked out of an old glass factory at the northern tip of Greenpoint. Eventually, they found themselves inhabiting more and more spaces within the old factory until realizing that they may have finally outgrown it. The one caveat was that they wanted to stay in Greenpoint.
In June 2019, they finally found a new home at 190 West Street, inside a former garage that sold industrial supplies. What started as an empty shell, has now transformed into a space that represents a Looking Glass future that the team is excited to grow into. Within the space itself, Looking Glass Factory has made sure to utilize different interior elements to tell the story of its historical past: cabinets lined up with Stereoscopes, Magic Viewers, and Walt Disney’s Illusion of Life, to prototypes that the team has worked on that spans the last five years.
Now, Looking Glass Factory works primarily on the software and hardware development of its latest product — the Looking Glass. The interiors of the office lend themselves to both the solo work that is required in a software/hardware development team as well as the collaborative framework that was necessary in order to bring this product (and it’s predecessors) to life.
In the design approach of the office, the team at Michael Yarinsky Studio focused on showcasing what makes the Looking Glass unique - a change of perspective. Each moment in the space is meant to challenge both the team and customers perspectives of their physical surroundings.
From the street, the office looks inviting - almost residential in nature. The lounge space, a sunlit area with a sectional and Yuko Nishikawa pendant sculptures overhead, is immediately apparent through the glass garage doors. Bordering the lounge space is a custom serpentine bookcase displaying a timeline of holograms including iterations of Looking Glass Factory prototypes. As the bookcase curves backwards into the main office, one is invited to come inside.
Upon entry, moments of engagement play with inhabitants notions of transparency, scale, and space use. The design team knew they did not want to use traditional cubicles or an open seating plan because of the drawbacks in both scenarios, so they invented a new system based on perspective. A series of L-shaped walls in a playful plan arrangement are sliced by an imaginary inclined plane. The layout of desks draws the viewer's eyes across the room as they increase in height back into the space. This is intentional: the desks modulate both light and privacy and as a playful alternative to the traditional cubicle. The team members with a more social role in the company (marketing, sales, etc) have lower walls, more light, and more room to engage with their neighbors. Team members who are more engaged in focused development work have less glare from the sun and more separation from their neighbors desks.
Private spaces line the perimeter of the open office area, including must-have conference room, call rooms, and all-hands zones. These spaces share a unifying design language communicated through custom furnishings, along with the use of dark colors and curves in contrast to the angular white forms found throughout the open office area.
At the front is an open-air but protected product viewing area for the Looking Glass line of products. Curtain enclosures will modulate light and sound, providing a gallery-type experience for viewing the Looking Glass as opposed to a traditional showroom.
The idea of the space in terms of perspective is larger as well. An office design like this is meant to be a challenge to traditional notions of what an office can and should be. The hope is the space may be a change of perspective for both the team and users that may be a catalyst for creative thought in the future.
Photography Hanna Grankvist