Corrections or additions?
These articles by Barbara Fox and Jack Florek were prepared for
the October 31, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
New Offices in Class A-Typical Space
It is not visible from the road, but emerges like a
kind of colossus out of the branches and brambles at the north end
of the long narrow path behind the Lawrence Animal Hospital.
At first sight — with its 5,700 square feet of space standing
one and a half stories high, white clapboard siding, green roof, and
abundant glass windows glittering like Teflon in the sun — it
seems to evince a kind of space-age elegance. But a closer look of
the exterior quickly reveals that this modern building, from its
rafters down to its natural stone base, is actually a restored early
20th century barn.
Not exactly the sort of place most people would expect to find the
offices of an architectural firm whose designs house the latest in
21st century telecom equipment.
Nonetheless, these are the new digs of Silverberg Associates Inc.,
Architects. In an interview that took place in his corner office of
the newly remodeled building, Paul Silverberg, founder and president
of the firm, speaks of his pleasure at seeing the results of a lot
of labor come to fruition. "I think the building speaks for
It’s an excellent representation of what we can do as a firm, and
it serves as a kind of calling card for us."
The barn was constructed in the 1920s and was last used in the 1970s
as an animal research facility. Since then it has sat dormant.
we started, this place was a mess. We chased out the bats and the
raccoons, took out all the junk. More dumpsters than I could
says Silverberg. "Fortunately, the basic structure was sound."
"Shortly after we’d finished the building, a friend of mine came
in who hadn’t stepped foot in here since before we started
says architect Paul Silverberg. "He was literally speechless,
he was stammering after he took the tour through the place. All he
could say was that the transformation is unbelievable."
Silverberg Associates moved in earlier this year after
having designed the plans for the rehab of the building, enduring
a year-long construction process, and successfully negotiating with
the neighborhood association that strongly objected to the setting
up of a commercial enterprise in the 70-year-old barn. The move
the firm to consolidate offices from Nassau Street in Princeton and
Quakerbridge Road in Hamilton.
The firm does architecture, planning, and interior design, with a
focus on telecommunications. "Much of the kind of work we do can
be characterized as technically challenging work," says
"For example, we have a contract with Verizon to do a number of
its switching facilities to help expand its telecom network operation
centers, which are control centers that run a lot of the
systems and data centers." Office buildings, academic facilities,
and laboratories are also well represented in Silverberg Associates’
Some might see little in common between designing a telecommunications
lab and revamping a weather-beaten barn, but Silverberg says that
his firm approached this project exactly as they would any other.
"We work the very same way. We would advocate doing the same kinds
of things for a client, no different," says Silverberg. "We
would hope that a client would have the foresight to see it through
and work with us on the vision we’re trying to present to them."
Although the exterior of the building still retains elements of the
building’s previous incarnation as an agricultural entity, the inside
of the building is anything but barn-like. Its high ceilings and white
interior, along with its abundance of natural light facilitated by
a large crescent window in the roof that spans 65 feet, give it a
refreshing feeling of vast space rare in a work environment.
This feeling of space is carefully tailored to suit the needs of the
firm. "We have an open working environment here, and we wanted
to facilitate that sense of openness, teamwork, and accessibility,"
explains Silverberg. "And natural light was important to us. You
can see the sky from anywhere in this place. Working in this kind
of environment, our employees really appreciate the openness and I
think it gives them a sense of psychological freedom as well."
Silverberg, who is married and has two small children, was born in
New York City, moved to Newark when he was three months old, and grew
up on the Jersey shore. His father worked in sales and his mother
worked as a secretary for a physician’s practice. He attended the
University of Michigan, where he received his bachelors degree in
1977 and his master’s degree in architecture two years later.
Moving to Princeton in 1981, he worked at several
firms, including Holt & Morgan, before setting out on his own. He
founded Silverberg Associates in 1985. "Everything here started
with just a drafting board, an attic, and me," he says. He now
has 25 employees working with him.
The particular difficulties of remodeling an existing structure were
not lost on Silverberg, and he admits that he enjoys the challenge.
"Logistically, it’s more of a challenge to remodel than it would
have been to build from the ground up," he says. "But behind
everything we knew we had a building with a sound foundation, sound
framing. Our task was to upgrade the rest of the infrastructure such
as utilities and interior spaces."
In addition, the particular zoning strictures the property fell under
played a key role in the decision. "It’s a strange parcel of
because it is designated for commercial use in the middle of a
area," explains Silverberg. "So we needed to maintain the
existing commercial use, and if we had demolished the building and
started over again we would have had to reestablish a whole new set
of planning approvals. So for this building the proper solution was
to revitalize what was here."
One particular aspect of the project that Silverberg is most grateful
for was the opportunity to learn first-hand what a typical owner
when going through the building process.
"As an architect, you’re usually on the outside looking in to
various aspects of the process. But in this case, we experienced
first-hand," says Silverberg. "We purchased the property,
we had to secure the financing from the bank, and we were intimately
involved in the construction process. It gave us a far greater
of what a typical owner would have to do in order to navigate the
steps to bring a building of any kind to closure."
The general contractor for the work on the project was Doyle Builders,
located on Carter Street in Princeton. "We have a long-standing
friendship and working association with them that goes many years.
They are well-known in the area and that was a great advantage in
doing the project," says Silverberg.
Area subcontractors who were also involved include Active
of Edison, which did the heating and air conditioning, and John
who did the framing. Hamilton Supply Company supplied a lot of the
building materials, and Mill Roofing did all the roofing work. The
mechanical engineering was done by M & E Engineers in Somerville.
One of the challenges of working on any project is to combine the
practical requirements of a particular structure with some more
elements. This came into sharp focus for Silverberg while drawing
up designs for the remodeling of the barn. "As a practice we’re
always looking to push the edges of things in a way that is practical
and reasonable," says Silverberg. "When I was sitting down
and doing the initial schematics for the barn it was clear to me that
we wanted a lot of natural light. So I took a big bold pen and
that big curved window. I thought to myself, `Uh oh, can we do this?’
But it felt like the right thing to do."
Knowing that the window would require the installation of curved
and leery of the potential expense and availability, Silverberg
the practicality of the window. But to his happy surprise it turned
out not to be especially difficult. "All the curved beams that
went into it actually came to about $2,800, and they came out of a
mill in Wisconsin that makes them for a living. It wasn’t a big deal.
It was a nice victory," says Silverberg. "We did something
dramatic, it made all the difference as far as the feel in the space,
and it all worked. Those are the kinds of sensibilities that we try
to bring not just to this building, but all the buildings that we
Sitting back in his chair, Silverberg glances around the room and
says "this is our statement. We want to be above the mundane.
But you still have to be able to afford it, and the wind and rain
shouldn’t be blowing through the building. It’s the right
— Jack Florek
08542. Paul Silverberg RA, president. 609-921-1867; fax, 609-921-8326.
(Home page: www.silverberg-arch.com).
What’s the architectural equivalent of comfort food?
Some would say anything that is not a skyscraper, others would say
anything that is not a standard office park.
Just as some restaurants are adjusting their menus, moving from away
from dishes laced with fancy sauces to home-cooking entrees like
so some companies are looking for cozier, non-traditional space.
Silverberg Associates, an architectural practice, has moved from
Street and Quakerbridge Road to an early 20th century barn on
Pike (see story above), and Thacker & Frank, an advertising agency,
is building a non-traditional addition to its current space on
Part of this building’s charm will be its name, Workopolis, meant
to be the direct opposite of the traditional suburban office park.
"We thought of calling it UnCorporate Park," says Robert
a partner in the 17-year-old firm. "The name Workopolis will brand
the entire property."
Let it be noted that Thacker & Frank’s current property is also very
uncorporate. In fact, it looks quite ordinary from the road; it’s
three houses, with the ad agency occupying 2,900 square feet and three
tenants — an oral surgeon, Full Circle Family Health and Massage,
and Kumon Learning Center — in the rest.
The 5,000-foot addition will change that. Terry Smith of Richardson
Smith has designed a three-story, space-age structure between two
of the houses. The glazed metal roof tilts at a rakish angle. "We
are trying to create some neat looking space," says Frank. "It
will be highly visible from the road," says Frank.
"We wanted to add something with roadside visibility between the
two existing nondescript ’70s buildings," says Smith. "One
block is rotated slightly and jutting out in front of them, and from
the street it is very clear that this is something new. The other
building block is more of a box." The top-floor front office (yet
to be rented) overlooks Route 571 and has floor-to-ceiling glass.
The conference room (to be used by the ad agency) has a sloping
ceiling and comes complete with a fireplace.
The main level is reached by walking up a long ramp from a lower
"On one side of the ramp’s handrail will be a glass floor that
looks into the art department on the lower level," says Smith,
whose firm is known for the design of two Nassau Street
Micawber Books and Triumph Brew Pub. "Above the ramp, this
slopes up and over the existing house. It’s a small building, very
tightly designed, compressed and exciting. Things are happening in
a tight area. We are trying to allow the interior space to be very
"We did a Class A building from a quality standpoint but with
Class B pricing," claims Frank. "We don’t have the office
park and the marble atrium overhead." Financing is being handled
through Yardville Bank, and Integrated Construction, of Bristol,
is doing the building and is supposed to finish by mid December. The
ad agency is doing its own leasing but will protect brokers.
"We thought of this five years ago and a year ago decided to
the plans. There is a big difference in the plans between then and
now," Frank says. "We have a lot more flexibility. We can
add or close doors and add or subtract space for our own needs. The
new building is contiguous to us on all three floors."
Thacker & Frank is giving up some of its current space but adding
a total of 600 square feet in the new space, including the conference
room and a reception area with fireplace, plus an expansion in the
basement for the art department. "The windows are four feet by
five feet," he quickly adds, "and there is more light down
there than in the typical office."
The Thacker & Frank agency does corporate/consumer marketing programs
including literature, direct mail, print, newsletters, and video.
Among its clients are Miele, Digifocus, Prince Tennis, the New Jersey
Economic Development Authority, Princeton Insurance, Blinke, and Bank
Thacker & Frank has come a long way from 1984 when it
was listed in Rob Thacker’s name only, and the two men shared a room
with architect Michael Landau at 20 Nassau Street. Thacker is a 1980
graduate of the University of Tennessee and Frank went to St. Peter’s,
Class of 1978, and has an MBA from Pace. "When we took another
200 square feet, it seemed such a monumental decision," says
"And we learned what it was like to be a tenant. Now that we are
landlords, we did a whole brochure, a corny philosophical thing, on
how we treat our tenants like we would want to be treated."
One pressing tenant need is signage. Frank tells an anecdote about
the Full Circle practice. In its previous space on Route 571 it had
a small sign that attracted only eight "walk-ins" over the
course of the year. When Full Circle moved to Thacker & Frank’s
park" it gained better signage and had 87 walk-ins that year.
This little uncorporate park is located at the intersection of Old
Trenton Road and Route 571, and the rush hour backup requires
of drivers to go slowly past those signs daily. But with at least
two new tenants at this spot, the attention value of the signage will
inevitably get diluted.
The ad agency is solving this problem in a characteristic way, by
making use of good design. "We’ll have the `Workopolis’ name in
stainless steel at the top, and signage for all our tenants at the
bottom, but under the Workopolis name we will feature month-by-month
promotions for each tenant, including us," says Frank. "So
everyone will have a chance to get top billing."
Atypical buildings are not for everyone. Frank says he has been
calls from New York companies who want to get out of New York. One
company needed 3,700 square feet — a perfect size for this
which can lease up from 850 to 3,725 square feet. It wanted the
— just 200 yards from the new Hightstown bypass that connects
to the New Jersey Turnpike. But the New York company needed all its
space on one floor.
Sometimes only an office park will do.
— Barbara Fox
Road, Cranbury 08512. Rob Thacker/Robert Frank, principals.
fax, 609-448-4343. Home page: www.tandfcom.com
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