Checking-in with Ajay Chopra, the Architect Behind foursquare’s New Headquarters; How Napkin-Based Sketch Became High-Profile Design for NYC Technology Company
NEW YORK, Dec. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Ajay Chopra, a Manhattan-based architect and founder of Echo Design+Architecture, also holds the title of Mayor — but you won’t find him at City Hall. Chopra holds the honorary title of Mayor of Architectural Design for social networking company foursquare. In October, the creators of the popular check-in platform appointed the architect to create a real-world work environment for its flagship offices. The company’s new headquarters will occupy office space at 568 Broadway.
Chopra’s focus for the past two months has been development of a plan balancing strategic design and visual impact with workplace function for the SoHo space that will serve as the company’s global headquarters.
The first phase of the build-out encompasses the building’s 10th floor, equivalent to half a football field. Aragon Construction is implementing the build based on EchoDA’s design. The project launched December 15th.
The assignment is one every architect dreams of, but Chopra embraced the job for the creative opportunity offered by foursquare’s relaxed climate and minimalist style.
“The no-nonsense approach is what clients appreciate most,” Manhattan architect and EchoDA principal Ajay Chopra said. “Foursquare’s remarkable growth and success can be directly attributed to its simplicity in style. We’ve incorporated that proven brand philosophy in every aspect of this project.”
The foursquare offices will feature open space that fosters unrestricted conversation and idea generation, and promotes collaboration among staff. The most visually compelling aspect will be a large gallery wall that incorporates the company’s signature “badge” theme.
Chopra landed the project under circumstances nearly as unique as his architectural style. Early in 2011, the architect assisted foursquare in addressing preliminary space issues, after being referred by a contractor familiar with Chopra’s trademark reliability. Eight months later, Chopra received an email from foursquare asking if he would assist them in reviewing new space. He met with company staff, walked the space to assess design possibilities, and gave advice on scheduling and time constraints. Later at a nearby pub, the architect and foursquare’s Director of Finance & Operations Derek Stewart worked on a preliminary “napkin sketch” of the site design. Five days after, the company signed EchoDA to complete the office design based on the architect’s preliminary drawings.
“In choosing an architect to create a vision and design for its flagship offices, foursquare felt it essential to select a local firm with a proven track record,” Ajay Chopra said.
Based on the experience, Chopra appreciates the tech company’s decision-making and responsible use of time and resources. He has also embraced their check-in application, setting-up his own account and adding his company to foursquare’s Manhattan location and activity destinations.
Ajay Chopra has a unique sense of the business of architectural design, even by New York standards. He asserts that architecture is among the most basic, yet critical aspects of any society or population center — regardless of location. The Manhattan architect notes the average person spends 2/3 of his/her life inside some enclosed structure. For the typical American, that’s more than 50 years spent occupying homes, offices and other dwellings.
Surprisingly, less than 10% of the architectural process is devoted to actual design. Chopra and his staff must also be versed in construction, project management and human psychology. With most projects consuming four months or more, architectural design is a relationship-driven business that mandates significant communication. The architect must listen and inquire to ensure the client’s vision appears in the final design or clearly articulate his intent at the outset, educating the client along the way. Such insight is the product of international experience and a global reputation Chopra’s used to fuel the success of EchoDA:
“When we were appointed the design architects for a celebrated jewelry brand on New York’s Madison Avenue, our first thought was to collaborate with Echo Design+Architecture,” Nathan Monger, Senior Associate with international architectural firm MPA Architects said. “Ajay had worked on large retail projects here in London, and we were certain his firm could get the project built.”
Despite the firm’s active first year, Chopra remains grounded. With nearly 20 active projects, his staff continues to grow and EchoDA is adding office space. Still, Chopra is more concerned about the appeal and challenge offered by a project, than with maximizing the firm’s client base. Echo remains committed to pursuing edgy and challenging projects, and the firm’s portfolio reflects a range of extremes – from foursquare’s 28,000-square-foot design, to small artisinal efforts that include a 200-square-foot studio.
“EchoDA is open to all kinds of clients, and especially enjoys working with young, fast-paced firms seeking a competitive edge,” Ajay Chopra said. “Any firm that signs EchoDA can be certain of our commitment to serving their needs and exceeding their expectations.”
While EchoDA’s style is decidedly unique, Ajay Chopra holds to one principle instilled by an early mentor and applied to every project the firm takes on: “The final architectural design is only as good as the firm’s collaboration with the client.”
Foursquare makes the real world easier to use by providing tools that help you keep up with friends, discover what’s nearby, save money, and unlock deals. Whether you’re setting off on a trip around the world, coordinating a night out with friends, or trying to pick out the best dish at your local restaurant, foursquare is the perfect companion. For more information, visit http://www.foursquare.com.
Launched in 2010, Echo Design+Architecture is a Manhattan-based firm specializing in interiors. Leveraging its reputation for bringing innovation and visual impact to retail, commercial, and residential spaces, the firm has aggressively expanded into buildings. For more information about Ajay Chopra or Echo Design+Architecture, visit http://www.echoda.com.
SOURCE Echo Design+Architecture