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Redesigning a dysfunctional doorman station.
AUTHORMarilyn Sygrove, President, Sygrove Associates Design Group
Location is everything, as they say, and that includes doorman stations. In older buildings, they are often situated in places that make the doorman’s job a lot harder and can also affect the quality of life for residents. We worked at a 200-unit building where the doorman station was in a very awkward spot in the lobby. There were the main entry doors, which were swing doors, into the vestibule, and then a set of interior swinging doors leading into the lobby. But they were perpendicular to each other, so it wasn’t a straight run from the front doors and then into the lobby. If the doorman was at his desk, he’d have to walk around the corner to get to the street doors. If he opened the door for a guest, he’d have to go back behind his desk to announce them. And if he was retrieving packages, he’d have to go to the walk-in package closet that was behind the lobby, which was bad in terms of communication, service and having a security presence in the lobby. It was just really dysfunctional.
Clearing the way. We did a survey and discovered there was underutilized space around the desk that could be converted into a usable package room, which could be easily accessed right within the lobby. The existing walk-in package space behind the lobby would be retained. But we would create beautiful decorative doors leading into the new package room so that you wouldn’t even know what it was until you opened them. We prepared three designs with different options of what direction the desk would face. The designs also included new sliding exterior doors. When a resident comes into the building, those doors open automatically, and the secondary doors would be left open, weather permitting. If it was cold and the doors were closed, they’d be in close proximity to the doorman’s desk.
Clearing the desk. The actual station was changed as well. Most lobbies are not redesigned for 15, 20, 25 years at a time, and the technology has changed dramatically, whether it’s security monitors or drawers for keys that are distributed to dog walkers or people cleaning apartments. At this building there was a large intercom panel with a button for each apartment. Now it’s done with a dial-up system, so there isn’t any cumbersome equipment at the desk, just the phone. So the desk was completely revamped.
With ongoing health concerns about COVID-19, we were asked to create some kind of screen so that when a delivery person or a guest comes to the desk, there is a protective barrier. But rather than it being something that is very temporary looking or flimsy, we designed one made of plexiglass with an antique bronze trim that matches the finishes in the rest of the lobby.
A clear picture. The most important thing when doing a lobby redesign is to take a good, hard look at the space holistically, rather than saying, “Gee, let’s just do the desk. Or let’s just do the doors. Or let’s just do the floor or reupholster a sofa.” Lobbies are a large investment. So the takeaway here is to consider all of the key elements before making decisions, which can really pay off in the long term. This building also did the elevator cabs and hallways, because the board realized that if it redesigned one space, the other spaces would be of a lesser level. So they went with the whole package. But it was also important to respect the style of the original period of the building. The redesign may have all new bells and whistles for service and convenience, but the aesthetic was inspired by its heritage.