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The Politics Behind Redesigning the Concierge Desk

New York City

Redesigning the Concierge Desk
March 3, 2015

If you're David Moyer, sitting on the board of 50 Park Avenue, you are part of a team that put together a plan for a new lobby. As the chairman of the board's committee on technology and security, you have to pay special attention to desk design. But it also means listening to his doormen first. Only then, he says, can the board go about working with the design firm. After all, he explains, you have to "give your doormen the resources to do their job better, and they're the experts on that. We talked to them." 

Sightlines and Location

The first issue to consider are "sightlines," says Joel M. Ergas, a principal in Forbes-Ergas Design Associates. "The desk needs good sightlines in as many directions as you can give it because it has to be easy for the staffer to go in and out, if he has to help anyone for any reason, such as helping someone out of a car and bringing in luggage."

Your design should also place the concierge within easy proximity of a place "where you can store luggage and dry cleaning without walking half-a-mile and leaving his desk," Ergas says. "You want to centralize the desk function with the package function."

Packages and Dry Cleaning

Where package delivery was once a secondary concern for a concierge, the dual trends toward two-income households and online shopping have led to a huge increase in the number of items waiting for residents.

Dennis DePaola, executive vice president of Orsid Realty, a management firm, says that many buildings with just one concierge now have 30 to 40 packages coming in each day, as well as a great deal of dry cleaning. As lobby designer Marilyn Sygrove of Sygrove Associates Design Group points out, this is a potential security concern. "In a lot of old buildings, the package room is down the hall," she notes. "So that means the concierge could be pulled away from the desk to handle a box from UPS and not [see] who's coming in to your lobby."

Consequently, many buildings are choosing to relocate their package rooms so they have greater proximity to the concierge. This is consistent with the belief expressed by Ergas that a good designer does not want to create a space where the concierge is "unduly distracted from the entrance. It's a question of security."

In itself this change can lead to complications. DePaola reports that in one Upper East Side building his company manages, the decision to move the desk from one side of the lobby to the other to accommodate an expansion in the package area stalled the lobby redesign by eight to ten months as residents vigorously debated the proposed change.

DePaola emphasizes the importance of understanding that any proposed change is "political. Boards have to take into account the views of shareholders. They're high-profile. You're dealing with aesthetics, and everyone's tastes are different. There are issues of color and style. You have people who want traditional design and people who want modern."


Adapted from "View from the Desk" by Jonathan Leaf (Habitat, March 2015).

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