Home, It’s Where I Want to Be

When the world shut down in March of 2020, discussions around the Future of Work exploded.

Will we ever go back to a physical office?
Can we live anywhere?
Can we work from everywhere?

While we talked about these things  at Jayaram, we didn’t dwell on them much.  Maybe that’s because since the very beginning of our existence in 2009, we never really believed in face time, nor did we mandate the location from where people had to do their work.  

Sometimes, that work was performed in a courtroom. Other times, it was in a conference room in someone else’s office space. There were calls, which could be taken from any quiet place, and there were meetings, which could take place in our Chicago office (first, my apartment lol, then, by 2010, at 33 N. LaSalle St., shared with some friends).  

As we grew, and started to hire people, that spirit never really changed. That’s why when the pandemic arrived, it was not necessarily business as usual (there was a global health crisis in flight, how could it be?), but we didn’t panic about how we would get our work done, or how we would communicate with our clients.  

Our perspective on the physical office might not be the most popular one, but it’s fairly easy to describe and has worked really well for us: If you want to meet with a colleague or client in person, do it at one of our spaces. If you want to host a CLE or other educational event, do it in the space. If you want to do some whiteboarding or collaborate with a client or colleague, do it in a physical space. But if all you’re doing is writing a brief all day or jumping from video conference to video conference, feel free to do that somewhere more convenient, where you don’t need to commute or otherwise make your day more difficult.  

And so it’s this perspective with which we entered 2022, in the heart of the pandemic, and looking for new space in New York. Until then, we had a couple of Manhattan co-working spots, first, joining the pre-pandemic, pre-downfall masses at a WeWork location and later, using Luminary as an occasional place to gather and have meetings. During this time, we had a permanent physical office in Chicago, with another one then in the works (now completed) in Miami.  

Following some significant growth in 2020-2021, though, we had a major need for some permanent space in New York. We never wanted to be completely remote, and we had some ambitions to find a space that could act as a Jayaram hub, not just for our employees, but for our community as well.  

When I first saw the space at 54 W. 21st Street, I was blown away: floor to ceiling windows, high ceilings, and a pretty magical view of the Empire State Building and Manhattan. But I also wanted to be realistic: This space was huge!  Did we really have a need for 6,000 square feet?  

There were other factors at play. Since we were deep in the pandemic, and this was NY commercial real estate, the prices were super low.  And we were growing fast.  It started to make a little bit of sense.  

Around that same time, in the summer of 2022, I met up with my old friends (and clients), Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham, co-founders of Snarkitecture. I met Daniel about 20 years ago in Miami, when he and I were both living there, trying to figure out what exactly we were going to do with our lives. As his fine art practice and career began to grow throughout the 2000s, he teamed up with his Cooper Union classmate Alex Mustonen to form Snarkitecture, a New York-based design practice that would eventually create iconic retail experiences at places like Kith and Gant, surreal furniture pieces like the Slip Chair, and otherworldly interactive installations like The Beach, which traveled to cities like Washington, D.C., and Chicago.  

Alex mentioned that Snarkitecture was looking for new studio space. Since our 21st Street space was frankly too big for us, our collective wheels started to turn.  

Let’s be real for a second: Having Snarkitecture share space with us was really exciting for me. Not only had I been working with them for over a decade, I deeply admired their work, and their aesthetic is right in line with the brand we are building. Their footprints had been all over our website and in our Chicago office for years.  

We didn’t just want a co-tenancy, though. Each side wanted a real collaboration.  

Anyone who knows us knows that we do things a little differently: We don’t sponsor art exhibitions, we curate and produce them ourselves. We don’t buy custom sneakers every holiday for our team, we commission artists and work closely with them to customize them for us.  And we don’t hire writers or a publisher to make The Innovator (the thing you’re reading right now!), we write and distribute everything ourselves.  

So instead of simply sharing an office, we created a unique art + design residency, with Snarkitecture as our first designers in residence.  

What does that mean? Well, they work in the space, yes, but they also spent the past year creating a magical and immersive space for us that hits all the right notes! A “record room” that welcomes visitors in a cozy wooded den loaded with artworks by Daniel Arsham, objects by Snarkitecture, and books and publications that we all enjoy. An archway gives way to greenery and the large open space, which we use for talks, co-working, and other events.  

The center of the space is the Commons, and it’s a great place to hang. It’s bookended by a series of Snarkitecture shelving, and it’s all blessed by an overhead art installation that is ultimately the centerpiece of the project. Slip chairs, Gufram mirrors, objects, and artworks are placed throughout, giving the space a sense of wonder with a host of unexpected details.  

The enclosed office spaces, perfect for a meeting, Zoom call, or podcast recording, are adorned with Snarkitecture wallpaper, which they made some years ago in collaboration with Calico (we have some in each of our offices!).  

My words simply cannot capture the thoughtfulness and beauty that is experienced at every turn as you explore the entire suite (I instead encourage you to peruse the photos in this issue to see what I’m talking about!). Custom millwork, Viabizzuno lighting throughout, and a large, cozy conference room enveloped in a custom-made curtain and perfectly padded carpeting.  

For a company like ours, this residency has been a dream. It’s provided us with an expertly designed space to host clients, industry events (like the one we had during NY Fashion Week in February), and gatherings where we can meet in person with our community, clients, and friends.  

In the future, lawyers will be true partners with their clients. Solving a problem with a lawyer will be collaborative and accessible. Companies providing legal services (today, still called law firms) will develop their own legal technology that will help them solve their clients’ problems faster and at a lower cost. Years from now, lawyers will create brands that reflect their values, advance their mission, and execute a vision that is deeply understood by everyone on the team. In the future, the spaces lawyers work in won’t be so conservative, so lacking in imagination, and so out of touch with the way their clients work.  

For us, the future is now.  

Thank you to Alex, Daniel, Alexander, Clarisse, Marta, and the rest of the Snarkitecture team for their friendship, collaboration, and extraordinary vision. Our journey – not just over the past year, but for the past 15 – would not have been the same without you.  

— Vivek