2010 Vault Banking Survey: Office Space

by Derek Loosvelt | May 12, 2010

In the current issue of The New Yorker, Paul Goldberger "reviews" Goldman Sachs new headquarters at 200 West Street in Lower Manhattan. According to Goldberger, the Henry Cobb-designed structure "is architecture as a well-tailored suit. From a distance, the building looks utterly unexceptional, but as you get closer your eye picks up signs of quality—the drape, as it were, and the stitching."

He adds that the "design speaks less to Goldman’s current problems than to the firm’s long-standing obsession with being both extremely powerful and utterly inconspicuous." It seems to Goldberger that the bank aimed to construct "a building that would appear modern but nowhere near the architectural cutting edge; neither cheap nor extravagant; and efficient without seeming merely functional. The result is a forty-three-story paradox: an understated palazzo."

In honor of the recent groundbreaking on Goldman's new palace, today we're highlighting the subject of office space in our ongoing series of posts previewing the results of the annual Vault Banking Survey.

One of the questions in the survey asks respondents to tell us what they like and don't like about their office spaces—the good, bad, beautiful and beastly. And below are a few select quotes from the answers that we've received so far (note that all mention of names of companies and buildings have been removed for the time being):

"The office has a very 'old money' feel, with a heavy use of marble and wood finishings. Each first-year analyst and associate shares an office with a second year (with a door that closes!). Third-year analysts and associates get their own office. We're located in the heart of downtown Chicago, with access to dozens of lunch and dinner spots."

"Now I know why they call it the 'back office.'"

"Sometimes I bring out-of-town guests here to check out the Art Deco architecture and marble lobby. I work on a trading floor, which is a far cry from a cushy corner office, but we’re well outfitted: we’ve got Aeron chairs and a great cleaning staff that patrols the floor all day (so you don’t have to smell your breakfast garbage while eating lunch). There’s some interesting art lining the halls on some floors: old map prints and clipper ships are common themes. We also have nice central resources, including staff restaurants and a gym you can join on a sliding fee scale (MDs pay more than analysts)."

"Tribeca is cool, though lunches are expensive and pretty limited. However, the moms and baby strollers provide a nice difference from the rest of Manhattan, especially Midtown."

"The L.A. digs are amazing, probably one of the best in Century City, while the new pad in N.Y.C. has a prime Park Avenue location, with all the finishes—the conference center is extravagant for a firm of this size."

While 'luxurious' is not a word I would use to describe the firm’s office space, neither is 'shabby.' Most of the office space is comfortable and kept clean; however, it is a bit embarrassing when your firm has managing directors operating out of cubicles instead of actual offices.""We just finished renovating the Chicago office—we have a great bullpen area and the kitchen includes a 60-inch plasma TV that's great for huddling around during the dinner hour—if you have the time.

"Newly renovated and furnished offices with views overlooking St. Paul's cathedral. New widescreen computers and ergo chairs, widescreen plasma TVs and a nice kitchen and eating area.

Filed Under: Finance


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