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Case Study: Columbia Property Trust, NY

Based in New York City, Columbia Property Trust is a real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in transactions, asset management and repositioning, leasing, development and property management. The company focuses on creating value through owning, operating and developing Class-A office buildings in gateway U.S. markets—primarily New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston. The majority of Columbia’s portfolio is both LEED- and ENERGY STAR-certified.

Columbia recently relocated its headquarters to a full floor in a Manhattan office building that the company had purchased and renovated. Ahead of that move, Amy Tabb, executive vice president of business development and innovation for Columbia, led the effort to ensure that the design of the new space reflected Columbia’s culture and strategic initiatives.

“New York is where our strategic business decisions are made and where many of our relationships are forged,” Tabb says. “We interact with many different people and groups here, from tenants and investment professionals to construction contractors and architects. It was important that we also demonstrated this reach.”

Tabb engaged Rachel Casanova of Cushman & Wakefield to translate intention into conversations with the architect. Casanova, in turn, introduced her to Tessellate Studio—an integrated architectural, exhibit and experience designer—to help Columbia create a unique visual showcase in the new office environment.

Working with Tabb and Columbia Property Trust CEO Nelson Mills, the Tessellate Studio team, led by Co-Founder and President Emily Conrad, developed a range of design concepts for engaging visitors at the headquarters’ moment of entry. The team unanimously favored involved combining transparent display technology with physical designs to create a unique brand narrative experience.

The finalized project features three Planar LookThru Transparent OLED displays integrated with a custom millwork exhibit, creating a digital surface that overlays objects behind it. The three-dimensional canvas provides a compelling medium for authentic storytelling, according to Conrad.

“Applying technology to convey the mission of a company through artifacts has always been very interesting from a design perspective,” Conrad said. “And fortunately, a company like Columbia Property Trust has a lot of potential material to work with in terms of objects.”

Among the first presentations is an exhibit that highlights two types of architectural materials—cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber (glulam)—that Columbia is using to develop the first mass timber building in Washington, D.C. Two more exhibits feature Columbia’s people and the priority the company places on relationships.

“We are doing creative things at our properties, and this display gives a unique and interesting way to showcase that, beyond just a video or just a display case,” Tabb says.

Installed by Sage AV with custom-built software from Tessellate Studio, the exhibit features seven media modes, including the ability to merge all three displays into a single, large canvas. “We can get large panoramic views and achieve the type of storytelling the client desired,” Conrad said. The project also meets Columbia’s requirement for a technology and design that would allow them to keep content fresh and current.

During the installation, Sage AV CEO Justin Schwartz worked with Planar technicians to ensure the transparent OLED displays were integrated and aligned correctly.

“I’ve had a lot of great experiences working with Planar—they’re involved with every aspect of the design up through implementation,” Schwartz said. “With this use case, the company helped ensure that the new displays checked all of the boxes from a technical and aesthetical perspective.”

Coordination by Sage AV was also performed with Tessellate Studio’s developers to understand the technical implications for driving the displays and supplying content. “The displays and the color saturation they provide are phenomenal,” Conrad said. “But they still need to be integrated with the objects and the client narrative. So, it was important to optimize all aspects of what the hardware and software could do to make it come to life.”

Rachel Williams, vice president of marketing and communications for Columbia Property Trust, said the interplay between physical objects and technology allows them to tell their story in both a literal and effective way. “It also provides a unique channel to showcase our photography,” she said. “When viewing pictures with light and the depth of objects coming through, the imagery feels more vivid and alive.”

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