Shop Talk with Neil Logan Vol. 8



For this edition of Shop Talk, the interview series where RBW’s friends and collaborators exchange ideas, discoveries, and sources of inspiration, founding partner Charles Brill and New York architect Neil Logan discuss the transformation of a former IBM office in Kingston, New York, into the newly opened, 100,000-square-foot RBW Factory.

Logan, the architect behind spaces for Maharam and Supreme, as well as RBW’s former space in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, led the year-long construction and renovation of one of our longtime dreams: a state-of-the-art facility that combines design, manufacturing, and fulfillment operations under a single roof, with eight times the square footage of our previous headquarters. Now that the project is complete, Logan and Brill reflect on the building transformation, moving upstate, and RBW growing into the new space.

From the City to Upstate

After many years of operating in Brooklyn, what was the catalyst that inspired RBW to relocate to its new upstate home? How did you land in Kingston, in a building that was once part of an IBM campus?

Charles: Our focus was on creating an environment that we could grow into and not have to redo over and over again. That was inspired by all the five- to seven-year-long commercial leases in New York City, which required a lot of time and energy forecasting how much space we would need every five to seven years. We decided to just go for broke and find a big space, and we set a few parameters. A two-hour-or-less transit time from New York City was important, and Amtrak can get you here in an hour and 45 minutes. Scale was also important; we wanted eight times our current capacity, or a minimum of 80,000 square feet. In Kingston, we found a building marketed as an office that had sat vacant for more than 20 years, which at one point was UnitedHealthcare, then a state tax processing office, and before that was an IBM support center. It had the same 15-and-a-half-foot ceilings that you would find in a Brooklyn creative loft, and so we immediately saw a great opportunity to repurpose the building. We had it rezoned by the local planning board for light manufacturing.

What was the state of the building when you found it, and what did the ensuing transformation entail?

Neil: The building is so enormous, a person who lives in the city would have a hard time understanding it. It’s staggering. But when we first visited, it was very broken up, and it was hard to imagine how you would unpack this thing and turn it into a cohesive space. We started by dividing it into two major areas, one for production and assembly, and one for administration. Then we organized the administrative area into blocks of offices. Taking cues from Brooklyn, where we had small offices of two different sizes, and expanded that to a larger scale. Here, we have small offices, bigger ones, and even bigger ones.

Charles: There are individually-focused work spaces that look out at the windows and are kind of secluded, and there’s an open bench area where people can work for full days or part of the day as a group. And then facing the interior is a kind of open area that has different sized conference rooms, where groups of five to 20 people can meet or join a video conference.

Rendering of reception area

Original view upon entry

Warm welcome at RBW Factory

A Unique Approach

Since you also worked together on RBW’s former headquarters in Brooklyn, were there features of that space you wanted to recreate here? In what ways do you work well together, and what would you say is unique about the other’s approach?

Neil: What’s unique about RBW is the fluid use of space; they have offices that anyone can book at any time and to use in a number of ways. That makes the project more complex, but it’s important that the organization is clear and easily understood.

Charles: We first worked with Neil in 2018, and in both instances, we were working in existing buildings that we wanted to adapt to reflect RBW’s design identity. I really appreciate his skill in defining the order and organization of a space. It’s always exciting to see the end result, because that’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me or anyone else on our team.

What’s the atmosphere like on the interior, as far as the look and feel, and materiality? You’ve mentioned feeling inspired by the architecture of classic European campuses. How did that point of reference make its way into the design?

Charles: At USM, for example, the factory and office area are the same type of environment, and aren’t treated separately. That’s an element that resonated with us. We wanted a lot of open spaces and a connection between the factory and administrative areas. Like Neil was saying, this space was so carved up, you couldn't sense the scale of the building. But now, when you enter as a guest, the first corner you turn reveals corridors the full length of the building, so the scale is more evident. USM is also a manufacturer where the factory itself has the appearance and quality of a space that the products would live. We had the warehouse shelving custom-finished white to maintain a uniform, laboratory-like feel in the factory, and in the same way that the work spaces at USM feature its shelving system, our lighting on the factory floor is a product that we make there. So are the majority of the lights in our office and admin area. And another fun thing is that we’ve got a lot of oversized plants to bring a little character into this clean environment.

Having this purpose-built environment for the team to collaborate and reconnect after the pandemic is really, really good timing.

Looking Forward

A large part of RBW’s focus has always been the creation of more sustainable lighting technologies. What kinds of sustainable features are included in the building?

Charles: The most efficient light is one that isn’t even on, so having daylight and occupancy sensors, plus a system to control the energy usage in the building was something we wanted to invest in.

And now that the project is complete, how has the move changed everyday life at RBW, as well as the trajectory of the brand?

Charles: Everything has improved tremendously. Having this purpose-built environment for the team to collaborate and reconnect after the pandemic is really, really good timing. And having more space means adopting new processes, like metal finishing, or a PCB assembly line to print our own circuit and LED boards. We’re looking forward to a future where the brand continues to grow; to improve efficiencies for environmental impact; and to deliver a better quality product to our customers.

Neil Logan


Neil Logan’s work is marked by a rigorous precision, which plays out as an elegant minimalism in both commercial and residential spaces around the world. Since founding his eponymous firm in New York City in 1992, he’s worked with a number of legends over the years, including Rirkrit Tiravanija, Toshiko Mori, Philippe Starck, and André Balazs. He’s a longtime collaborator of brands Supreme and Maharam, as well as the designer of residences from New York and Chiang Mai. His furniture is available at Herman Miller, in addition to custom designs in the homes and offices of private clients.



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