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February 7, 2020

NBBJ acquires interactive experience firm ESI Design

Seattle architecture firm NBBJ on Thursday said it acquired New York City-based experience design studio ESI Design, signaling “a new era where buildings will be transformed into immersive and interactive digital experiences that engage and delight.”


NBBJ said it is the largest acquisition of an experience design practice by an architecture firm, based on employee count, with ESI at about 70 employees. The deal also gives NBBJ a second New York office, and makes it a more than 800-person firm, it said in a press release.

The terms were not released.

Edwin Schlossberg, ESI's founder and principal designer, is now an NBBJ partner and will lead the newly acquired studio. Schlossberg is married to Caroline Kennedy, former U.S. ambassador to Japan and daughter of former President John F. Kennedy.

The firms said they can integrate digital experiences early in the design process. They said advancements, from miniaturization to contemporary light projection technology, make it possible to bring the type of immersive experiences increasingly desired as digital centerpieces in museums, stadiums and transportation hubs to health care, education, civic, commercial real estate and science.

“Through our partnership we will push the boundaries of what a building can be and help our clients bring people closer together through shared experiences — by seeking to design in ways that enable the environment to learn from its users so that it, and them get better with use,” said Schlossberg.

NBBJ said it now offers one of the largest experience design platforms in the country. The firm and ESI have collaborated on commercial real estate and corporate workplace projects. That includes commercial building renovation projects 177 Huntington in Boston and 85 Broad Street in New York.

ESI's work includes the immersive visitor experience at the Statue of Liberty Museum, which opened in May 2019. Among its other clients are Barclays, eBay, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, PNC Bank and Warner Media.

As part of the acquisition, ESI design leaders Alexandra Alfaro, Angela Greene, Cara Buckley, Emily Webster, Layne Braunstein and Susan Okon are now NBBJ principals.

NBBJ designs corporate office, health care, commercial real estate, civic, science, education and sports projects. Its Seattle work has included office buildings and The Spheres for Amazon in the Denny Triangle and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus.

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