History in the Making
When Hagai Feiner began his search for a new headquarters, he knew that the building’s sole intention was to inspire - which makes it exciting to pinpoint what makes the new Access Network quarters so alluring.
The building front is unassuming. The colors are soft. as they sit catty-corner to the vibrant downtown storefronts of Easton, Pa. The architecture is reminiscent of its storied history as a chapel, not that of an industry-leading, cutting-edge networking facility. The only decoration on the facade is a two-toned logo that does not attract attention despite the contrasting emerald shades abreast of the ash colored building.
However, for Hagai Feiner, those subtleties told an entirely different story.
“I’m not going to be inspired to come out here and spend time here if it’s just another plain warehouse operation,” Feiner said. “The value of a business is not necessarily measured by whatever amount of money that it generates for the owner, but it is valued by the quality of life that it gives the entire team and also the clients of that specific business.
“I need something that does that for me,” Feiner added.
And the three-story building has many reasons to inspire. The open concept design gracefully shifts from floor to floor, extending a fully-stocked working space into the open area conference room on the second floor, arriving at an otherwise secluded sleeping arrangement at the very top. Minute details like the aging and oxidized security safe from former tenants preserve the history of the building. The repurposed wooden beams from a previous Access Networks headquarters, towering over the ornate ceiling fixtures on the second floor, serve as a reminder to keep moving forward. Wooden slats hand-cut to the individual points of an exposed brick wall divide bedrooms, creating a sense of uniformity between the new installation and the new home. Century-old doors carefully labored on to operate once more, and a beautifully restored Victorian-style clawed bathtub, underscore the rich history inside of the building.
It is an increased level of detail that makes each level feel connected, both to the building and to the function, even if both serve entirely distinct ideas. Of course, being strategically placed between Philadelphia and New York gave them a logistics advantage, but the intention of the building was to create a haven for his organization.
“The bottom line is that our people now can come out here; they can stay here. I wanted to interweave all of this history and technology – to take what we do and create an inviting space,” Feiner said. “It’s not just that I have somewhere to be when I’m out here. It’s also that our team is inspired to come out here, and not even just for business purposes. Everybody knows that if they want to come out here, they’re welcome to – and work downstairs, and live upstairs.
“I believe that this building is a manifestation of doing what’s best for my family and me and also what’s best for the business,” he added.
Art of the craft
Despite the constant scouting to find a location that could fulfill all of Access Networks’ needs, physical location quickly became one of the peaceful parts of the journey, once Feiner realized the complexity of the interior. Finding a skilled partner with the same vision, judgment, and respect for the building was now a full-time job, as he traveled from California to see progress.
Which is why Kirk Wagner took top billing in the headquarters’ newest chapter. Wagner, a contractor who has labored within the Lehigh Valley for nearly two decades, recognized that the opportunity to sculpt a piece of history, from start to finish, would be a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
“Sometimes, you can feel a space when you walk in,” Wagner said. “The first day that I came into the building and met Hagai, I thought to myself, ‘What a beautiful, beautiful place.’ There may be others like this one, but there’ll never be another one; it will never be repeated. Everybody that walks into this building, regardless if they’re part of the team or not, they are inspired by this space.”
And Wagner prides himself on being able to bring a client’s vision to life. He credits his success on acknowledging the fact that a job is not just a paycheck. That mindset has become widespread, and both Wagner and Feiner have seen indications of these complacencies creeping into their respective industries.
However, Wagner also understands the perception of being “old school” also benefits a design as intricate as this one. Experiencing a worksite before sending over any reports accounts for the small measure that can transform a design into something truly sensational. He noted that many of the tradespeople who wanted the job spent more time focused on their paycheck instead of understanding the importance of the schemes.
However, those who were awarded the contracts were the ones who “knew every square inch of the project” before they talked price.
“One of the elements, I think, that made this a little bit different for us is Hagai and I did business initially on a handshake,” Wagner said. “I think the loss of ‘old school’ values in the construction trade have kind of diminished the trade itself. If you don’t like or trust your contractor or the person that you’re doing business with from Day One, when a problem does come up, you’re going to have a more significant problem.
“I came here as a passion, as an artist, and as a craftsman to provide [Feiner] what he was looking for,” Wagner added.
While it’s accurate to say that Feiner and Wagner did not always see eye to eye - with many disagreements settled over a steak dinner bet - his mantra did hold true. Feiner had entrusted Wagner to construct the three floors without constant supervision, based on trust and their mutual level of respect for the building.
Extra steps ensured that everything placed into the building could be removed at a moment’s notice, leaving minimal damage to both the interior and exterior. Every detail, from the placement of the HVAC to the position of the exterior logo, was arranged to “become a part of the evolution of this building, not to take it over and plaster the Access Networks name.
“Don’t lose the art. That’s, that’s the bottom line. You can’t lose the passion for the art of it,” Wagner added.
Building the Legacy
With the building finished, Feiner admitted that he could never recreate the entire process again. He said as much in a ribbon-cutting speech on its first night open to the city.
Not because he is not willing to, but because a passion drove every procedure and conversation.
The passion drove him down an unreplicable road to not only create the beautiful balance between work and play but also to a passion for seeing his dream come true. And while Wagner believes his team didn’t “go crazy” trying to execute everything flawlessly, he understands that the balance is necessary to complete a project with respect to a timeline.
Feiner thinks that a project on this scale thrives on that emotion.
“I think passion gets mistaken for crazy. People think you’re crazy, but what they’re really trying to say is, ‘This guy is very passionate about what he’s doing.’ I think crazy is good,” Feiner said. “We have a tendency to put labels on people and the things that they do. I’m not worried about being called crazy; I’m more worried about not doing stuff. No one can take this away from the Access Networks legacy.”
Moreover, that attitude has driven a lot of the decisions for the final result of the building. Despite being a company born in the custom installation industry, a pair of Meridian Special Edition DS8000s are the only traditional pieces of technology on the third floor. The intended lack of technology helps “wash off whatever you have been through in the last 24 hours,” as it “dials back” on technology overload.
For Feiner, that passion and attitude have proven that stepping outside of the box and changing your perspective of how a building should appear or a person should carry themselves can create a lasting moment of greatness.
“It takes the willingness to step out and say, forget all of that; to take a step outside of the box,” Feiner said. “There is a bathtub in the middle of the room. We hung a 420-pound glass chandelier in the middle of the room. Everyone told me I couldn’t get the old cleaning sign on the wall. But we did all that. We’re taught to just put that away and conform to whatever it is we learn, wherever we go.
“But what really impresses people is when you are creative, and you are able to work through problems, and you are able to come up with solutions," Feiner added, “at the end of the day, you just have to be yourself.”