__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1


2

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


New York headquarters of Fab, the world’s largest design store. PHOTOGRAPH: Adrian Wilson.

3


6

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


New York headquarters of Winton Capital. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.

7


8

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


9


10

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


New York headquarters of an asset management firm. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.

11


Wilson, Claire 1954– Milo Kleinberg and MKDA: Six Decades in Design 120 p. ISBN-10: 978-1-64440-068-5 1. Wilson, Claire 2. Kleinberg, Milo 3. MKDA ©2018 MKDA. All rights reserved. Graphic design by Carapellucci Design LLC, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. Printed by Sheridan Books, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A., in 2018. First edition

12

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Dedicated to the memory of Bertha Friesner Kleinberg.

13


14

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


44 Wall Street. PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

15


Milo Kleinberg, center, with sons and partners Michael, left, and Jeffrey, right.

16


CONTENTS

Foreword by Larry A. Silverstein . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Chapter 1 Childhood in Vienna . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Chapter 2 Next Stop: Brooklyn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Chapter 3 Milo Kleinberg, Designer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Chapter 4 King of the Garment District . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Chapter 5 The 1970s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Chapter 6 “Like Lighting a Match” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Chapter 7 Design Firm to the Deal Makers . . . . . . . . . 62 Chapter 8 Expanding with a New Model . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Chapter 9 Always Ahead of What’s Emerging . . . . . . . 78 Chapter 10 The Future Will Be Fluid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

1


FOREWORD

At an early point in my career—more than 50 years ago—I spent an afternoon with the late owner and developer Sylvan Lawrence, touring a number of his office buildings in Lower Manhattan. Sylvan’s company had built a solid reputation for purchasing run-down office buildings and refurbishing them to the point that they became attractive to prominent companies, and I was interested in learning from him. After marveling at a new entrance to one of his older buildings, I asked Sylvan, “What architect did that for you?” Sylvan replied, “Milo Kleinberg.” We then went to another of his buildings that likewise boasted an exquisitely redone lobby. So I asked who did that. “Milo Kleinberg” was the response. And on and on it went. Of course, after seeing the results and the trust that had developed between owner and architect, I decided that I had to meet this Milo Kleinberg and see what he could do for me. And so began a professional relationship, which quickly blossomed into a warm friendship that endures to this day. 2

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

The first thing I noticed about Milo was how easy he is to work with. He has always been a great listener and has an intuitive sense of each client’s unique tastes and needs. He has done projects for me that required high-end finishes, and he’s done projects where the budget was more constrained. But no matter the unique circumstances or logistical challenges he faced, Milo always found a way to create lobbies, entrances, tenant spaces and marketing centers that were highly functional and every bit as compelling. Over the years, Milo and his team have been an important part of some of our most high profile building projects, including 120 Broadway, 1177 Avenue of the Americas and both the original and rebuilt 7 World Trade Center towers. When we opened the new 7 WTC in 2006, our first tenant was the New York Academy of Sciences. MKDA collaborated on a spectacular conference and office center for the Academy on the 40th floor, and it looks as good today as it did when it opened.


Of course, my appreciation and admiration for Milo extends well beyond business. I have always been very involved with the United Jewish Appeal and Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. As Chairman of UJA, it was my responsibility to call the roll of honor—so that each member of the community could stand and make an announcement as to what he was prepared to give that year. I could always count on Milo to quickly announce a generous pledge and to honor his commitments every time. And that was just one example of the many important philanthropies that have benefited from his tremendous generosity. Milo has certainly shown, time and again, that he is a stand-up guy in the truest sense of the word.

an early age and instilled in them the same passion for the business that he possesses in such abundance. I have conducted thousands of building tours over the course of my long career. But I will always remember fondly that downtown stroll with Sylvan half a century ago. Larry A. Silverstein Chairman Silverstein Properties

It has also been extremely gratifying to witness the continued growth and evolution of MKDA, thanks in large part to the great work of Milo’s sons, Michael and Jeffrey. As someone who also has children in the family business, I truly admire the way that Milo mentored his sons from

3


Corporate office, Carl Icahn, New York.

4

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


INTRODUCTION

Milo Kleinberg is the founding principal of Milo Kleinberg Design Associates, now MKDA, a leading firm specializing in corporate interiors that has been called “Design Firm of the Deal Makers” and is ranked among Interior Design’s Top 100 Giants. An immigrant from 1930s Vienna, Kleinberg, now Chairman Emeritus, built the company on strategic relationships with major Manhattan brokers and developers, first in the borough’s Garment District, then in other industries like finance, banking and technology, in locations around the city. His sons Jeffrey and Michael joined him in the 1970s, and their initiatives have spurred even further growth for the firm. In addition to New York, MKDA now has an office in Stamford, Connecticut, likewise specializing in corporate interiors, and an innovative architecture studio in Miami, Florida. A third generation of Kleinbergs has also come on board. This commemorative volume celebrates the life and work of Milo Kleinberg and the 60th anniversary of the firm he founded in 1959 in a small, shared space not far from his current offices in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.

Milo Kleinberg in his current office. PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

5


Milo in Vienna, with his mother, Charlotte.

6

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


CHAPTER 1:

CHILDHOOD IN VIENNA

The Vienna that Milo Kleinberg was born into was still reeling from Austria’s stunning defeat in World War I, and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of which the city had been the center of power. It was the late 1920s. It remained the country’s cultural center, despite wartime losses and destruction. The intellectual core somehow held, albeit in a somewhat less vibrant form than before 1914 and the declaration of war. At the time of Kleinberg’s birth in June of 1926, Vienna’s cafés were again the bustling centers of city life, where the literati, artists and power brokers of the day, less and less chastened by war and defeat, would convene over thick coffee, sometimes with a dollop of whipped cream. At marble-topped tables in Café Pucher, Café Central and Café Rebhuhn, sharply dressed patrons read the free newspapers, and met with their friends to discuss the ever-evolving political scene or Arthur Schnitzler’s latest play. The Wiener Werkstätte held sway over trends in the decorative arts, and the Vienna State Opera staged elaborate productions in its grand,

1869 Neo-Renaissance palace. Demel’s, the legendary pastry and chocolate shop, continued to thrive, but the famed Hotel Sacher had begun a slow decline. Unable to accept the fall of the monarchy, management would serve only aristocrats, many by this time living a life of genteel poverty and dining on credit. The Kleinbergs lived quite a different life away from the prosperity of that most urbane of stages, in an area known as Vienna’s First District. As a fur salesman, Kleinberg’s father, Max, came into contact with the bourgeoisie on a regular basis, but the young Kleinberg’s memories are the simple ones of a small child, of candy shops, green spaces, lots of friends and riding his treasured wooden scooter with red wheels. The cleanliness and order of every part of the city still stands out in his mind. “You never saw a piece of paper on the street,” he says. Kleinberg sang in his synagogue’s boys’ choir, an experience that contributed to a lifelong love of music. 7


He loved to play soccer, which he did in a public park that was about a 20-minute walk from home. Max Kleinberg made only a modest living, but for his young son it was a happy time. “I had friends and I played soccer,” he says. “I enjoyed myself even though we were poor.” Max Kleinberg worked for his brother, Fritz, who designed the furs Max peddled around Vienna, where fur garments were de rigueur among all middle- and upper-class Viennese women. Their home was a small, one-bedroom apartment where Kleinberg’s mother, Charlotte, presided over a narrow kitchen. He had a sister, Thea, born when he was three. “We weren’t rich, but I was a child and didn’t know any different,” he says. “We always had food and clothing.” The Kleinbergs were a conservative Jewish family that attended synagogue services on Friday and Saturday. Friday evenings were reserved for the Sabbath meal with the immediate family. Going to the public baths on Sunday was a regular ritual for Max and his son because the small apartment had no bath or shower. The Sabbath meal may have been a quiet affair, but an extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins lived in the area, as did the four grandparents who doted on little Milo. “They gave me groschen whenever I saw them, a few small coins,” he remembers. 8

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

The four Kleinbergs were occasionally afforded a vacation, sometimes to nearby Prague, the Czech capital, but sometimes to a traditional spa town where Kleinberg’s grandmother bathed in the natural springs to relieve some of the physical complaints that came with age. It was two of his uncles that influenced the young boy in a way that would stay with him for the rest of his life. Both were hard-working, both were designers, highly creative, and making the most of natural talents the way Kleinberg would as an adult. Fritz, the fur designer, was successful at his craft and in business in Vienna and, later, in America. Uncles Fritz Kleinberg and Willy Morgenstern, his mother’s brother, were involved through business dealings with Vienna’s more prosperous residents, some of whose sensibilities likely trickled down to the young Kleinberg. He credits both uncles with the path he took in life. “I got my design talent from Uncle Willy and Uncle Fritz,” he asserts. Uncle Willy, however, might have had more of an influence. He cut something of a stylish figure and was, in his way, an arbiter of fashion through his job as a window dresser at Schiffman, the capital’s largest, most elegant retail emporium. Kleinberg has vivid recollections of visiting the glittering department store in the center of town, where the doorman was a statuesque black man—likely the only dark-skinned


person most Austrians had ever seen. Every day he would be at his post, sporting an immaculately tailored navy blue uniform and a remarkable hat that made him appear even taller, opening and closing the doors of the store with great flourish. Beyond forays to Central Vienna, Prague and the spa town, daily life for the Kleinbergs was pretty much status quo. While most of Vienna’s 180,000 Jews were segregated into their own districts, as the town’s different zones were called, the Kleinbergs lived in a sector that was mixed, where Jews and non-Jews lived as neighbors. Kleinberg attended a public school that was likewise mixed. It was a gymnasium, a higher level of public school for boys who excelled academically. That all changed in March of 1938, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria and life as young Kleinberg had known it was over. “I was tossed out of my school when the Nazis came in and put into a school for Jews only,” he recalls. “The Jews were just stepped on.” The whole tenor of life shifted dramatically for the family as once-friendly neighbors suddenly shunned them for no reason the young Kleinberg could understand. He was 10 years old.

The young Milo in school, center row, second from left.

“Overnight, they turned on us,” he says. “They wanted to save their own skin. They were afraid they would be thrown into the camps, too, accused of collaborating.”

CHILDHOOD IN VIENNA

9


Even at age 10 or 11, he was keenly aware of the sense of fear pervading his world. “I would hear my parents and their friends say, Oh, they took someone to the camps,” he continues. “I understood what that meant.” Traumatically cast aside by friends in the wake of the Anschluss (annexation), Kleinberg also remembers being frightened by Austrian soldiers in Nazi uniforms shouting in the street one Sunday as he walked to his grandmother’s house with his parents. He further recalls one unforgettable night when all Jews were abruptly routed out of their apartments and into the streets by once-cordial neighbors. On hands and knees, they were forced to wash the streets of political propaganda promoting Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, who had fought hard to keep Austria independent from the Nazis.

Government issued identity card. Pictured are Charlotte Kleinberg, center, with Milo, far right, and his sister, Thea.

Schuschnigg and Austria lost that battle. He was ousted when the Germans invaded, then taken prisoner. Deportations of Jews accelerated. On the night of November 9–10, 1938, Kristallnacht, Jewish-owned shops and businesses and some 95 synagogues in Vienna alone were destroyed. Twenty-seven Jews in the city were killed. The Kleinbergs had no choice but to flee the country and, like so many other refugees, set their sights on America. They needed a sponsor to gain entry, a relative already in the U.S. who would promise to take them

10

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


in upon arrival and provide food and lodging shortterm. As luck would have it, Kleinberg’s mother had cousins, the Morgensterns, in Torrington, Connecticut, who could provide an affidavit on the family’s behalf. It was a written guarantee that the family arriving from Europe would have a place to live and possible job leads until they got on their feet. Marvin Morgenstern had a successful window cleaning business, so successful, in fact, that he could afford to drive a Cadillac. He and his wife, Naoma, offered the Kleinbergs shelter for a short while because they were family, albeit family they had never met but whose lives were in danger. He did his duty and opened his home, although he may have done so somewhat reluctantly, as Kleinberg’s oldest son, Jeffrey, recalls.

“I was excited we were doing this,” Kleinberg recalls. “I even remember our cabin on the ship.” It was March 1939. He remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time as they sailed into the New York Harbor, going through Ellis Island like so many immigrant families of the day, and disembarking finally on Manhattan’s West Side. The cousins from Connecticut were waiting on the dock to take the new arrivals home to Torrington for what would turn out to be only a brief stay. Soon enough, the Kleinbergs headed south to New York City and their permanent home.

Indeed, the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initially turned its back on European Jews, hoping to negotiate mass resettlements of the refugees in other countries around the globe. In 1939, however, for the first time, Roosevelt allowed the quota of applicants from Austria and Germany to be filled completely. The young Kleinberg and his father were among the lucky ones. The two departed for the U.S., going first to France and the port of Le Havre where they boarded the ocean liner Georgic for New York. Kleinberg’s mother and little sister Thea would follow six months later.

CHILDHOOD IN VIENNA

11


CHAPTER 2:

NEXT STOP: BROOKLYN

There was another family of cousins, also on Kleinberg’s mother’s side, in Borough Park, Brooklyn, who offered to take the family in once the Connecticut leg of the immigration journey was over. Kleinberg’s mother and sister had arrived by this time, and the four of them moved into the Morgenstern apartment surrounded by other Jewish immigrants. “They didn’t have a lot of room and we didn’t want to bother them,” Kleinberg remembers. “I think we stayed for about two months.” The neighborhood was made up mostly of four-story attached houses. Life improved greatly once the Kleinbergs moved into their own apartment, a twobedroom on the same street as his mother’s cousin. Max Kleinberg was once again selling furs to fur designers like his brother, Fritz, who, by this time, had Americanized his name to Fred Kleinberg and had a small shop in Queens. “My father was earning money at this point, enough so we could eat and not starve,” Kleinberg recalls. 12

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

His mother worked some, too, in a neighborhood grocery owned by another family, also immigrants from Vienna. Kleinberg didn’t speak a word of English when he started classes at the local public school. But within six months he’d learned the language well enough to translate for the German-speaking students who came after him. He was a popular little boy who made friends easily, both at school and on the street where the family lived. American children didn’t play the soccer he so loved back in Vienna, but Kleinberg found something else to do, something else to capture his imagination that he would have fun doing with his new friends, and that he could pursue for free. “I played handball in a big playground not far from where we lived, and I played paddle tennis,” he says. As an adolescent, he became something of a neighborhood


terror on roller skates. “I always had them strapped to my shoes. After a while the metal started to wear out.” There were movie theaters aplenty in Brooklyn in those days, and Kleinberg went as often as he could afford to. Not that there was much time. He was already very busy running a small business, nurturing the entrepreneurial streak that was an early indicator of the success he would enjoy later on. He was in the handkerchief business. Ever resourceful, he got his inventory of light-colored, lightweight linen and cotton styles with dark embroidery from the father of a friend, then sold them door-to-door. The ladies sitting idly on their front stoops were an enthusiastic, captive audience for the budding merchant. “They felt sorry for me,” he says with a sly smile. “I was pretty successful.” As he got older, he added to his personal fortune by babysitting after school for many of the young mothers in the neighborhood. While at Montauk Junior High School, which was right around the corner from where

Bar Mitzvah in Brooklyn.

N E X T S T O P : B R O O K LY N

13


his family lived, he worked delivering groceries. “I always loved earning money,” he says. Max Kleinberg was earning a decent living, too, at least by immigrant standards. By the time his son was a teenager, the family was able to participate in that great summertime migration to the Catskills, also known as the Jewish Alps, and the resorts the region was known for. Hotels like Grossinger’s, the Concord and Kutscher’s Country Club were the gloss on a broader community of more modest inns and bungalow colonies to which city Jews could repair and let loose away from the biases that pervaded their lives even in America. There were shows with Las Vegas headliners, dances, swimming, hiking, reading, playing mahjong and shuffleboard, and eating copious portions of excellent Jewish food. Everyone dressed for dinner. For the teenage Kleinberg, it was another opportunity to earn money to help the family. He ran a concession stand at the Majestic Hotel, where he also made the sandwiches he sold. “I was a soda jerk,” he says, laughing. It was during those same years that he began to discover his creative talents. He was accepted to the School of Industrial Art (now the High School of Art and Design) and was suddenly in his element. That was where he learned to draw, to use color and texture, study spatial relationships and perspective. Perhaps most importantly, he learned that he could use his eye and artistic talents to make a living. 14

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


CHAPTER 3:

MILO KLEINBERG, DESIGNER

Kleinberg’s talent for networking seemed to come as naturally to him as his talent and eye for design. The Jewish immigrant community in New York, many of them German-speaking, was rife with people who had come before him, seen the same struggles and overcame them. Many were a generation older and beginning to reap the rewards of so much hard work in their new home. One of those was an architect by the name of Max Gerstl. Gerstl was an immigrant like Kleinberg, but he was somewhat older, established professionally and a Czech. He was an architect who, back in his native Prague, specialized in the design of retail stores and was very well known. Now in New York, his growing firm needed help, so he placed a want ad in one of the many, many newspapers published in the city at the time. Kleinberg happened to see it, contacted him, and was immediately summoned for an interview. Gerstl saw the boy’s talent in just a few rough drawings

and wanted to hire him on the spot. The salary was $90 a week, a modest sum, but a far cry from the returns on selling handkerchiefs stoop-to-stoop or the profits from being a soda jerk at the Majestic Hotel. Kleinberg accepted the position and, along with the paycheck, got a marvelous start at designing, as well as everything else that went along with the trade—surveying, drafting, sketching, and calling on clients. On his first day, the newly minted professional took his place at a desk in the small office in a walk-up at 145 West 18th Street, was issued the tools of his trade, a triangle and a T-square, and wasted no time getting to work. He was Gerstl’s only employee. “I took the job and learned everything I could from him,” he recalls. Kleinberg designed for all the firm’s clients from the very beginning, in addition to selling and networking, which was also part of the job. Gerstl had a small but thriving firm whose contacts for design jobs came from working with real estate brokers around Manhattan, like Cross and Brown. They called him in to design their MILO KLEINBERG, DESIGNER

15


tenants’ spaces, make recommendations on how much square footage they needed for their staff, what they might need in the future, and how to expand. Gerstl had a fine reputation within that marketing framework, which enabled him to attract and retain clients long-term. Once they were on board, however, it fell to Kleinberg to lay the groundwork for all subsequent jobs. “Gerstl sent me out to measure the space and bring back layouts for all the units,” he explains. “He gave me the requirements and I drew it.” The designer knew from the very beginning with Gerstl that his natural talent for drawing would be the basis of a long, successful career. “You have to have it in you,” he says. “Either you have it or you don’t.”

It was a ride home one weekend that proved fateful—in a good way—for the young designer. His sister, Thea, was staying at a resort later known as the Pioneer Country Club Hotel, where she’d gone for a singles event. A pretty young woman she’d met there, Bertha Friesner, needed a ride back to the city, to Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. It happened to be on Kleinberg’s way home. He quickly offered transport to the blue-eyed Bertha, who was cute and rather on the petite side. “I never went out with girls taller than me,” he says. The two discovered they had something of a shared history. Bertha was also an immigrant, German, who came from a farm in Bavaria. She had no siblings. Her

Kleinberg’s $90 a week didn’t go far, but he continued to go to the Catskills in the summer, as he had done with his parents as a teenager. He had access to a car, which made the trip up to the resort region a bit easier. Nonetheless, it still took two and a half hours in traffic, which meant Kleinberg had to leave before noon Friday in order to arrive before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath. “The traffic was unbelievable, even back then. “Stop and go, stop and go, all the way up there,” recalls the designer, who still loves cars and driving his latest Jaguar, a blue 2007 XJ. Milo and Bertha.

16

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


The Pioneer Country club where Milo and Bertha met.

MILO KLEINBERG, DESIGNER

17


“My mother really pushed me,” he remembers. The young designer finally gave in and after three weeks, called Bertha to set up an al fresco reunion on a bench in Central Park. They patched things up and were engaged shortly thereafter.

Bertha, left, Milo, center, and Charlotte Kleinberg.

mother had died in childbirth, leaving the newborn baby girl alone with her father. As was not uncommon for a widower to do in those days, Friesner married his sister-in-law, Hedwig, so she could take care of him and little Bertha. Together the three immigrated to America, sponsored by relatives in Newark, New Jersey. Kleinberg asked Bertha on a date a few weeks after that first car ride, and they dated for several weeks—until, that is, he got cold feet and broke it off, much to the chagrin of his mother and Bertha. 18

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

The wedding took place on November 26, 1950, in a Hungarian restaurant called Little Hungary at 257 East Houston Street, with a small group of relatives present. The newlyweds started married life in a small apartment on West 184th Street in Manhattan. It wasn’t a great neighborhood, and Kleinberg had a very long walk to the subway station he needed to get to work. Their son, Jeffrey, was born three years later, on January 20, 1953. It happened to be the day of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration, thus earning the new arrival the nickname “Little Ike.” With living space suddenly at a premium, the family moved to a larger apartment on 238th Street and Greystone Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. It was a one-bedroom, junior 4. “It was a newer building, but the rent wasn’t much more,” Kleinberg recalls. It was also a shorter walk to the subway and near Van Cortlandt Park. “It was like going home to the country,” he says. The youngest son, Michael, was born October 19, 1956. Kleinberg, meanwhile, continued to work for Max Gerstl and the business thrived. Office construction and the local economy were booming throughout the 1950s,


Milo and Bertha and a drawing by Milo on the opening page to his photo album.

MILO KLEINBERG, DESIGNER

19


Clockwise from left: Milo and Bertha, rear, with Bertha’s parents, Hedwig and Henry Friesner; portrait of the new family with, top row from left, Henry Friesner, Milo and his father, Max Kleinberg, and, bottom row, from left, Charlotte Kleinberg, Bertha and Hedwig Friesner; far right, the bride and groom; center, the wedding invitation.

20

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Left to right: new parents with baby Jeffrey, Jeffrey as a child, a young Michael and the two brothers together.

and the two were very much a part of it thanks, in large measure, to Kleinberg’s talent and a way he had with people. Not just the principals of the companies who hired the team to design their spaces, but with the brokers who linked them to those clients. Everyone liked him because he was honest. “No, you don’t need that much space,” he would tell them, and they would lease a smaller office for less money and have him design it to optimize its use. They trusted him and, without fail, called the firm in to design a larger office when the need arose. After 12 years of hard work, Kleinberg wanted his due from Gerstl: he wanted to be a full-fledged partner in the firm that flourished thanks to his considerable, natural ability and substantial contribution to the bottom line. He went to Gerstl and asked for a share of the company that might somehow make up for the meager salary.

“I am knocking myself out and I want a little part of the business,” he remembers telling Gerstl. “‘I give you a raise,’ was what he said in that Czech accent of his, but it wasn’t enough. And I said, ‘Thank you very much, I’m leaving. I’m giving you notice.’” With that, he was out the door and Milo Kleinberg Design Associates was up and running. Kleinberg didn’t question himself for a moment, even with the responsibility of a young family in Riverdale. “When you’re young, you do these things and you’re not afraid,” he says. “I knew what I could do, they already knew me in the Garment District. The brokers knew me, and knew I could show prospective tenants how to best use a space so they would sign a lease.” “I also knew I had a lot of experience,” he says. MILO KLEINBERG, DESIGNER

21


The Lufthansa ticket office, “one of my most beautiful designs,” according to Kleinberg.

22

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


CHAPTER 4:

KING OF THE GARMENT DISTRICT

Working at a borrowed desk in the office of a general contractor he knew, Natey Kandal, Kleinberg set out to take on the Garment District single-handedly. He had his own excellent reputation, something of a following, and many brokers as contacts he cultivated over the years working under Gerstl’s tutelage.

Clients trusted him and never hesitated to recommend him for other jobs. It was another skill he had, however, that got him his big break: he spoke German. When word got around that Lufthansa, the German state airline, needed a firm to design new offices and streetlevel Fifth Avenue ticket center, a broker recommended

“I had good leads and I wouldn’t have gone into business without them,” Kleinberg says. “The brokers were the ones who recommended me.” He was known as hard-headed and detail-oriented, never leaving a job site until everything met his specifications. He also had a vision of what he wanted his firm to become. “When I founded the firm in 1959, I established a set of guiding principles that would form the foundation of all of its work,” Kleinberg explains. “These principles— commitment, focus, excellence and integrity—continue to guide our work decades later.” Interior of the Lufthansa ticket office. KING OF THE GARMENT DISTRICT

23


Exterior of Lufthansa at night, this page; opposite page, the interior.

24

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


KING OF THE GARMENT DISTRICT

25


Lufthansa ticket agents at work.

26

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Kleinberg. As a German speaker, he was able to put the Lufthansa people at ease and he got the job. “The entrance to the ticket office and the interior was my first real architectural project,” he recalls. “It was one of my most beautiful designs.” The success and visibility of that commission led to more and more recommendations from brokers. Smaller jobs were an entrée to showrooms and larger commissions, all blank canvasses for a wealth of original ideas. Kleinberg quickly became known as King of the Garment District, that slice of Manhattan’s West Side where the booming clothing industry located its design studios, showrooms and sales offices. Women’s Wear Daily sang his praises in article after article, so vast was his influence in the business. Many of the brands he designed for were just starting out, and as they grew, Milo Kleinberg Design Associates grew with them, following them to bigger spaces as they expanded. Brokers were happily complicit in all the moves and designs of new facilities. His knack for marketing office space led to signed leases. “What changed for me was meeting a lot of brokers who needed my advice on how to subdivide spaces to meet clients’ needs, explaining and showing them how they could fit into any particular space,” he says. “That was my talent: calculating 5,000, 10,000, 50,000 square feet and subdividing it in the best, most costeffective way possible.

“I never said anything just to get them in and design the space,” he continues. “I was honest with the client and with the broker, both of whom depended on me to do a layout that would work for them.” He had an uncanny ability to size up a floor plate immediately. “It just came naturally to me,” he says. Irving Geffner worked with Kleinberg from the 1950s, when they were both starting out, until his retirement in the late 1990s. Geffner’s father owned a company called Commercial Cabinet, which supplied architectural woodwork, furniture and built-ins for the kind of interiors that were Kleinberg’s specialty. “We were the Rolls Royce of the industry,” Geffner says. When Kleinberg struck out on his own, he asked Geffner to join him in the business. Geffner demurred, preferring to work with his father in a company that he would eventually inherit. He went on to be Kleinberg’s go-to supplier of cabinetry and furniture on most of his important commissions for the better part of three decades. They remain friends today. Geffner recalls how ambitious Kleinberg was,

1407 Broadway, the Garment District landmark.

KING OF THE GARMENT DISTRICT

27


Three early apparel showrooms designed by MKDA.

but also how he could conjure up design solutions with lightening speed, sketch them out and get them to the client. “He understood the client’s needs very quickly, then would draw something up and have it to the client the next day,” says Geffner, whose own clients included the storied Schrafft’s restaurants, American Express and Hunting World retail stores, in addition to work for architects I.M. Pei and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), and furnishings for the restoration of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. “He was always thorough and professional and detail-oriented, from coat hooks on the backs of doors to incidentals like paintings and sculptures,” Geffner remembers. “His follow-through was extraordinary.” Geffner also recalls Kleinberg as a nimble problem solver. “We were photographing a job we’d just finished, with my wife as a model, when I tripped on a wire, pulled a lamp over and burned the brand new carpet. Milo said, ‘Leave it to me.’ The next day we went back and he’d rearranged all the furniture to cover the burn as though nothing happened.” The client didn’t see the burn and loved the job. 1411 Broadway.

28

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

Kleinberg had the damaged carpet repaired a few days later. The development of the integrated project management approach became a boon for Kleinberg, whose landlord clients increasingly turned to him for advice on how to best divide up space. One building in particular was key to ensuring the designer’s reputation, 1411 Broadway, which opened in 1970. Owned by Swig & Weiler (which later became Swig, Weiler & Arnow), and designed by Irwin Chanin, a prolific builder and architect of the era credited with the Chanin Building and the Roxy and Beacon theaters, it was modern, state of the art, and as a landmark in the Garment District. It would also compliment 1407 Broadway, which opened in 1959 and was already home to a number of clothing concerns. Yet


for some reason, space in 1411 was slow to rent. Slow, that is, until Kleinberg came up with the idea to cast the nets wider to appeal to a broader pool of prospective clients. Management took his advice. He went to work using the same business scheme that had worked so well for him over the first decade of the life of Milo Kleinberg Design Associates, winning over prospective tenants by working with each individually, analyzing their needs, predicting future growth and designing a space just right for them. The building was eventually completely, with Kleinberg’s marketing acumen being credited for the leasing of some 80% of the units, and designing many of the interiors. Interior designer Rhoda Astrachan, whom he met at the beginning of his tenure with Max

Gerstl, worked with him. It was the beginning of what would be a decades-long collaboration. Kleinberg was also instrumental in developing a critical aspect of the new building that would sway a lot of prospective tenants: the permission to design and fabricate garment samples on the premises. Back then, sample making was considered manufacturing and, therefore, forbidden by the New York City Department of Buildings in an office building of 1411’s classification. To get the building code changed, Kleinberg testified before city officials and helped win the building a new kind of Certificate of Occupancy. Pattern and sample making were subsequently allowed, thus streamlining the process of getting a line to market and cutting costs in the bargain. KING OF THE GARMENT DISTRICT

29


“After that, he designed spaces for a majority of the fashion tenants at 1411,” his son Jeffrey recalls. The building was also where Kleinberg cemented his reputation for innovative showroom design. Working with staff, he developed new, original ways to display garments in showrooms, which, until then, relied rather unimaginatively on basic rods, rolling racks and hangers. For such high-profile fashion brands as Bobbie Brooks, Gloria Vanderbilt and College Town, Kleinberg devised spaces that were open but separated by interesting dividers, so multiple sales people could work simultaneously with retail buyers. Another innovation to Kleinberg’s credit was the early use of glass partitions, as office design started to move away from expensive build-outs with an enclosed office for each executive. At first, they were glass panels in traditional wooden surrounds fabricated by Commercial Cabinet to coordinate with the traditional wooden furniture that was popular at the time. Over the decades, glass evolved into the go-to material for partitions to allow light and the feeling of spaciousness in offices that seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. Glass paired with wood as imagined by Kleinberg is now coming back into vogue. “People are using the wood surrounds again, like in a project we’re designing at 444 Madison Avenue,” notes Jeffrey. “My father has been using glass this way since he started in the business.”

30

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

Kleinberg’s work in the Garment District extended to innovative ways to display merchandise in showrooms that retailers could then apply in-store. To Jeffrey, this was his father’s own brand of genius: he had a good eye that extended beyond his own specific discipline into clothing, textiles and industrial design, as well as all aspects of interior design. “He was multi-talented and could understand how buyers needed to see the clothes,” Jeffrey says. In Geffner’s view, thanks to Kleinberg, it was no longer business as usual. “He was in the thick of things, not at all old-fashioned, always innovative and up-to-date on contemporary design trends,” Geffner says. “He had a great eye for making the merchandise stand out. You never saw the background—your focus was on the article.” “I was able to design the space, design different rooms within a showroom,” Kleinberg recalls. “Within two years I was the King of the Garment District.” “From that point on, I knew I was successful,” he says. “I just wanted to move ahead and grow the company.” He was also leading a comfortable life. In 1969, Kleinberg, his wife Bertha, Jeffrey and Michael moved into a brand new, two-bedroom mid-century modern apartment building with views of the Hudson River in Riverdale. Called Hayden on the Hudson, it represented


Bathing suit showroom with tiger print chairs.

KING OF THE GARMENT DISTRICT

31


Innovative glass partitions in an apparel showroom.

32

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


the best of contemporary residential architecture, complete with a swimming pool and tennis courts. It was designed by noted architect Henry Kibel and built by Wechsler & Schimenti. Kleinberg himself designed the interior of the family’s fourth-floor unit, where he still lives today. According to Michael, his father had his heart set on a house in Fieldston, the lush and more upscale swath of Riverdale, but his mother preferred apartment living. “There were plenty of homes for sale in Fieldston at the time, but she had a fear of being in a house alone,” Michael explains. “It dated back to her childhood in the family farmhouse in Bavaria, when the Nazis were a constant threat.” Milo Kleinberg Design Associates was a decade old by this time. Kleinberg and Bertha, both of whom came to the U.S. with nothing, enjoyed their new prosperity as anyone would. They travelled a great deal, often to Europe or on cruises. Later on, the family had weekend houses in the Catskill Mountains where they would go for much of the summer, as well as on weekends in spring and fall and for ski outings in winter. It was during this time that Kleinberg first became active in philanthropic causes, many of which continue to benefit from his generosity decades later. He has done pro bono design consulting for the Riverdale Jewish Center and contributed to the SAR Academy

in Riverdale, in addition to being involved with Israel Bonds. He was honored in 2007 by Ronald McDonald House, and also honored by Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Philanthropy is something of a Kleinberg family tradition. Jeffrey provided pro bono consulting services for the 150-seat theater at the Westchester JCC, and was instrumental in the design and expansion of the Young Israel of Scarsdale synagogue. He and his wife, Ellyn, are very active in the Westchester Day School, where they headed an initiative to design and build a classroom for children with special needs. Michael met his wife, Arlene, on a boat ride for young donors to United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and today serves on the board. The firm supports the Jerusalem-based SHALVA, the Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children, where a plaza is dedicated to Bertha Kleinberg. They give annual year-end gifts to the institution as a holiday initiative. According to Michael, family philanthropy goes back to well before his father achieved any kind of professional success. His maternal grandparents often visited people in hospitals and gave modest amounts, even when they had less than nothing. “When she passed away, there was an envelope with money in it for charity,” he recalls.

KING OF THE GARMENT DISTRICT

33


College Town ladies’ apparel showroom with partitions designed to display garments.

34

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


CHAPTER 5:

THE 1970s

The building at 1411 Broadway, located on the site of the old Metropolitan Opera House, was a sleek, modern structure that was a forerunner to many more buildings like it in Midtown. The apparel industry it housed was a market Kleinberg knew well; his work there and elsewhere in the Garment District spoke volumes to tenants about how well he understood their business. His clients were top brands in the clothing sector, mostly women’s, and included Jonathan Logan, Bobby Brooks and College Town. Articles continued to appear in Women’s Wear Daily, the apparel industry bible. “That was a big one,” recalls Jeffrey of the success marketing 1411 Broadway. “He got client after client after that.” Eventually, Kleinberg was able to take his ideas from apparel and apply them in other industries. He designed retail stores for such high-end brands as Royal Copenhagen and legendary Danish silversmith Georg Jensen, as well as the first bank commissions the firm did, like Citibank, and later Sterling Bank. Financial institutions

would eventually become a very large part of the business and include such venerable companies as ABN AMRO, Guggenheim Partners, HSBC, and Mudrick Capital. The challenge at 1411 Broadway was how to market the new, large floor plates. Likewise at Helmsley Spear’s 1 Penn Plaza, which opened in 1972. Tenants came in all sizes and the large spaces coming onto the market didn’t suit all of them, nor did they want to be landlords themselves and sublease. To Kleinberg, the solution was obvious: divide them up in an attractive and compelling way so they would appeal to more companies focused on economizing 1 Penn Plaza, among the first buildings and minimizing risk. whose large floor plates were divided Innovative pre-builts, a up to appeal to smaller tenants. T H E 19 7 0 S

35


relatively new phenomenon in office leasing, were increasingly important, not just to the company’s bottom line, but throughout the real estate industry in the 1970s as the economy slowed. Kleinberg’s idea of carving out smaller spaces to reach more tenants caught on in smaller buildings, too, like 205 West 29th Street, and marketing those spaces as pre-builts turned out to be transformative for the industry in the ’70s. Twenty years into the 21st century, it’s an idea that has been adopted by workers in the gig economy who don’t have the financial resources for larger spaces, or who can use technology to run a lean operation and don’t need the space. The idea behind popular co-working spaces like WeWork, Ensemble 36

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

and Amsterdam-based Spaces is based on Kleinberg’s 50-year-old idea of smaller spaces with shared resources, except the newest iteration sometimes comes with an espresso machine and a yoga instructor. In 2018, one rents only the real estate one needs, and it can be as small as a single desk. It was the development of the pre-builts and turnkeys back in the ’70s that solidified the reputation of Milo Kleinberg Design Associates which, with the firm M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, now Gensler, were the true innovators in the field of commercial interior design. According to Michael, their firm didn’t grow as quickly as Gensler, which was founded in 1965, because his father never wanted growth for growth’s sake. He wanted to


Far left, a showroom at 1411 Broadway. Below and left, the New York offices of Gloria Vanderbilt by Murjani jeans, billed as the first designer jeans in the world.

T H E 19 7 0 S

37


keep it personal; it grew exponentially, but on Milo Kleinberg’s terms. “My father had the drive and he had a huge fire in him, along with the design talent and business acumen,” Michael says. “Growth was steady and measured.” Jeffrey was the first of the two Kleinberg sons to join the firm, which he did initially as a summer intern when he was about 16 years old. “When my friends were enjoying their free time in the summer, my father told me I was coming to work for him.” When not in class at McBurney High School on West 63rd Street, Jeffrey was in the office learning how to draw, then how to draft. He accompanied his father to various jobs, drafted some of the projects and served as right hand to the contractor. “That’s how I got my experience,” Jeffrey explains. Jeffrey Kleinberg, IIDA, attended the New York Institute of Technology School of Architecture and continued to work for his father during time off from his studies. There were about 10 people 38

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Below and left, MKDA offices at 11 East 26th Street.

T H E 19 7 0 S

39


40

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


working in the firm at the time, business was growing and there was plenty for Jeffrey to do. Kleinberg spent a great deal of time teaching his son the business, but could be voluble if the work wasn’t up to the standards of the patriarch who, by this time, had about 25 years’ experience and was going from strength to strength. “He was like Steve Jobs at Apple who yelled to get people motivated,” Jeffrey remembers. “His style of teaching was indeed motivating, although sometimes not easy to deal with. That said, I learned a lot.” After an initial stint in the office learning the ropes, Jeffrey’s assignments took him out into the field a great deal, and into the different job sites where he absorbed everything his father, the clients and the contractors could impart. He hated seeing things not getting done, so he often took on the tasks of installing door hardware or climbing ladders to screw track heads onto track lighting, once installing as many as 90 one evening after hours. “Those job sites were where I learned most of my skills,” Jeffrey says. His father would teach him to focus on details every step of the way, how things were made, perspective, and what to look for in high quality craftsmanship. But the elder Kleinberg’s eye and artistic talent were even bigger influences. “He was a great designer,” Jeffrey says. Michael joined two years later, after working in the firm over the course of a few summers when he wasn’t

Showroom for the Jack Wasserman brand, left; above, top, the Seventh Avenue showroom for Metzger coats and, below, an accessories showroom.

T H E 19 7 0 S

41


washing dishes at Camp B’nai B’rith in Lake Como, Pennsylvania. He had earned a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture at the City College of New York, and was eager to get to work. “I had a certain drive and I jumped right in,” Michael says. “My father taught me how to work with brokers, building owners and clients, and I loved doing that.” As with Jeffrey, much of Michael’s initial work at the firm took place outside the office, with Kleinberg as a willing instructor. “From day one, he was a good teacher for me,” Michael recalls. “I was basically involved in everything—measuring spaces, meeting with senior people—from the very beginning,” he says. “It was all very rapid-fire.” 42

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

Above and left, apparel showroom with recessed ceiling and marble inlay flooring.


Ladies’ apparel showroom.

T H E 19 7 0 S

43


44

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

Kleinberg makes a statement with color and distinctive furniture in a reception area for Gloria Vanderbilt by Murjani.


There is a natural division of labor between the brothers today, with Jeffrey focused on design and Michael on the numbers and relationships with brokers and clients. However, the brothers’ architecture credentials are a definite plus in a company where the founder sets the bar for being highly competent in all aspects of the business. “You need to know everything,” Michael says. According to Jeffrey, being alongside his father was the best schooling for all that. “He was an all-around talented guy who could make changes on the job site because he was so good at design, but also because he had such a great relationship with the contractors he worked with,” he recalls. “He was amazing.” “He was an exemplary project manager who would never leave the job site until he covered every inch of it,” he adds. Jeffrey was present in the summer of 1974, when Kleinberg interviewed Jack Maron, a graduate of Pratt Institute who, at the time, was working for the firm Slobodian & Sapolsky. Kleinberg hired him immediately as a project manager and designer, and he remained on the staff for more than four decades. Maron distinctly remembers the boss’ favorite mantra: “On budget and on time,” and how each design was unique to the individual client. “There was nothing cookie-cutter about his approach,” Maron says. “Projects were developed and designed

according to the specific need at the time, what worked best, whether it was a showroom or an investment bank, a network of private offices, open space, or a combination of both.” From the beginning, Maron marveled at how sharp Kleinberg was at coming up with design ideas in what seemed like an endless, innovative stream. “Milo was intuitive and inventive in his solutions, and had the ability to assess needs up front in a way that would dictate the direction the plans would take,” he says. “After a while I stopped being surprised by his ability, which came from a love of his profession. It’s an art form that he’s great at.” Maron compares Kleinberg’s ability with colors and textures to his knack for assembling the best team for each job. He recalls how his boss could gauge the temperament of a client and pair him with a compatible team of contractors and members of the MKDA staff. “All that comes into the mix,” he says. “You need absolute harmony between the team working on the project and the client, the client and the contractor, the contractor and his tradesmen.” “You need the right people, the right project manager, to translate this one-dimensional thing into a threedimensional work,” Maron continues. “Milo was always adept at putting those teams together.”

T H E 19 7 0 S

45


Lucite seating in a Jack Wasserman apparel showroom.

By the mid-’70s, the MKDA team had grown to 10, with Kleinberg as principal and Rhoda Astrachan as the principal interior designer, as she had been since Milo Kleinberg Design Associates was formed in 1959. Maron was Kleinberg’s right-hand man; sons Jeffrey and Michael were making their way, carving out different paths. According to Jeffrey, those paths are complimentary to each other and to the elder Kleinberg. “My father is in the middle between Michael and me, as if we were two halves of something,” Jeffrey says. “Michael has the more rigid gotta-do-business head and I enjoy sketching, designing, working with the contractors, introducing technology into the practice and overseeing the branding.” To Maron, the “family” at MKDA extended beyond the unit of the three Kleinbergs; it took in him, Astrachan, and the staff as a whole. “I felt that MKDA was home; it was home for most of the day, and the people who worked there were part of Milo’s family,” he recalls. “That was the atmosphere Milo created: not a family as in blood, but a group of truly dedicated people who worked long hours together, and did what we had to do when we had to do it.”

46

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Sleek modern furniture and a Lucite partition for Gloria Vanderbilt by Murjani.

T H E 19 7 0 S

47


Metal grids, left and right, are designed to be partitions and fixtures for displaying garments in a Gloria Vanderbilt by Murjani showroom.

48

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


T H E 19 7 0 S

49


CHAPTER 6:

“LIKE LIGHTING A MATCH”

Strong relationships with staff and clients were always the bedrock of the Kleinberg business and continued to be as the firm expanded. Whether with developers, landlords, brokers or design clients, MKDA relationships last for decades. As companies grew, acquired other companies or otherwise changed, they came back to MKDA to design for the new entity. “We have always been relationship people and that is how we have developed the business historically,” Michael explains. “We have always been tight with the commercial real estate community of brokers and consultants, and as we developed closer relationships with them over the years, they MKDA designed Polygram Records’ would refer us to tenants 10 floors of offices in Worldwide Plaza, above, designed by SOM and in the industry.” opened in 1989. 50

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

The commission to design headquarters for Polygram Records was one of those referrals. According to Michael, it came from a contact MKDA made years earlier with a brokerage called Williams Real Estate. Sometime in the 1980s, when Polygram decided to consolidate its multi-label operation under one roof, Williams recommended MKDA to design the space. High-profile music labels included icons like Deutsche Grammophon, Island, Decca, London and Mercury, among others, each of which would have its own floor. Eventually, Polygram had about 10 floors, each measuring 30,000 square feet, in the new, SOMdesigned Worldwide Plaza complex, completed by Zeckendorf Development in 1989. Often, the Kleinbergs were in the right place at just the right time with the right idea, like developing small space programs and pre-builts in the ’80s and ’90s, when buildings were getting bigger than they’d ever been. “We came up with the creative ideas for positioning a


Polygram Records’ Corporate headquarters.

“ L I K E L I G H T I N G A M AT C H ”

51


Health Tex was one of MKDA’s clients in the Childrenswear Building, 100 West 33rd Street, the former Gimbel’s department store.

52

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


building, and determining what tenants wanted, to help landlords bring the tenants in,” Michael says. “Landlords needed to attract tenants, so we would show how spaces could be laid out, divide and design floors, and show how you would actually build them.” This approach caught on early and spread quickly, helping fuel massive growth in the real estate market. Suddenly, developers were heading west of Seventh Avenue into what was uncharted territory in office construction terms, creating unlimited opportunities for Kleinberg. He was only too eager to collaborate with the landlords as they ventured away from the Midtown core. “He really started to pick up steam at some point in the ’70s, but in the ’80s, he was at the forefront,” Michael says. “It was like lighting a match.” Building followed building as the demand for the highly marketable pre-built suites heated up. Projects included the 60-story Carnegie Hall Tower, designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates (now Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects), developed by Rockrose and opened in 1991, where MKDA still does work today. Also in the 1990s, the firm developed one of the very first finished high-end spaces in the former Barney’s building at 660 Madison Avenue, working with what was then Newmark (now NKF, Newmark Knight Frank), while earlier, in another noted development, the Kleinbergs worked with Silverstein Properties to redevelop the former Gimbel’s department

store at 100 West 33rd Street. As it morphed into the Manhattan Mall, the Kleinbergs helped turn the top four stories into what would become known as the Childrenswear Building. As happened in the ’60s and ’70s with 1411 Broadway, MKDA also got the contracts to design showrooms for many of the brands located there, including Bugle Boy, Hushpuppies, French Toast, Carter’s and Health Tex. The apparel industry remained a mainstay for MKDA throughout the ’80s and ’90s. The firm designed showrooms for brands like that of super model Christy Brinkley, Head Sportswear, Gottex of Israel and Alfred Dunner, in addition to the Calvin Klein headquarters on West 39th Street. MKDA also began to diversify, designing showrooms for Borghese cosmetics, Springs Mills and Rosenthal Crystal, and retail stores for Ascot Chang and Shanghai Tang. In the 1990s, the firm designed the landmark Magic Johnson movie Carnegie Hall Tower where MKDA helped market the property.

“ L I K E L I G H T I N G A M AT C H ”

53


The sleek entrance to the New York offices of Murjani Group.

54

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


theater complex on Frederick Douglas Boulevard and West 124th Street in Harlem. The continued presence of apparel brands on MKDA’s client roster into the 1980s and 1990s is the legacy of the company’s strategy of being landlord-focused. But while Kleinberg may have gotten his start working with landlords in apparel- and textile-centric buildings, his client list diversified as his clients’ buildings did. Financial services companies came calling, resulting in commissions from AIOC Corporation, American Federation of Musicians, Apple Bank, Enskilda Securities, Fidelity Investments, Lexington Partners, MONY Life Insurance Company, Merrill Lynch, and US West Financial Services, among others. MKDA’s currency was design expertise coupled with an acknowledged ability to market new property, deliver laser-focused programs for individual clients, and turn out the work on time and on budget. Unlike other design firms, MKDA was a full-service concern and unique in that respect. Kleinberg acted as an owner’s rep, project manager and construction manager, in addition to being a creative. He also saved clients money by eliminating middlemen and working directly with vendors. According to Daniel DeSiena, MKDA executive vice president and director of design, Milo Kleinberg’s reputation as an innovator was of prime importance in the equation.

“He was the one making sure we were on the cutting edge, including anything technological,” DeSiena recalls. “As much as he was an astute businessman with an Old World perspective in evaluating people and providing service, he was also extremely forward thinking technologically. He was always ahead of the curve.” Kleinberg also knew which industries were waning and which were on the rise, and made sure the firm bet on the winners. “We started moving into law firms, banks and financial services and, before long, that was our bread and butter,” DeSiena says. “We also did a lot of work for the City of New York, and combined facilities for the Council of Jewish Federations and United Jewish Appeal in New York and nationally.” MKDA also innovated on the micro level, getting ahead of trends in office design, whether they apply only to one industry, like securities, or across the board. As the firm was once the primary trendsetter in showroom design, Kleinberg smoothed the transition Kleinberg at a job site. “ L I K E L I G H T I N G A M AT C H ”

55


in office design to open plan offices and workstations from the kind of closed offices that were a long-standing tradition in the corporate world. Now, according to Kleinberg, some 90% of offices are open plan, except for the conference room. Companies embraced the notion for its effect on the bottom line. “Companies benefit from the flexibility open plans allow because furniture can be adapted to any space and can be moved easily if the company requires it,” DeSiena explains. “It costs less than repeated complete buildouts as companies grow and move.” According to DeSiena, there were also many successful collaborations with top suppliers of office furniture, such as Steelcase, Allsteel, Herman Miller, Knoll and Arnold Desk. “We were always at the forefront of new things,” Jeffrey says. Another contributor to MKDA’s success has always been continuity in its own staff. Wise hires means critical staff members spend their entire careers with the firm. “Finding good people is the hardest thing and we try to home-grow our staff as much as we can,” says Michael. Indeed, Jack Maron was with MKDA for more than 40 years, and Daniel DeSiena, hired by Kleinberg in 1983, celebrated his 35th anniversary with the company in 2018. Geffner, while not on staff, supplied custom cabinetry for Kleinberg’s designs from the 1950s until he 56

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

sold the family concern in the late 1990s. DeSiena recalls how thrilled he was when Kleinberg hired him based on a rough drawing of a unit in the principal’s Riverdale apartment complex. At the time, DeSiena was working for the home furnishings division of Celanese. He happened to visit the Fifth Avenue showroom of Dakotah Creative Home Furnishings, manufacturers of decorative textile products. The design of the space so impressed him that he wanted to know who designed it, so he could ask him for a job. “I saw the Dakotah showroom and knew instantly that I wanted to work for the company that designed it,” DeSiena says. “I loved the architectural forms, the deep colors, the play on tones—it was very geometric, avant garde and architectural, but also warm.” Once in, he delighted in the colorful tapestry that was the staff. They were individualistic and talented and sometimes a bit eccentric, like Astrachan who, legend has it, climbed Machu Pichu in high heels. “It was a fascinating collection of characters, men and women, each with a unique personality,” DeSiena remembers. He was also taken with Kleinberg’s rigor (“On time and on budget!”), his European sensibilities, and the way he encouraged staff to be entrepreneurial. According to DeSiena, Kleinberg wanted each of them to act as


The blue of the ocean and the white of fine sand for the Gottex swimsuit reception area.

“ L I K E L I G H T I N G A M AT C H ”

57


The Carter’s brand showroom and conference area in the Childrenswear Building.

58

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


though they were running small businesses and work as though every job was their very own. To that end, DeSiena says, Kleinberg demonstrated a confidence in staff abilities that fostered creativity and a highly productive kind of independence. “If you could do it, he would let you do it,” DeSiena recalls. “It was an environment where you could flourish if you were meant to do so.” That professional freedom, however, was in some ways countered by Kleinberg’s toughness, which, DeSiena notes, was, in turn, tempered by an even-handed way of dispensing demands on everyone across the board, family or not. “He has always been tough and that teaches me how to be tough,” he says. “You cannot be too thin-skinned in the business world.”

“ L I K E L I G H T I N G A M AT C H ”

59


CHAPTER 7:

DESIGN FIRM TO THE DEAL MAKERS

The Millennium brought with it a significant proliferation of new financial instruments that would take the banking sector into virgin territory, much like junk bonds did in the 1980s, but somewhat less distastefully. Hedge funds were a large part of that growth and, for MKDA, represented new opportunities, just as the fledgling apparel industry did for the firm decades earlier. Young start-ups in new buildings meant one thing: growth. It generated movement and repeat business for MKDA as it worked with landlords to drive initial leases, then move the companies into larger and larger spaces as they grew. MKDA began designing for law firms Duane Morris & Hecksher, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, Ohrenstein & Brown, and Tenzer Greenblatt, in addition to the banks and financial institutions that began appearing on the roster as early as the 1980s. When hedge funds arrived on the scene sometime in the early 1990s, the firm was well placed to work with landlords courting the start-ups, and design the sorts of flexible space 60

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

Café designed for the New York offices of Shireson Associates, a strategic data science consulting firm. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.


DESIGN FIRM TO THE DEAL M AKERS

61


Harvest Partners, New York, above and right. PHOTOGRAPHS: Garrett Rowland.

62

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


DESIGN FIRM TO THE DEAL M AKERS

63


Cambridge University Press. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.

64

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


they would require. The pre-builts and turnkey spaces MKDA excelled at were precisely what these companies needed to accommodate their technology-driven growth. Technology was, indeed, moving at a dizzying pace; once again, the designer’s penchant for being ahead of the curve was paying off. “Milo was a proponent of innovation and if it was out there, he wanted it for the company,” says DeSiena. “He was the one making sure we were on the cutting edge of anything technological. He was always forwardthinking—one of the top innovators in the industry.” Continuing to work with major landlords around the city, like Vornado Realty Trust, Silverstein Properties, The Shorenstein Company, Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, Capstone Realty Advisors, Waterman Interests and Rockrose Development, and in partnership with them for such clients as TD Bank and Springs Global, MKDA grew exponentially. Jeffrey and Michael took over leadership as partners in the late 1990s, as their father began to scale back on his business and design activities. At that time, MKDA had more than 20 landlords as clients with whom they worked on a continuing basis. Today, that number is between 35 and 40. Many clients came out of the hedge fund sector, which Michael saw early on as a good fit for MKDA from a design and business point of view. The firm was more of a boutique operation than its competitors—something it

shared with the hedge funds. Hedge fund managers were not typically corporate types. They were independent thinkers, younger, and each was something of a one-off. “Every hedge fund has its own mission and set of partners—individuals, some a little quirky, all bright and thinking on different levels,” Michael says. Michael liked the challenge of trying to draw a bead on the different personality types who, while in finance, were not your typical bankers in gray suits. “It required a bit of psychology to understand what we were dealing with,” he recalls. “I’d look across the table at them and wonder what was in their heads.” This is where the entrepreneurial mindset encouraged at MKDA pays off. The team is like hedge fund managers in this way, not corporate and not only about the bottom line. They are creative thinkers who can provide hedge fund managers with what they want: a unique identity that distinguishes them in their field. It’s a trend also beginning to take hold among corporate types who, likewise, want the veneer of a boutique firm, something unusual, to attract top talent. “They want to create a different work environment as a way to attract the best people,” Michael explains. “We want them to grow, and we have the luxury of designing an environment that will help do that.” DESIGN FIRM TO THE DEAL M AKERS

65


Cambridge University Press, above and right. PHOTOGRAPHS: Garrett Rowland.

66

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


DESIGN FIRM TO THE DEAL M AKERS

67


New York offices of the global financial firm Winton Capital. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.

68

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


BrownShoe showroom, Manhattan. PHOTOGRAPH: Adrian Wilson.

DESIGN FIRM TO THE DEAL M AKERS

69


CHAPTER 8:

EXPANDING WITH A NEW MODEL

A company’s location says a great deal about the clients it wants to attract and the kind of employees it wants to hire. If it is super cool and tech-oriented, it will be accessible to staff in hipster hubs like Williamsburg and Hoboken. If it wants more conservative employees, it will head to Midtown or Park Avenue for the easy commute from the Northern suburbs. Still other companies leave the city to establish themselves in the suburbs, where the chief executive will have his pick of prospective staff and no commute. It’s easier all around, less expensive and comes with a more family-friendly lifestyle. MKDA responded to this urban diaspora with the opening of the firm’s first satellite office in Stamford, Connecticut, in 2006. Julia Lindh, R.A., executive managing director and director of design, who created the office as “a one man shop” 12 years ago, now has a staff of 11, 10 of whom are designers and project managers, and a healthy roster of projects coming on board as more corporate executives tire of the expense and stresses of Manhattan. 70

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

Workpoint coworking space, Stamford. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.


E XPA ND IN G W IT H A NE W MO D EL

71


Arbour Lane Capital Management, Stamford. PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

72

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


MKDA renovated an existing building at 2187 Atlantic Street, Stamford, updating the base and lobby. PHOTOGRAPH: Alexander Severin.

E XPA ND IN G W IT H A NE W MO D EL

73


MKDA renovated and repositioned 850 Canal Street, Stamford. PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

74

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


“A lot of CEOs live up here and want a place in the Central Business District, close to the train,” says Lindh. “It is a different lifestyle—a more laid back approach.” She knows that scenario well. After many years working in New York City for firms like TPG Architecture and LCP Associates, she decamped to the suburbs to be closer to her own home in 1998. She worked first for the local TPG office as director of design, did a stint working for Roger Ferris + Partners in Westport, Connecticut, then worked at Esposito Design Associates as principal and director of design, before meeting Michael Kleinberg over coffee to discuss joining MKDA. “I was definitely interested,” she recalls. “It only took about an hour for us to realize we both felt comfortable.” What Lindh brought to the table was something MKDA always held precious: contacts and a reputation among the top corporations and brands that had moved to the suburbs over the preceding decades, but had perhaps worked with other design firms. They included Pernod Ricard, Heineken and Cummings & Lockwood, a law firm specializing in trusts and estates. Contacts, in this case, also meant relationships, which Lindh cultivated to get MKDA’s first Stamford projects. “There were clients who wanted to continue to work with me and were willing to do so to get the company rolling,” she says.

In true MKDA style, the office’s first project was a referral from RFR Realty, for Greenwich Associates, a Stamfordbased research firm that provides market intelligence to banks and financial services companies. The firm moved to new, 40,000-square-foot headquarters in Stamford from its first home in Greenwich. Another relationship, this time with George Comfort & Sons Commercial Real Estate, led MKDA to Guggenheim Partners, a large financial concern. MKDA initially designed a 30,000-square-foot space for Guggenheim at The Centre at Purchase in Harrison, New York, which led to a 250,000-square-foot project at 330 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. The firm has since designed three more projects for Guggenheim in San Francisco, Chicago and Rockville, Maryland. “They keep us busy,” Lindh says. The contact with George Comfort & Sons, MKDA Stamford’s landlord at Shippan Landing, eventually led to projects for MKDA’s New York office. Lindh and her team have also done projects in Connecticut and New York for executive recruiter Michael Page International, as well as interiors for the Bank of Ireland, Tradition Energy, Design Within Reach, Workpoint, Eldridge Industries, and Arbour Lane Capital Management. They have also worked with landlords on the repositioning of buildings in Stamford, like 700 and 850 Canal Street, owned by ClearRock Properties, and 2187 Atlantic Street for Black Diamond. E XPA ND IN G W IT H A NE W MO D EL

75


76

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Guggenheim Partners headquarters, New York, above and left. PHOTOGRAPHS: Garrett Rowland

E XPA ND IN G W IT H A NE W MO D EL

77


New headquarters for Design Within Reach, the leading modern home furnishings retailer, in Stamford’s South End, above and right. PHOTOGRAPHS: Adrian Wilson.

78

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


E XPA ND IN G W IT H A NE W MO D EL

79


80

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Renovation of the historic 700 Canal Street, in Stamford’s South End. PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

“We are the little engine that could,” Rye, New York, native Lindh says. “We have worked our way up to being one of the three names called upon when someone in Fairfield or Westchester counties needs a designer. The Stamford office isn’t as large as MKDA’s other two in larger cities, but the market is very active and we get a healthy share of the business.” Lindh appears to be something of a kindred spirit with the New York-based principals and project managers of the firm in that she takes exactly the kind of entrepreneurial approach encouraged by Milo Kleinberg at all levels. She is independent of the New York operation, yet hews to the notion of cultivating and maintaining relationships, always being available to the clients and making sure MKDA “is first in their mind if they want to expand or contract,” she says. Like Michael and Jeffrey, and their father before them, Lindh sticks with the client from start to finish on any given project, not simply making a presentation and leaving it to someone else to follow through. “We always want clients to leave a project with a good feeling and thinking that we have a good relationship,” she asserts. The strategy moving forward is to branch out. “We are going after more health care and hospitality work, and more building repositioning work that includes renovations and building entrances,” Lindh explains.

E XPA ND IN G W IT H A NE W MO D EL

81


Offices of Tradition Energy, consultants in the energy industry, Stamford. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.

82

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Bank of Ireland. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.

E XPA ND IN G W IT H A NE W MO D EL

83


CHAPTER 9:

ALWAYS AHEAD OF WHAT’S EMERGING

The same way it is able to spot hot industries coming to the fore, MKDA knows an emerging market when it sees one. Jeffrey had long had his sights on Miami and environs, seeing the potential for growth in funky neighborhoods like Wynwood, and in cities like Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables, where a number of unusual buildings were ripe for refurbishment and repositioning—something Milo built his reputation on with projects like the Childrenswear Building at 100 West 33rd Street. Jeffrey was considering an eventual move to Miami from New York, where he’d lived his whole life, and the Florida city’s thriving design sector had its appeal. On a whim one day, Jeffrey asked one of MKDA’s junior designers if she knew anyone who could head a Miami office. One of two names the designer gave was that of Amanda Hertzler, NCIDQ, a former instructor of hers at Miami International University of Art & Design. When they were next in Miami, Jeffrey and his wife, Ellyn, had coffee with Hertzler and they clicked, in much the Wynwood Park, Miami.

84

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


A LWAY S A H E A D O F W H AT ’ S E M E R G I N G

85


86

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Renovation of 82 NE 40th Street, a retail building in Miami’s Design District. PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

same way Michael Kleinberg clicked almost instantly with Julia Lindh in Stamford. MKDA Miami opened in 2013 with Hertzler at the helm as executive managing director and director of design. Hertzler is an interior designer with a skill set that dovetailed perfectly with MKDA’s long history in corporate interiors, and that was the vein she intended to mine. In a complete reversal, however, MKDA Miami opened in a market with a great need for design of all kinds. It was as though the movers and shakers in the development world were waiting for MKDA to arrive. She knew she had to do a one-eighty to cater to players in the local market whose needs were elsewhere. “We knew we had to diversify,” she says. “We had to create a brand that would not only focus on the corporate sector that MKDA was known for, but also expand to the various sectors that Miami is known for: retail, hospitality and ground-up, mixed-use projects.” MKDA Miami was catapulted onto a trajectory no one anticipated. Since 2013, when Jeffrey and Michael opened the office, Hertzler has launched the firm’s first architecture studio and first hospitality studio, and ventured into mixed-use, high-rise, ground-up and retail projects. She has also expanded her sphere beyond Miami to include Fort Lauderdale, Coral Cables, Hialeah and the Caribbean, where MKDA Miami is refurbishing and repositioning a dated, 120,000-square-foot hotel A LWAY S A H E A D O F W H AT ’ S E M E R G I N G

87


Creative Artists Agency, Miami. PHOTOGRAPH: Rolando Diaz.

88

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


in Montego Bay, Jamaica, adding floors, a new pool, spa and roof deck.

for Red Sky Capital, a Brooklyn developer best known for work in Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn.

Hertzler envisions more hotels for MKDA Miami, which is currently designing what will be Wynwood’s first hotel, construction of which is underway. The nature of that business is somewhat complex, according to the designer, who runs the firm with her brother, Brett Hertzler, AIA. He directs the architecture studio.

MKDA is also renovating 50,000 square feet of retail in Wynwood Park, Miami, surrounded by 22,000 square feet of green space in the heart of the happenin’ arts district best known for adaptive reuse of concrete block warehouses, hip restaurants, art galleries, one-of-a-kind retail, and wildly colorful murals. Most of the credit for the carefully curated vision of what is now Wynwood goes to Tony Goldman, the late principal of Goldman Properties. His vision was behind the metamorphosis of Manhattan’s Cast Iron District into SoHo, once the center of the downtown art scene that is now a high-end retail mecca. Goldman began investing in Wynwood about a decade ago with a very different building stock to work with.

“Designing hotels requires a comprehensive knowledge of the operational side of running a hotel,” Amanda Hertzler explains. “If it doesn’t function, even the most beautiful hotel will fail. We understand that, which is why we have proven ourselves to be a valued asset to hotel developers.” Indeed, MKDA is also a valued asset to the brokerage community in all its markets. Working with companies like CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield, JLL, NKF, and Colliers, the firm has assisted countless New York clients with Miami projects and investments. According to Michael, “much of our work comes from long-standing relationships with firms that have introduced us to their associated partners in South Florida.” Retail in South Miami is emerging as a particularly strong category. Current projects include the adaptive reuse of a single-story, 6,000-square-foot building in the Design District for the Gindi family, owners of Century 21 department stores, and a small, ground-up retail project

“SoHo had beautiful architecture, so it was easy to accentuate what already existed,” Hertzler says. “Buildings here were just concrete boxes with small windows, so Goldman invited graffiti artists to paint the buildings. Now, it’s known for its wall murals.” It’s also where the MKDA Miami office is located, and that is no accident. Hertzler chose the area for the thriving creative scene and how it represents the vision she and the Kleinbergs have for the future of the Miami office. “There’s a definite parallel,” the designer says. “We could have been on Brickell Avenue or Downtown, but A LWAY S A H E A D O F W H AT ’ S E M E R G I N G

89


we wanted to be in a highly diverse, creative area more in line with where I thought our future would be.” It looks like a good call on Hertzler’s part, if the extraordinary rate of growth in the newest MKDA office is any measure. Now, with a staff of about 15, 2018 revenues will be roughly 30% over 2017. The office has completed more than two million square feet of interiors for clients that include Creative Artists Agency, Colliers, VUMI Group, O’Connor Capital, Liberty Power, Haber Slade, Brickell City Tower, 100 Biscayne, and Ofizzina, a 16-story, ground-up office condo in Coral Gables. Last year, the South Florida Business Journal designated MKDA one of the city’s Best Places to Work. According to Hertzler, it was a Coral Gables interiors project that brought the firm’s work to the fore: Douglas Entrance and La Puerta Del Sol are office buildings for which MKDA designed the lobbies and common areas. It was like the Lufthansa project was for Milo some 50 years ago. “It legitimized us in Miami,” Hertzler says. “Prospective clients want to know you know how Miami works. The fact that we were able to land a building like this affirmed us as a firm that could move ahead in other areas.” Like the Kleinberg principals, Hertzler is viewed as an accomplished design professional, grounded in the real estate business. She advises on investment and development opportunities, aids in marketing the 90

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

property, then does the design and build-out—as MKDA has done for decades. Clients include East End Capital, Brickman, Banyan Street Capital, the Safra Family and Colliers, in addition to the Gindi Family, Goldman Properties and Red Sky. As more New York developers move to Miami, like Tony Goldman did a decade ago, the MKDA legacy will prove invaluable. “Miami is a young city with a lot of development going on—and not just in Miami itself, but areas like Broward County and Doral in Miami-Dade County,” Hertzler says. “Hospitality has always been strong, but there’s a lot of development yet to be seen in the retail and office sectors—ground-up architecture that needs to happen, and I see it as 40%-50% of our work here.” “It makes sense for MKDA to be part of that,” she says.


The Douglas Entrance, the project that established MKDA in Miami. PHOTOGRAPH: Scott Harris.

A LWAY S A H E A D O F W H AT ’ S E M E R G I N G

91


92

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Banyan Street Capital, above and left. PHOTOGRAPHS: Jarad Kleinberg.

A LWAY S A H E A D O F W H AT ’ S E M E R G I N G

93


The Kleinberg family, left to right: Matthew, Joshua, Stacey, Jarad, Marissa, Jeffrey, Michael and Milo.

94

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


CHAPTER 10:

THE FUTURE WILL BE FLUID

Milo remains very much a presence in his sunny corner of the New York headquarters. He comes into the office four days a week, keeps up with what everyone is working on and consults when asked. He surveys his surroundings with just a hint of smug satisfaction at what his once small enterprise has become and the family’s growing role in it. From here, further expansion for MKDA will be organic. There are plans to open other offices, and it will do so when the right partners are found, as happened so successfully in Stamford and Miami. Washington, D.C., will likely be the next satellite to open; the firm works with a number of New York landlords with assets in and around the capital, and will open an office when the best person comes along to lead it. “Our two satellite offices are home grown, our key players in the company have been home grown, and the firm will use that formula for future studios,” says Michael. “Further expansion will be at a thoughtful and

measured pace, in a market or markets that make sense, where we would flourish as a firm.” Short term, a third generation of Kleinbergs is joining MKDA with Jeffrey’s three children already on board. The eldest, Jarad Kleinberg, has taken over from his father as director of operations and technology, and is also staff photographer/videographer. Jarad’s wife, Stacey Kleinberg, is a senior designer. His brother, Matthew Kleinberg, is involved with business development in the Miami office, while their sister, Marissa Goldschmidt, who is also involved with business development, coordinates FF&E vendors, directs the resource library and works with designers. Michael’s son, Joshua Kleinberg, is studying architecture at the University of Miami and will join the firm as an architect when he graduates. Michael also has two daughters: Alyssa Berger, a speech and language therapist, and Arielle Kleinberg, a senior at Brandeis University.

THE FUTURE WILL BE FLUID

95


Michael resists the notion of a rigid master plan for the firm, which has flourished for 60 years without one. Nor will he prognosticate. “You can’t really predict what will work in the future,” he observes. “But we will continue to focus on what has worked for decades—measured growth while creating dynamic environments in which people can thrive.” He adds, “we’re keeping it fluid.”

New York headquarters of Taboola internet marketing services. Taboola PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

96

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


THE FUTURE WILL BE FLUID

97


98

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


Left, Lobby, 114 West 41st Street. PHOTOGRAPH: Jarad Kleinberg.

Below, Philadelphia 76ers Innovation Lab. PHOTOGRAPH: Jasper Sanidad.

THE FUTURE WILL BE FLUID

99


Below, hedge fund office, New York. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.

100

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N

Right, asset management firm, New York. PHOTOGRAPH: Garrett Rowland.


THE FUTURE WILL BE FLUID

101


He’s an extremely cultured man and that’s what I liked “about him when we first met. I always said there are few Milo Kleinbergs in the world with the smarts, the drive and the culture he has. It’s what goes into being one of a kind. —Daniel DeSiena

102

M I LO K L E I N B E R G A N D M K DA : S I X D E C A D E S I N D E S I G N


103


Profile for MKDA

Milo Kleinberg and MKDA: Six Decades in Design  

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded