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Not Business as Usual : At MTV Networks, the Workplace Is Programmed for Fun

March 08, 1998|Ed Leibowitz

With its resplendent aluminum shell, miniature stove and cheery pink Formica counters, the 1957 Airstream trailer in the lobby of MTV Networks' year-old Santa Monica offices proved too tempting for Nickelodeon hopefuls. "Kids would be waiting for their auditions," says Carly Figliulo, director of administration, "and little girls were in there playing house."

MTV Networks, known for its contemporary music videos and vintage Nick at Nite sitcoms, has long aspired to a modernity tempered by postwar nostalgia. Its interiors, designed by the local husband-and-wife team of Stanley Felderman and Nancy Keatinge, reflect that aesthetic--corporate but with a playful twist--especially in the common areas. Every floor, for instance, has two employee lounges masquerading as '50s living rooms, replete with amoeboid coffee tables, chairs from local swap meets and speckled linoleum. Elsewhere, there are fanciful divans, window panels embedded with kitschy glass jewels and at least one dainty old black-and-white set among countless state-of-the art TVs.

The building's aquatic theme--a nod to the nearby beach--includes massive surfboard ceiling panels amid exposed air ducts. Wavy blue walls separate perimeter offices from centralized work spaces and give way to pools of blue carpet.

The Airstream is guarded by two enormous, vaguely tribal masks. Monitors serve as their eyes and mouths, spewing the network's attention deficit disorder programming nonstop. The video totems are just as irresistible as the trailer. On a recent tour, Figliulo noticed something missing from one of the talking heads' glass-framed eyelids--a theft that could inspire yet another novel design concept. "People have been picking at the marbles," she jokes. "I should get an electroshock treatment put on it."

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