The offices of COOKFOX Architects can beguile a hardened city goer—the air smells fresh and clean, it’s impossibly quiet, and there are plants, wood, and other elements of nature everywhere you look. It’s a far cry from the midtown mess you find yourself in outside of their building on 57th Street.

Nowhere is this contrast clearer than on their expansive terrace, which features bountiful flora, a vegetable garden, composter, and perhaps most strangely of all, lots and lots of bees.

Sitting in two colorful boxes on the 17th floor deck are COOKFOX’s beehives. They may be in Midtown Manhattan, but these little guys might be the busiest workers on the block. “We started out with 10,000 (bees),” says COOKFOX partner and architect Darin Reynolds. “They were the first 10,000 COOKFOX employees to move here.”

Beehive office in NYC

The beehives on COOKFOX’s 17th floor terrace.

 

COOKFOX is the go-to firm when it comes to green office buildings, and their own headquarters is no exception. Great care has gone into making the space a healthy environment—both for the planet and for the people inside. Advanced filtration makes the air in their space fresher and healthier than you could find elsewhere in the city. The lighting changes in color and intensity throughout the day to cater to your circadian rhythms. The office is both LEED-certified (establishing its environmental bona-fides) and WELL-certified, a credential with rigorous standards that speaks to a building’s effect on human health.

“The reason we do this is because it makes our employees happy,” says Reynolds. “We’re looking for the best, the brightest, and most talented. This is a great place that they would want to work in.” The environment also keeps the team healthier, cutting down on sick days and productivity wrecking stress.

Office garden in NYC

COOKFOX Director of Communications Jared Gilbert stands in front of a sunflower growing on the terrace’s garden.

 

A big part of that human focus is how COOKFOX incorporates elements of nature into the space. Natural grain wood is used throughout, most strikingly in an ambrosia maple table in the common area. Plants adorn walls and shelves everywhere you look, and even the pattern on the glass doors mimics flowing water, triggering the mind to respond in a similar way to a flowing stream, according to Director of Communications Jared Gilbert.

But the real show is outside.

Reynolds says that when the firm was seeking a new office, their biggest concern was access to outdoor space. “We like to say that we set out to find a terrace and it just happened to come with an office attached.” Upon moving in, the terrace wasn’t occupiable—it wasn’t even really a terrace, just a rooftop. The team had do renovations in order to make it a true outdoor space. This meant installing doors in place of windows and reinforcing certain parts of the deck to support more weight.

Office garden in New York

In addition to a bee colony, the terrace features a vegetable garden and composts.

 

They didn’t settle for some paltry patio furniture from Lowe’s either. A majority of the floor space is dedicated to a lush garden, overflowing with native plants. The gardens vary in topography, making them more visible from inside the office. The beehives sit off in a far corner of the gardens, away from seating areas to prevent any unwanted encounters. Still, several bees buzz past our heads as we talk. Thankfully, they’re more interested in the many flowers surrounding us. Reynolds and Gilbert are both happy to report that they’ve never been stung, but the office does keep several EpiPens on hand in case of an adverse reaction.

Managing the hive falls on an architect at COOKFOX who is also a hobbyist beekeeper. The hives produce about 60 to 80 pounds of honey every year, which the firm gives out to clients and employees as holiday gifts and stocks in the office kitchen. “It’s all a grassroots effort,” says Reynolds. “The reason we do the bees, the composting, and the garden is because someone on the staff showed an interest. We like to walk the walk and talk the talk.”

Beehive office in NYC

A COOKFOX bee walks along the wooden deck of the terrace.

 

Reynolds says clients love to come visit the space, and it’s not hard to see why. All around the building, the sounds of the city reverberate off towering skyscrapers. Directly across the street, what will be the city’s second tallest building is taking shape. Yet amidst that chaos is this green oasis. “Watching the bees fly around gives us a biophilic connection that’s hard to find in the city,” says Gilbert.

Urban beehive NYC

Office windows look out onto the beehives.

 

“Look where we’re standing right now, the middle of New York City, urban canyons all around,” adds Reynolds. “This used to be ‘Automobile Row.’ The BF Goodrich Company was over here, the GM Building was over here. We’re creating this interesting green space in the middle of the industrial heartland of New York.”

Urban garden in NYC