Stop Calling Office Parks "Nondescript"

Mother Jones

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The wars of the future will be fought over clichés.

Last week, WonkBlog‘s Brad Plumer took aim at one of the soundbite industry’s most pernicious crutches—describing a good-but-not-gamechanging thing as “not a panacea.” Plumer was right to criticize “not a panacea,” but “nondescript office park” and “nondescript office building,” are just as common—and just as bad. Office buildings and office parks are as a rule architecturally bland, so there’s no reason to point it out. Moreover, there’s nothing counterintuitive about an interesting project that’s housed in a boring building. If news reports are any guide, interesting projects are often housed in boring buildings.

In the interest of killing this cliché, here is a comprehensive list of all the things the New York Times has reported are housed in a “nondescript” office space:

Expecting Models, a modeling agency for pregnant women.

Y Combinator, “an organization that can be likened to a sleep-away camp for start-up companies.”

Public, a Brisbane restaurant whose “menu of sharing plates draws inspiration from around the globe.”

Bar High Five, owned by “master bartender” Hidetsugu Ueno.

High Tide, a Jacksonville eatery that specializes in a pita-wrapped cold cut sandwich called the “camel rider.” Hess Brewing, a San Diego-based “nano-brewery.”
The Brooklyn Table Tennis Club on Coney Island Avenue.
A meeting of the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop.

Frederick Taylor University, an unaccredited state-approved online institution.

Indus Entrepreneurs, a South-Asian professional network that invests in Silicon Valley start-ups.
The studio at MacGuffin Films, which serves as a set for Olive Garden commercials.
The current site of a planned New Jersey development that residents agree “will change the personality of West Windsor for better or worse.”

Atlantic Philanthropies, a once secretive charity that has “decidedly hung its shingle out in the open.”
A prototype of a new Russian A.T.M. that comes with a built-in lie-detector.
The Duluth headquarters of Lake Superior Brewing.
The corporate headquarters of Deutsche Börse, which operates the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
The Central Yiddish Cultural Organization, “the only secular Yiddish bookstore in New York.”
The Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse, a Paris culinary workshop located “in a stolid bourgeois neighborhood in the outlying 16th arrondissement.”
The Perpignan branch of the Algerian Circle, a historical society devoted to the nation’s colonial age.
The glass-walled room in which Treasury officials auctions bonds to Chinese investors while wearing helmets.
The Republican National Committee’s Denver war room.
“A casino larger than the blackjack, dice and roulette pits at many Las Vegas gambling halls,” where card dealers learn their trade.

Rush Limbaugh’s new studio, “on a boulevard lined with tall palms.”
A stop on the Latin American Consular Fair in Harrison, New Jersey.
The Manhattan offices of The Smoking Gun.
A food pantry that caters to foreclosed homeowners.
The second-biggest gold depository in New York.
The “windowless studio” of WABC-TV and WPLJ-FM traffic reporter Joe Nolan.

Maus Hábitos, a vegetarian restaurant in Oporto that also offers massages.
A shareholder meeting for the London-based advertising-buying firm Aegis Group.
The “Spartan lodgings” of Realogy, the nation’s largest real estate company.
A training school for competitive barbecue judges.

Digital Chocolate, a start-up that develops apps for mobile phones.

Private Capital Management, “a little-known money management firm that discreetly handles the investments of wealthy families.”
An “unmarked building” in Irvine where video game designers add new features to World of Warcraft.
The company that wants to reinvent troll dolls.
President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign headquarters.

Community Prep, “New York City’s first public high school for students who have been recently released from juvenile prisons and jails.”
A casting agency for television commercials.
The Business Software Alliance, an anti-piracy organization.
Nafka House, stone-and-cement structure in the Eritrean capital that is also “towering at nine stories above all surrounding structures.”
A Washington television studio appropriated by Sacha Baron Cohen.
The Air Transportation Stabilization Board.

Django, a Manhattan restaurant with “glittery, crystalline room dividers and a whimsical wall-papered rear.”
The former New York City digs of the Internal Revenue Service.
The Midtown offices of soft-core magazine empire Crescent Publishing Group.
The administrative offices of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

A movie theater “at the end of a placid, palm-lined street in Marina del Rey.”

Princeton eCom, an electronic billing service.
The Brazilian IT security firm Módulo.
Three Star Leather, a tailor on the Upper East Side that specializes in skintight pants.
The practice studio for the Korean Traditional Performing Arts Association.
California Independent System Operator’s Folsom offices, the non-profit power grid-manager that is “ground zero for the energy crisis in California.”
The offices of Macintosh splinter Eazel Inc., “filled with Silicon Valley-style cubicles and adorned with the ubiquitous penguin mascot of the Linux free software movement.”
A New York City mosque.
Esaki, a trendy Tokyo restaurant in “a part of town known for its trendy shops and boutiques.”
A modest little company called Audible Inc., which just happens to have outsize ambitions.”
The Harrisburg law office of former Democratic Rep. Don Bailey.
Monica Lewinsky’s legal team.
The London headquarters of N.M. Rothschild & Sons, marked by “starkly empty corridors.”
The New York Times‘ archives.
GM’s European headquarters.
Adcom Inc.-Psychic Fairs, which organizes festivals for astrologists at suburban malls.
The Manhattan office of LBJ biographer Robert Caro.
The suburban Atlanta space where Mickey Hall is building the perfect pitching machine.
New York’s Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (next to the “equally undistinguished” Daniel Newburg Gallery).
Geneva’s European Free Trade Association building, where the Vatican reached an historic agreement to pay creditors of a defunct Italian bank.
The suburban Virginia Soviet department of the C.I.A., “directed by Robert M. Gates, the Deputy Director for Intelligence who is a Soviet authority himself.”

International Business Government Counsellors Inc., a DC political intelligence firm.
A Connecticut electronic shopping service where “the future of American retailing is taking shape.”
Ronald Reagan’s presidential transition offices.
The offices of the Fortune Society, which helps convicted felons get jobs.
Conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Vigeurie’s Falls Church, Va. war room.
The New York Neighborhood Dry Cleaner’s Association.
The former Empire Theater.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service’s only ombudsman.
The Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.

Ban clichés.


Stop Calling Office Parks "Nondescript"

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