Practice Makes Perfect pix
After 22 years working together, Powell/Kleinschmidt architects and Mayer, Brown attorneys unveil their best Chicago office yet
Cindy Coleman -- Interior Design, 1/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
At one of Chicago's largest law firms, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, Powell/Kleinschmidt dedicated most of the 32nd floor to a conference center. At each end, custom chairs upholstered in faux suede and a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe table cluster before a conference lounge, fronted in laminated glass, and a food-service area, partially enclosed in English oak.
The 32nd floor is also where the firm's main receptionist sits, at a built-in desk fronted in stainless-steel mesh and topped in granite. The floor is polished terrazzo.
Dawn McNutt's willow sculpture stands tall in the reception area; photography: Hedrich Blessing.
At the far end of reception hangs a 1963 tapestry by Le Corbusier. Seating groups combine Mies van der Rohe's leather-covered chairs and custom mohair-covered sofas.
In a conference lounge, a steel pendant fixture hangs above Michael Thonet's stainless-steel chairs and a custom glass-topped steel table. Along the sidewall are Alex Katz's silk screen and a custom credenza in Zodiaq.
Robert Motherwell's lithograph in a small conference room; photography: Hedrich Blessing.
In an office corridor, Richard Pare's photograph of the St. Louis County Courthouse by Robert S. Mitchell.
The training room's custom table, with its stained-oak top, and Sava Cvek's mesh Zephyr chairs. Right, from top:
An office corridor's Pirkle Jones photograph of California's Colusa County Courthouse by Vincent Brown.
In the 33rd floor's business center, a row of Mark Müller's oak-topped Vox meeting tables runs between workstations and groups of custom armchairs upholstered in faux suede. Philippe Starck designed the Romeo Moon lamps in glass, steel, and aluminum.
Mayer, Brown occupies 12 floors of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners's new 48-story Hyatt Center; photography: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing. SENIOR PROJECT DIRECTOR: CHARLES CUNOV. PROJECT ARCHITECT: THOMAS BOEMAN. PROJECT TEAM: ARTHUR CANTWELL III; TED DUNN; SHANNON GERWIG; JENNIFER MILLER; JOHN PADMORE; TEN TIPPRAPA; JOSEPH YEAGER. GLASS PANELS (32ND FLOOR): IMAGING SCIENCES. COVE LIGHTS: BARTCO (ENCLOSURE); BELFER (OCULUS). RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES (32ND FLOOR, CONFERENCE LOUNGE): KURT VERSEN. CUSTOM CHAIRS (32ND FLOOR, BUSINESS CENTER), CUSTOM SOFAS (RECEPTION): MARTIN BRATTRUD. TABLE (32ND FLOOR), GUEST CHAIRS (AS- SOCIATES OFFICE), SOFA (CONFERENCE LOUNGE), WORKSTATIONS (BUSINESS CENTER), CHAIRS (MOOT COURT): KNOLL. CHAIR FABRIC (32ND FLOOR, BUSINESS CENTER), CHAIR FABRIC, PANEL FABRIC (CONFERENCE LOUNGE): COWTAN TOUT. FLOORING (RECEPTION): METROPOLITAN TERRAZZO. CREDENZA SURFACING (CONFERENCE LOUNGE): DUPONT. CHAIRS (RECEPTION): GRATZ INDUSTRIES; SPINNEYBECK (UPHOLSTERY). SOFA FABRIC: DESIGNTEX. TAPESTRY: THROUGH LES ATELIERS PINTON. SIDE TABLE: SCOPE FURNITURE. WALL WASHERS: SPECIALTY LIGHTING. CUSTOM COFFEE TABLE (RECEPTION), CUSTOM CREDENZAS (BUSINESS CENTER): MARC WOODWORKING. PENDANT FIXTURE (CONFERENCE LOUNGE): SPI LIGHTING. CUSTOM TABLETOP: TRAINOR GLASS. CUSTOM WALL PANELS: ATI. CHAIRS (CONFERENCE LOUNGE), TABLES (BUSINESS CENTER): ICF GROUP. DESK (ASSOCIATES OFFICE): GEIGER INTERNATIONAL. PENDANT FIXTURE: FINELITE. TASK CHAIR (ASSOCIATES OFFICE), WORKSTATIONS (SUPPORT AREA): HERMAN MILLER. CHAIRS (TRAINING ROOM): STYLEX. CUSTOM TABLES (TRAINING ROOM, MOOT COURT): TELLA. FILE CABINETS (CORRIDORS, SUPPORT AREA): OFFICE SPECIALTY. CARPET: SHAW. SOFA FABRIC (CONFERENCE LOUNGE): ROGER ARLINGTON THROUGH CALLARD ASSOCIATES; FURNITURE SHOP (UPHOLSTERING). LAMPS (BUSINESS CENTER): FLOS. PENDANT FIXTURES (MOOT COURT): PEERLESS LIGHTING. CEILING TILE: ARMSTRONG. CARPET: MASLAND CARPETS RUGS. MILLWORK: HUBER CABINET WORKS. VENEER WORK: BACON VENEER COMPANY. GRAPHICS: FORCADE ASSOCIATES. LIGHTING CONSULTANT: CHARTER SILLS. AUDIOVISUAL, ACOUSTICAL CONSULTANT: SHEN MILSOM WILKE. MEP: ESD. PROJECT ADVISER: DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: CLUNE CONSTRUCTION COMPANY.
|Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw is one of Chicago's largest law firms. Founded there in 1881, it employs 500 attorneys, plus more than 800 in 13 other U.S. and European cities. Clients encompass 65 Fortune 500 companies and one out of every three U.S. banks.
The Chicago office used to be split up on 21 floors of a building by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, resulting in communication barriers and an inefficient duplication of functions such as reception and service areas. Then Mayer, Brown caught wind of space available at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners's 48-story Hyatt Center, still in planning. Floor plates were 30,000 square feet, 50 percent bigger, which would allow the firm to consolidate on 12 floors. Done deal.
Choosing an architect was easy: Mayer, Brown has been working with Powell/Kleinschmidt since 1984. But this was P/K's greatest opportunity, founding principal Robert Kleinschmidt says, to "contribute to early discussions with the building architects to identify planning concepts." Particularly key was the building's shape, which P/K reviewed with partner Henry Cobb three times.
Basically an ellipse with the ends cut out, it creates a longer perimeter than a rectilinear floor plate would, equating to more window offices per floor for attorneys—especially as P/K tailored those offices to a building module of 4 feet 9 inches, versus the standard 5 feet. The unusual shape also eliminates the hierarchical dilemma of the corner office.
Organized by practice group, attorney offices ring 10 of the 12 floors. Sunlight permeates interior support spaces through each office's glass panels. Custom carpet is a pattern of gray-and-black pick-up sticks. "It's a nondirectional solution to the building's curves," Kleinschmidt says.
Of the remaining two levels, which accommodate public functions, floor 33 houses a copy center, HR, and a supersize meeting room in addition to a business center that's tailored to team or solo work for both staff and visitors. Along the window wall, boxy taupe lounge chairs are for reading or talking. In the center, rectangular oak-topped tables allow for laptop presentations. Farthest 'from the windows are workstations.
On floor 32, Mayer, Brown's reception area sets a tone of tasteful opulence, with paneling and doors of English oak and a floor of polished terrazzo. Sofas upholstered in plum mohair supplement Tugendhat armchairs in latte-colored tufted leather. Beyond the entry zone are two food service areas, a training center, and a moot court. The largest, most important feature, though, is a conference facility that—working in tandem with the smaller private offices—encourages interaction within and between practice groups.
Like the private offices, all 28 conference rooms hug the building's perimeter. Size and style options vary to suit impromptu and planned meetings: small, medium, large, and lounge. The latter type, located at each end of the modified ellipse, is the most popular among Mayer, Brown's younger set—with a retro-modern vibe generated by a low glass-topped table and a UFO-like pendant fixture.
"Mayer, Brown supports three generations of workers," explains principal Bill Arnold. "So diverse needs and preferences influenced every decision we made." For 'lighting, new bulbs and tubes reduce glare, while floors are raised 6 inches to conceal computer and telephone wiring.
Differences aside, modern and contemporary art ties everything together—mostly works on paper by Americans such as Alex Katz and Sol LeWitt. Canada and Switzerland are represented in reception by Dawn McNutt's willow sculpture and Le Corbusier's tapestry, respectively. Flanking the elevator lobby on the office floors, P/K installed black-and-white photomurals from the Library of Congress's Seagram County Court House Archives. (To mark the U.S. bicentennial, Joseph E. Seagram and Sons commissioned photographs of more than 1,100 county courthouses from California to Missouri and New York.) The murals serve as way-finders, but they also represent something deeper: freedom, democracy, diversity.