Lisa Skolnik -- Interior Design, 10/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Carlos Martinez, a senior associate at Gensler, has worn several hats in his career as an architect. After completing an office for Chicago business-strategy firm Doblin, Martinez actually joined the staff to develop design solutions for products and services. Thanks to those experiences, he knew all about Doblin's modus operandi and needs when the firm asked him to take on its new headquarters in Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's IBM Building, completed in 1973.
"Doblin's former office was avant-garde and technologically progressive to reflect their novel approach," Martinez says. "Now that they're more established, they needed to cultivate a new metaphor." And to consider the logistics involved in accommodating a permanent staff of 25 and a variable group of clients.
As Doblin president Larry Keeley sees it, "Carlos provided us with a stage for adaptive transformation." The 17,000-square-foot office is loaded with richly appointed elements versatile enough to sustain multimedia presentations, labor-intensive meetings, and social gatherings of every size.
Instead of a standard reception area, the entry features a greeting station—like a stainless-steel maître d' stand—as well as a desk topped in stainless steel, a pantry, and a handsome book-matched walnut-paneled storage center for stashing coats, luggage, and electronics. The reception desk also marks the boundary between the office's two zones, one that supports client meetings and another that supports staff.
On the client side, waiting, working, eating, and meeting can all take place in the same spacious, well lit area. Task seating features adjustable tablets for laptops and hidden gliders for easy access to power outlets. Low walnut-stained wood tables push together or pull apart. And sumptuous sliding drapery fabricated in two different cotton blends—a translucent white sheer and an opaque rust velvet—can be drawn to section off parts of the space for varying degrees of privacy.
Spanning the multipurpose area, then extending to define one side of a run of meeting rooms and support facilities, is an 80-foot-long, 12-inch-thick partition—a striking walnut-veneered structure that staffers call the feature wall. In meeting rooms, the lower part of the wall's interior surface consists of doors that hide storage; the top can be fitted with shelves and a variety of panels, including whiteboard for presentations. The feature wall's exterior surface, partially clad in translucent polycarbonate panels, parallels a 90-foot-long window wall to form a wide hallway. Besides connecting the meeting rooms, the hallway serves as a break space.
The staff side of the office, slightly larger than the client side, is predominantly open, with glass panels and translucent screens carving out collaborative areas. These areas boast the same custom system of rails and writing boards used on the feature wall, so presentations prepared here can easily be trans- planted across the way. Beyond lies an expanse of work spaces for all staff—even Keeley himself—plus a kitchen and three intimate reading labs.
Best of all, the entire project came in on budget, at $48 per square foot. "We did everything on an allowance provided by the building management," Martinez notes. "And it didn't cost a cent more, including design fees."