Lawrence W. Cheek -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
It's not hard to invest an office environment with the spirit of Seattle: All you need is a jazzy fusion of informality and unpredictability, a tangible sizzle, and staggering ocean and mountain views. It was a leap of faith, however, for one of the city's longest-established law firms to envision itself in such surroundings—inside the shell of an old wharf building, no less. "They had been in the kind of office where you instinctively tightened your tie," says managing director Linda Moriarty. "This was quite a change."
The wharf slashed 500 feet into the water of Elliott Bay, with its sailboats and ferries and the odd sea lion. Moriarty devised a lavish window scheme, raised the roof of an attic to create a habitable second floor, and teased the corridors with slight undulations to avoid dreary, block-long tunnels. Rough, water-stained fir trusses remain exposed, pounding out a dramatic visual rhythm as well as offering a reminder of Seattle's waterfront heritage. A double-height "living room" flows onto a deck thrust over the water; on the second level, a "town center" provides informal meeting space, plus another deck.
"The new office seems more entrepreneurial, more risk-taking," says Graham & Dunn's managing partner, John T. John. He adds that the atmosphere also seems calmer, with some of the stress of a high-powered urban law practice soothed away. That's another essential quality of the Seattle spirit.
Opposite: A sliver of leftover space near the conference rooms became a "living room" with an end-grain fir floor and a slate fireplace surround. The conference rooms' walls fold back on tracks.
Clockwise from top: Slight undulations articulate long corridors to avoid the tunnel effect. Reception's glass-topped desk overlooks the Seattle coastline to the north. The "town center" features chairs of beech plywood and chromed steel. The fir trusses and beams, such as these near the "living room," are original to the wharf building.
Clockwise from left: A folded steel plate supported by a single I beam, the stairway has treads of end-grain fir to coordinate with the common spaces. In the office area upstairs, workstations combine plastic laminate and fabric. The conference rooms are stacked.
PROJECT TEAM: ROBERT SOLLINGER; CHIEN CHEN; ANGELINE HO; YUKAKO HORIUCHI; JEROEN TEEUW. CHAIRS (LIVING ROOM) HBF. TRACK LIGHTING (CORRIDOR): CON-TECH LIGHTING. BENCH (RECEPTION): BRIGHT CHAIR COMPANY. TABLE (TOWN CENTER): FALCON PRODUCTS. CHAIRS: ACERAY. GREEN CHAIRS (CONFERENCE ROOM): KEILHAUER. WORKSTATIONS, FILE CABINETS (OFFICE AREA): KIMBALL INTERNATIONAL. BLACK CHAIRS (CONFERENCE ROOM): VITRA. CARPET: KARASTAN. FURNITURE DEALER: FLEISCHMANN OFFICE INTERIORS. PAINT: BENJAMIN MOORE CO. MILLWORK: FEATURE MILLWORK. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: SASCO. LIGHTING CONSULTANT: ALFRED SCHOLZE ASSOCIATES. STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: RFA STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS. MEP: SAZAN GROUP. BUILDING ARCHITECT: FULLER SEARS ARCHITECTS. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: TURNER CONSTRUCTION COMPANY.