site_header_zone


 
Search by keywords

 

projects_detail_left_zone

Barely Legal: Arent Fox's Glam Makeover By Studios Architecture

  • PROJECT NAME Arent Fox Office
  • LOCATION Washington
  • FIRM Studios Architecture
  • SQ. FT. 250,000 SQF

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Possibly across an alley. That’s the route chosen by attorneys at the Washington office of Arent Fox when they relocated—from premises in 1980’s pink-and-green to an office by Studios Architecture in a new LEED Platinum tower by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects.

Arent Fox had initially considered simply renovating and staying put.
 At that time, the Pei Cobb Freed building was but a hole in the ground. As construction teed up, the opportunity to make tweaks on the drawing board enticed the law firm to lease seven of the 12 stories. Studios then got busy designing work and social spaces
 that express the firm’s self-professed culture of “equal opportunity for nonconformers.”

“With an existing building, you have to constantly imagine what could be re-done,” Studios principal Todd DeGarmo says. “Because we were on board before the building even came out of the ground, we had a chance to create an exceptional experience from the minute you step across the threshold.”

The first step taken by DeGarmo’s deputies, associate principals Christian Amolsch and Hana Getachew, was to relocate ground-level restrooms to free up space for an Arent Fox entry distinct from the building’s white marble main lobby. Rather than plodding straight through to the elevators, clients are pulled toward the firm’s name on a glass wall in the corner. Inside, a security desk clad in soapstone sits beneath the luminous open stair up to reception, on two. Glass treads glow, the adjacent wall’s chiseled granite sparkles, and the fluted glass tubes of pendant fixtures hang like icicles alongside.

Because of each floor plate’s unusual shape, roughly a rectangle with an irregular pentagon grafted onto one end, Studios canted and curved the corridors. Further softening the angularity are freestanding silos: circular, windowless “war rooms” where the messy work of due diligence can be done in peace—digging through file boxes, poring over documents. The war rooms are part of Studios’s strategy to increase density and flexibility. “In the old model, with lawyers in offices and secretaries sitting outside, you had to lease more space in the building to keep teams together if your firm grew,” Getachew says. “In our model, you can make changes internally with minimal disruption.”

For internal circulation, stairs connect levels three through eight. Individual levels’ traffic patterns, meanwhile, are choreographed to break down the distinction between the haves and the have-nots: those with the prime views overlooking Farragut Square versus those with the subprime views of a loading dock. To draw people toward the loading-dock side of the floor, Studios placed collaboration spaces, support functions, and the all-important café there.

The café “dresses up remarkably well for functions,” Arent Fox chairman Mark Katz says. That’s largely due to the adjacent pantry, its workaday appliances and vending machines concealed inside a giant freestanding “bean” covered entirely in stainless steel penny tile. Smaller, similar pantries appear on the other levels. Even though space-age is not Katz’s usual cup of tea, he admits that the pantries make him smile, reminding him of something out of Woody Allen’s Sleeper. (Google it, kids.)

Behind the pantry-café combo, Studios obscured the less-than-appetizing loading dock by not only draping the window wall with metal mesh but also building a water feature in front. The latter is also a wall—it’s low-iron glass laminated with silvery crisscross markings. As spotlights glint off the crazy web, and water washes down into a trough, the crystalline effect complements the pantry’s penny-tile glitter.

Café counters are resin that’s been custom-colored to match the tomato red of the Arent Fox logo. The same red reappears on a wall at the far end of the room. But this is no ordinary wall. Bowed and canted, the fiberglass form marks the lower entrance to a two-level auditorium. Created by eliminating a few private offices designated on the original plans by Pei Cobb Freed, the auditorium is a prime achievement of the early involvement of Studios.

Efficient use of space was extremely important, given that Arent Fox was consolidating operations to 250,000 square feet from almost twice as much. “They had to become a less paper-intensive environment and use their furniture and wall space differently,” Amolsch says. Which doesn’t mean they couldn’t personalize it. Digitizing has freed up walls for such important things as one partner’s collection of 500-plus Pez dispensers.

Project Resources >>

Project Team
Dervla Reilly; Tammy Chan; Wesley Wong; Jyutika Baheti; Kristian Passanita; Maria Isabel Pacheco: Studios Architecture. La Fleur Associates: Lighting Consultant. CMS Audio Visual: Audio Visual Consultant. SK&A Structural Engineers: Structural Engineer. N’h Akustik + Design; Shen Milsom Wilke: Acoustical Engineers. WFT Engineering: MEP. Brochsteins: Wood­work. Studio Hoon Kim: Plasterwork. R. Bratti & Asso­ciates: Stonework, Tilework. AIW: Metalwork, Stair Contractor. Bluworld: Water Feature Contractor. Manganaro Midatlantic: Drywall Contractor. CW Keller & Associates: Fiberglass Contractor. Clark Construction Company: General Contractor.