When the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson moved its Chicago headquarters after decades in the same location, it provided an opportunity to create a space that better reflects its forward-thinking practice. Wanting to break away from a traditional corporate layout and look, the agency turned to local architecture and design firm SCB, who were well-versed in Hinshaw & Culberston’s ethos and desired aesthetic, having already designed 20 locations for the national law firm over the past 15 years.
Comprised of 11,241 square metres spread over four upper levels in a recently completed tower in the city’s downtown, the new offices were a blank slate for the SCB team to build on. What the law firm wanted was to eliminate the hierarchal arrangement of their previous location and to ensure that all employees benefit from exposure to natural light and the stunning views to the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.
Spatial organization was key to achieving this, so the designers installed equally sized offices across all floors to accommodate the nearly 400 employees, from partners to administration. “They didn’t want to create distinctions,” says Shelya Conforte, a SCB principal and the executive director of interior design. “The focus was on efficiencies for movement.” To that end, personal offices line the perimeter of each floor and are encased in floor-to-ceiling glass to allow sunlight to permeate through to centrally located desks and informal meeting zones.
Flex spaces in external corridors incorporate wooden benches and upholstered leather seating that is easy to reconfigure in order to accommodate all manner of gatherings, from internal celebrations to cocktail parties and other events for clients
Simultaneously warm and lively, the materials palette incorporates marble, wood, steel and stone-look tile. The furnishings feel slightly atypical for a corporate law firm – sculptural metal chairs, royal blue and peach velvet upholstery, shots of red and graphic motifs, combine to present an urban hospitality personality. Large black-metal-framed pivot doors that line some conference rooms can be opened to create larger breakout areas as needed.
A communal lunchroom was relegated to one floor to encourage office-wide meals and social gatherings, and is also used for larger events and entertaining outside guests and clients. Smaller satellite coffee kitchenettes are found on each level for convenience, each with its own aesthetic personality.
Adding to the urban feel, artwork by local artists, including photographer Darris Harris’s Sears Power House series (below), are found in offices, break rooms and at reception.