Office Space Ambitions

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

At first glance, the carefully defined design directives that drove Goettsch Partners’ plans for international law firm Baker & McKenzie’s Chicago office seem to be all business. But allowing for must-have qualities like professional collaboration, agility, and authenticity called for some decidedly buttoned-down ingenuity. 

“When you think of collaborative cultures, the legal profession doesn’t naturally come to mind,” Goettsch principal Jim Prendergast says. “You have people working in private offices, behind doors, and they don’t want to be disturbed, so immediately it challenges common sense to see how [making collaboration a top design directive] could work.” 

The project team was up for the challenge, delivering a new office for the firm at the top of a vertically expanded Chicago office tower that was initially conceived and designed by Goettsch Partners more than a decade earlier. To foster collaboration and communication, the team added formal and informal meeting spaces throughout the firm’s floors, replaced traditional closed offices with floor-to- ceiling glass ones, and widened circulation zones to encourage conversation. 

Rather than being weighed down by heavy marble secretarial stations or limited by permanent millwork cubicles, Baker & McKenzie’s employees now have the ability to adjust to their evolving needs—demountable Teknion furnishings were used so spaces can be easily reconfigured. “They needed an office environment that could move and breathe with the business,” Prendergast explains. Capturing the firm’s global personality was a matter of details. Prendergast and his team expressed the brand through international touches, colors that align with Baker & McKenzie offices worldwide, and timeless furniture and accents that communicated the company’s commitment to “fluency” in all its forms. “[It’s all about] the balance between smart and beautiful,” Prendergast says. 

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