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Onoffice Magazine - Chicago office relocation feature story June 2013


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Onoffice Magazine - Chicago office relocation feature story June 2013

  1. 1. a microcosm of the firms as a whole. A chance,explains Cannon’s Mark Hirons, principal and designdirector of corporate interiors, to develop a modelworkplace strategy that could work across the firm.“We wanted to think more creatively about howwe work in teams, how the office can be a catalyst forour work and make that more effective,” says Hirons.Compared with the previous office, where Cannonhad 7,400sq m spread over three floors, this is smaller(at 5,500sq m) but is across one floor. “We weren’tas integrated as we wanted to be,” Hirons remembers.“This building gave us the opportunity to establisha single culture and one cohesive identity, engagingpeople to work together and be more connected.”Private offices became a thing of the past, and99% of employees, from intern to principal, weregiven the same-sized desk in the new open, communaloffice. Away from those desks, they can choosefrom around 20 different casual and social spaces,from high counters and cafe tables to lounge areasand a library. Instead of lines of workstations, desksare arranged in groups of six, each pair branchingfrom a triangular centre.This custom-designedfurniture, for which Cannon has coined the snappyterm ‘radial benching’, allows for a higher seat countthan traditional linear banks while inducing moremovement around the office and creating space for alarge number of in-between teamwork areas (one fornearly every bank of desks).FLUID THINKINGARCHITECTCannon DesignCLIENTCannon DesignLOCATIONChicago, USACOST£4.8mSTART DATEMay 2011COMPLETION DATEMay 2012FLOOR SPACE5,500sq mWORDS BYJenny BrewerPHOTOGRAPHYChristopher Barrett PhotographyWhen Ludwig Mies van der Rohe left Germanyfollowing the unceremonious end of the Bauhaus, hefound himself in Chicago, heading up the architectureschool at Illinois Institute of Technology, and soonmade the city his home.The remainder of his workinglife was spent in his downtown studio, and sincethen his influence has manifested itself consistentlythroughout the city. Cannon Design’s new LEEDPlatinum office fit out is a prime example. It lies in theheart of downtown Chicago’s Michigan Plaza, a starklyminimal two-building block made in steel and glass –the architect’s calling cards – and designed in 1985 byFujikawa Johnson & Associates, a practice founded byJosephY Fujikawa, a former partner in Mies van derRohe’s architecture firm.Beyond this modernist exterior, the interior alsochannels Miesian principles. Spanning a single flooracross the two buildings, the spaces are open plan anddesigned to flow seamlessly from one to the next; thedecoration and furnishings are functional, exploitingthe latest technologies; and, most importantly, everydetail has been carefully planned to work as efficientlyas possible for its inhabitants.Cannon is a huge firm, with 1,100 employees in15 offices, working on a wide range of fields includingarchitecture, interiors, urban planning, engineering,construction, graphics and technology design.TheChi-town workforce is its largest, with 250 employees,and most multi-disciplinary, so its design was seen as >>ONSITE 075
  2. 2. These areas are where Cannon comes into its own.Most centre around a projector screen linked to theoffice network where workers can sit down just with akeyboard, log in as if they are at their desks, and sharewhat they’ve been working on. Using a digitiser pen,they can doodle on plans, annotate with commentsor changes, and visualise their ideas with the group,developing projects collaboratively.These drawingsand annotations can be saved on the network to referback to, or shared with others working on the project.This is where having a cutting-edge technology designdepartment within the same company comes inhandy. “Seeing the ideation process creates immediateengagement and means you can share informationvery quickly,” says Hirons. “That activity makes it live,and makes the environment much more dynamic.”It also helps the firm adhere to its proudest trait,which it calls its Single-Firm, Multi-Office (SFMO)approach, pooling resources across its many officesaround the country and abroad to work on the sameprojects, something less tech-minded companies wouldtrip up on. Many other enclosed meeting rooms andoffices are also kitted out with similar technology, soemployees can log in within a small office for private,quiet heads-down working or conduct meetingsin larger conference rooms, which also have videoconferencing capabilities.Choosing such an archetypal Chicago buildingis another way Cannon is staying true to its missionstatement, which states a dedication to designing “athoughtful response to the physical setting”. In thiscase, that means using as many Chicago-related visualanalogies as possible. For example, downtown Chicagohas 18 articulated bridges squeezed on to a two-milestretch of river, and this office even features a bridge(albeit immovable, but we’ll let that slide) in the formof a small joining space linking the two buildings ofMichigan Plaza.This space lies at the heart of thebuilding, bridging, sorry, joining two sides of the office,and acting as a social hub, housing the cafe, design andresource library, and reception area, which featuresa high-gloss polished concrete floor that is meant toevoke the nearby Chicago river.The Chicago-isms don’t stop there. Behind thereception desk is a seemingly freestanding floor-to-ceiling wave of steel, the same dark bronze colour asthose famous industrial bridges. It curves round thecorner, enclosing a large room used for conferencesand corporate events. Opposite reception is a 12m-longtranslucent glass wall, on which is projected a film byLondon-based video artistThomas Gray, showingimages of the city, people and buzz phrases related tothe company and city (such as ‘fluid ideation’, ‘incessantinnovation’ and ‘crossing bridges” – management-speak is obviously still alive and well here). If that wasn’tenough, every aspect of the office makes the most ofexpansive windows overlooking the cityscape, providinga constant reminder of the city it is celebrating.Above The glossy floorsare intended to evoke thewatery Chigaco riverAbove right A bronzed ‘wave’of metal suits the Miesianbuilding’s minimal aestheticRight Every bank of deskshas its own meeting area,with a networked screenFar right A meeting roomfaces on to Michigan Plaza’ssteel and glass sister towerONSITE 077‘SEEING THE IDEATION PROCESS CREATES IMMEDIATEENGAGEMENT AND MEANS YOU CAN SHARE INFORMATIONQUICKLY. IT MAKES THE ENVIRONMENT MORE DYNAMIC’