FitzGerald Explores Future of Working In-Office While Designing Next Studio

This year, FitzGerald is acting as both client and designer of the firm’s future studio space at 200 West Adams Street in Chicago. We’re taking advantage of the opportunity to tell the story not only of the process from the designer’s perspective but also weave in our thoughts as the future users of the space and a design firm pondering our next home. In our last installment, FitzGerald president Mike DeRouin discussed the thinking behind the move and what has changed since the firm moved to 912 West Lake Street in 2000.

Though the wheels were already in motion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021, the resulting shakeup of commercial real estate presented an opportunity for FitzGerald to seek our next studio location as prices began to shift and new spaces became available. Once space was secured at 200 West Adams Street, the design team set to work revisiting the plan for the office to make sure it would support our staff and clients’ needs for productivity, flexibility, wellness, and comfort.

Like so many other companies, the public health crisis mandated that FitzGerald move its operations fully remote. Fortunately, we were able to lean on resources already in place to keep operations running at full strength with no delay and minimal adaptation curve. The viability of this remote work dynamic had been proven, and it will become a long-term component of how we work in the future.

At the same time, the challenges of remote work emerged as the key values to having a collaborative location outside the home office where employees can gather: face-to-face collaboration with teams and clients, an office as an event space and showroom for our design abilities, as well as supporting/sharing our culture of learning and fun. Our new studio is destined to become a hub for these activities–dedicating more space to meetings and creative collaboration, and reducing the footprint of workstations by leveraging desk sharing and remote work.

To really explore the ways in which our space will differ from an older, more conventional design, we offer these conceptual bubble diagrams contrasting the way the office might’ve been designed in the mid 2010’s compared to our plan moving forward.

“2010’s-style” office layout (for comparison)
Actual Future FitzGerald office layout

Since our office serves as a central hub for collaboration and client service, the heart of our office’s culture and connection–the lunchroom and break spaces–were moved from the back-of-house and combined with a lobby to create a hospitality-like café experience that allows employees, clients, and guests to mingle, meet, and get work done. The new café will support staff meetings, co-working, and even public industry gatherings. Our hope the space will become a comfortable spot for our clients, staff and colleagues to linger and get some work done between meetings.

Beyond the café, visitors reach a trio of conference rooms, fully equipped to host both virtual and in-person gatherings of between 8 and 30. Smaller huddle rooms, suitable for internal collaboration or small external meetings, lead to the open studio space. The space dedicated to adjustable-height workstations has dropped from about 30% to 23%, with the remaining studio space being dedicated to open collaboration areas using a mix of large communal tables and lounge seating. These dynamic zones come together to allow staff to seek the workspace that supports their needs that day, from energetic shared spaces to quiet areas for focus. In addition to these numerous work-focused areas, all staff will have access to wellness suite, private phone rooms, and lockers, as well as to the expansive building amenities (which includes a fitness center with a yoga room and rock climbing wall!) to support their personal needs and well-being.

Technology, wellness, and sustainability will be woven into the fabric of our new office. Conference and collaboration spaces will support strong connections to remote employees and firm infrastructure. We will seek certifications from both the WELL Building Institute and the U.S. Green Building Council, promoting health and well-being in our space as well as a commitment to monitor and minimize our impact on the environment.