In all our work for clients, we pride ourselves on deciphering the character and culture of an organization and imbuing that into the design of their new home. For a design firm to design its own new home, with all of the vulnerability and self-analysis of holding a mirror up to oneself, the effort was both challenging and enlightening.
The design of our new office resonated with fundamental changes and growth the firm was going through. Beyond the massive changes to workplace culture and methods expedited by the pandemic, we are transitioning to a new generation of leadership; demonstrating and expanding our national reach; cementing our identity as a complete interior design and architecture practice, and moving from the startup world of Fulton Market to the corporate world of the Loop. The design and designers of our new space faced the challenge of communicating all of that without leaving behind our firm’s inherent culture and character.
Drawing on a working culture that is easy-going, comfortable, approachable, and fosters teamwork, we often say we are in the business of building architects and designers as much as we are building buildings. Ultimately, architecture is a social activity that cannot succeed when locked in a studio or living entirely in a board room.
The reception area/café will be an inviting, multipurpose community space where clients and staff can relax and interact.
At FitzGerald, our philosophy hinges on many voices coming together to collaborate, negotiate, and reach the best possible outcomes. While our space won’t be considered eclectic, it is also not singular–it demonstrates the very best of our collaborations. It became a guiding principle that the new space should feel as much like our “workshop” as our corporate office. We consider our craft to be a partnership with our clients, and this workshop approach extends a welcome to our clients into our process.
The variety of spaces in our new office will protect quiet productivity, encourage lively interaction, and support creative success.
Achieving a balance between timely and timeless design is a complex challenge. However, we believe that pragmatic, straightforward architectural and design details can help keep the overall design feeling timeless. At the same time, changeable pieces–furnishings and moveable decorative features–are well-suited to speak more toward what is on-trend and current.
Though some workplaces seem to elevate iconic designer furniture as art pieces at the expense of functionality or comfort, we valued performance alongside design to create welcoming spaces. These considerations draw in the best residential and hospitality design elements into our workplace and eschew many bland, cold corporate aesthetics.
Walls, polished concrete floors, and large areas of carpeting have a neutral color palette, acting as a backdrop for rich, warm tones found in furniture and fabrics.
Working from a well-honed office program (see previous article), the design team set to work designing spaces that support our needs and convey meaning. Open ceilings, expressions of structure, and frequent use of glass are more than aesthetic choices; they’re also an honest collaboration with the existing conditions.
We believe our most important asset is our people, and just as the area gives our team a versatile place to work and relax, the café’s walls will show off our collective talents and creativity with rotating exhibits of art pieces created by members of our FitzGerald community.
Beyond the café, a gallery hall flanked by conference rooms defines the building’s core in dark shades on one side, while the other side draws in the lightness and expanse of windows and the city beyond.
At the end of the gallery, the space breaks open into the vibrant and active design studio, which is flexibly designed to support togetherness among our growing team.
Carving space for our executive leaders and the administrative team was also much more than a programmatic task. A private but communal workspace for executives was selected rather than individual offices. The studio’s glassy corner won’t be a flagship private office–that prominent position will instead act as an open collaboration area to be shared by all. Accounting and Human Resources offices are also positioned directly adjacent to the hub of the studio rather than tucked in a back-of-house location, disconnected from the team.
Technology will be deployed in creative ways that support the needs of our project teams. Light fixtures with controllable color temperatures pair with natural light from windows to allow our teams to evaluate materials and colors in a wide range of lighting conditions without leaving the studio. Throughout the space, power, and infrastructure has been placed to support a world of laptop-based computing rather than stationary desktop terminals. Finally, Integrating functional displays and appropriately-scaled A/V hardware in phone booths, small-group workspaces, and large meeting rooms will allow us to connect and collaborate with teams and partners throughout the country in convenient and equitable ways.
Wellness and sustainability also play a crucial role in FitzGerald’s work. We will seek WELL Building and LEED Certifications, signifying and validating many health-oriented and ecologically responsible choices about the company’s new home, even going so far as to update several company policies to encourage and bolster employee wellness and wellbeing. Within the space, areas will be acoustically zoned so occupants can find the place that suits their working styles and needs that day, and ergonomic workstations and offerings of healthy snacks make sure one’s physical condition is also nurtured. The design employs generous daylighting, air and water filtration systems, efficient mechanical systems, and many earth- and people-friendly materials.
In our next installment, we will delve into the experience and lessons learned through the bidding and construction phases as our design came to life. Stay tuned!