When you have over 70 offices worldwide, how do you make one of them special? Our client asked us for a Connecticut “home” for their highly mobile consultants. They wanted their new homestead to have water views, a stone fireplace, and hardwood floors. But unlike most dwellings, this one needed to be designed so that a team of 180 people could squeeze into 18,000 square feet of space – that’s right, 100 square feet per person – in one floor of an office building, without making it feel like a New York tenement.
Working closely with our client, Centerbrook came up with a radical solution. First, downsize the partners’ offices by 50 percent, and introduce floor-to-ceiling glass on this outer row of workspaces. Then design two interior batteries of offices – the inner one with connected units with as little as 65 square feet of highly functional space. Additional offices and common rooms form a middle ring, creating two narrow corridors on either side. Configured like drifting boats, this ring of rooms allows natural light to penetrate to the innermost office spaces, and their gently curving edges enables the adjacent pathways to be only three feet wide at their narrowest without feeling claustrophobic.
The offices are flooded with natural light, which helps make them feel more spacious than their actual dimensions. The overall affect looking down the two hallways recalls first class staterooms on the deck of an ocean going vessel. Every common space, the meeting rooms as well as the coffee bar, booths, and the cafeteria, do double duty as alternative work areas. So when consultants who travel a great deal come into this home office, they can always find a well lit nook to do their work or public areas to meet with colleagues in a warm comfortable home.
An outdoor terrace with a fireplace, set atop the adjacent parking garage, provides a shaded and protected deck for gatherings,
Vernacular touches – such as a dry-laid stone wall in the lobby and cherry wood trim, paneling and flooring, as well as Centerbrook-designed “classic farm” worktables in common spaces – convey a welcoming New England ambiance. Visitors from the firm’s other offices all acknowledge that this office is the best.