Charles River Associates Chicago Office Building, CRA Illinois Interior Architecture

Charles River Associates Chicago Offices

New Interior Architecture at One South Wacker Drive, Illinois, USA – design by Elkus Manfredi Architects

January 27, 2020

Charles River Associates Offices Chicago

Design: Elkus Manfredi Architects

Charles River Associates Chicago Office

Location: One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Charles River Associates Chicago offices interior

Size: 35,620 GSF over two floors

Program:
Total Seats: 222

Notable spaces: 34th floor
Reception Gathering Area: 1
Board Room/Multi-Purpose Room: 1
Formal Conference Rooms: 3
Team Rooms: 6
Open Collaborative Touch-Down Spaces: 5

Notable spaces: 33rd floor
Great Room Café: 1
Formal Conference Rooms: 3
Team Rooms: 3
Open Collaborative Touch-Down Space: 1
Game Room/Meeting Space: 1

Charles River Associates Chicago offices interior

Project Scope

Elkus Manfredi Architects brings a transformative design approach to CRA’s 35,620-sf Chicago office at One South Wacker Drive. The workplace redesign unifies the company’s existing two-floor office and replaces the previously dim, dark, crowded environment with a daylight-filled, expansive workplace within the original two-floor footprint.

Charles River Associates Chicago offices interior

Design Intent

As with the previous CRA offices the firm has designed, Elkus Manfredi was charged with creating a balance of private spaces for the quiet, focused, head-down work that CRA consultants are largely engaged in, and inviting and inspiring gathering areas infused with natural light for the relaxation, refreshment, and spontaneous exchange that is equally crucial to peak staff performance.

Charles River Associates Chicago offices interior

Design Challenges

For CRA’s Chicago office, specific design challenges included:

 Adapt company-wide workplace standards for a regional office in a building quite different from the firm’s Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. locations, one significantly hampered by low ceilings, low window heights, and windows coated with a dark, sun-protection film—all of which challenged the ability to maximize natural light, one of CRA’s corporate workplace design guidelines.
 Design a workspace that drives cross-fertilization of ideas while supporting focused work.
 Create an expansive, open interior experience to replace the existing dark, single-floor-height office environment.
 Establish a direct connection between floors 33 and 34.

Charles River Associates Chicago offices interior

Design Solutions

Developed in collaboration with CRA’s Chicago team, Elkus Manfredi’s design solutions for the revitalized and expanded office include:

 Opening up the previously maze-like interiors with the addition of a visually dramatic central staircase that connects floors 33 and 34, allowing natural light to reach more of the office; transforming ceilings, floors, and columns into light reflecting surfaces through the use of soft colors and reflective materials, and installing glass-fronted conference rooms and offices.

 Creating the sense of a two-story window/ceiling height—in effect, magnifying the sense of light—by covering the ceiling with a material called Barrisol, which combines a reflective quality, acoustical dampening, and installs well around lighting fixtures and building systems.

Interior architecture at One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, design by Elkus Manfredi Architects

 Establishing a feeling of expansiveness and spatial drama through the new interconnecting staircase in the heart of the space. The stair’s design features Rift Cut White Oak treads with clear glass risers set in a custom fabricated double steel plate stringer, wrapped in polished stainless steel. The railings are made from ultra-clear laminated Starphire glass, with a custom-fabricated polished stainless steel top rail and handrail. The stair descends from the 34th to the 33rd floor through a floor opening clad in mirror-polished stainless steel, to land on an integrated and elevated wood platform also made from Rift Cut White Oak. Reflections from above and below enhance the sense of connection between the two levels.

Interior architecture at One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, design by Elkus Manfredi Architects

 Creating a convenient and welcoming stopping point for casual collaborations and conversations as staff members move easily between the 33rd and 34th floors. This wide-open central area now also offers a view to multiple windows at a time, rather than the single-window-at-a-time experience that contributed to the former dark, cramped interiors.

 Encouraging collegial camaraderie by reimagining and relocating the office’s café space at the staircase’s base, where it also trades former lackluster views for views of Lake Michigan.

Interior architecture at One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, design by Elkus Manfredi Architects

 Addressing the firm’s work experience by eliminating partner-sized offices, adding nine team rooms for collaboration space, six collaborative touch-down spaces, the central Great Room café, a reception gathering area with beverage bar, as well as informal spaces for collaborations and casual interactions.

 Incorporating Chicago’s architectural heritage through the use of Elkus Manfredi’s custom-designed reflective/partially frosted screen under the windows and behind the 34th floor’s central reception desk—reminiscent of decorative dark metal featured on much of Chicago’s notable architecture.

Interior architecture at One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, design by Elkus Manfredi Architects

 Developing a predominantly blue and white palette for the interiors—the color combination co-created with the CRA Chicago staff—inspired by the vistas of sky and Lake Michigan.

 Using locally sourced wood to bring a sense of warmth into the spaces, including Olive Ash Burl Veneer for the reception desk and millwork counter and Rift Cut White Oak for the staircase’s platform and treads.

 Selecting furnishings that are visually welcoming and truly comfortable, for both visitors and staff, as part of infusing the space with a sense of welcome.

 Creating collaborative micro-environments with sky blue write-able walls within the offices; these walls also serve a dual purpose of light reflection and are inspired by the thought of bringing a touch of sky inside.

Interior architecture at One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, design by Elkus Manfredi Architects

Charles River Associates Office Chicago – Building Information

Interior Architecture and Workplace Strategy: Elkus Manfredi Architects
Owner’s Project Manager: CBRE | Project Management
Contractor: Pepper Construction Company
MEP/FP Engineer: Kent Consulting Engineers
Lighting Design: Gwen Grossman Lighting Design
Acoustical Engineer: Shiner Associates, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Bowman, Barrett & Associates
Permitting Consulting: Sparc Architecture and Design

Interior architecture at One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, design by Elkus Manfredi Architects

Photographs © Andrew Bordwin

Charles River Associates Chicago Office Building images / information received from Elkus Manfredi Architects

Elkus Manfredi Architects

Phone: +1 312-357-1000

Address: Charles River Associates Chicago, One S Wacker Dr 34th Floor, Chicago, IL 60606, United States

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