room to think

In the creative industries, an office space should help trigger great ideas. This Chicago ad agency has turned the industrial into the inspirational
A view of the Marcs office reception area ceiling, furniture, interior design, table, brown
A view of the Marcs office reception area featuring custom designed reception desk, oval lime rug, frank gehry chairs,

One of the most famous advertising maxims states that the idea is king.' Simply put, every aspect of the business, from the signs on the doors to the chairs on the floors, should be geared towards the creation of world-beating ideas.

When Marc USA, a Chicago advertising and communications company, found a loft location for their new premises, it needed considerable work to become a truly creative space. They commissioned Eastlake Studio to convert the raw space into an office that would capture their spirit.

Tom Zurowski, principal of Eastlake Studio, says the company wanted a design that was non-hierarchical.There were to be no private offices just relaxed, open-plan workspaces, where everyone from the office junior to the creative director could share their ideas.

"To get a laid-back feel in a loft-style building, you need to balance the industrial features with warmer, more contemporary elements. The pipes and the window frames add a sense of history, while the furniture gives it a whimsical feel," says Zurowski.

A view of the Marcs office reception area ceiling, furniture, interior design, table, brown
A view of the Marcs office reception area featuring custom designed reception desk, oval lime rug, frank gehry chairs,

Ann Chin, a senior designer at Eastlake Studio, worked very closely with Zurowski on the project. One of her primary considerations was how best to work within the client's budget. Loft-style buildings are notorious for their hidden costs, so the architects decided to focus their efforts on the creation and selection of furniture.

"The open spaces in the office have a circular theme that carries through from the reception. Very early on, we drew the shape of the reception desk onto the plan. We opted for a piece of custom-built furniture, which achieves the same effect, while saving on the cost of construction," says Chin.

The circular theme extends through to the work spaces, which were custom designed as a creative antidote to the rigid traditional work cubicle.

"To use a cliche, Marc's business is about thinking outside the box, so they shouldn't be staring into one all day. The rounded partitions allow workers to have their own space, but they are not visually restrictive," says Zurowski.

A view of the office works stations and ceiling, furniture, interior design, loft, office, table, gray
A view of the office works stations and staff informal breakout, meeting areas, chairs, desks, partitioning, exposed ducting

The seating in the office is notable for its variety. Chin has sought out furniture that allows a range of seating options to suit the formality of any occasion. If an informal chat takes place at a desk, employees can simply pull up one of the red eggs. The meeting rooms have lounge chairs with webbed backs, which are comfortable, yet professional, and the reception and the cafeteria have sculptural Frank Gehry chairs.

Of particular concern in a building with hard walls and high ceilings are the acoustics. Zurowski and Chin chose to use carpet judiciously throughout the office, to dampen some of the noise that arises in an open-plan office space.

"We didn't want to remove all the noise, and lose the busy atmosphere of the office, but it did need to be tolerable. The carpet also defines each individual area, while the painted concrete thoroughfares maintain the authenticity of the loft-style building," says Chin.

Dec 18, 2007

Credit list

Tom Zurowski, AIA, Eastlake Studio
General contractor
JC Anderson
Schlage Mortise locksets, Elmes door pulls
Interface syncopation and flannel carpet tiles
Del Ray, Eureka, Leucos, Lightology and LiteControl
Additional furniture
Baleri Tato eggs from Luminaire
Interior designer
Ann Chin, Eastlake Studio
MEP engineer
Jeff Bedwell, JB Engineering
Office chairs
Knoll & Davis
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