Rich history and a cool vibe best describe Eastlake Studio’s new downtown office in the Windy City. The renowned architecture and interior design firm – which has designed offices for notable businesses such as Pandora, Kimberly-Clark, and Cision – was faced with adversity when plans to convert the building that had been their long-time residence to a hotel and condos became a reality.
Eastlake Studio had been residing in the Tribune Tower, an iconic structure on the famed Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue, for approximately 30 years. The tower’s change of vocation from commercial to mixed-use residential provided the architectural design firm with an opportunity to address the challenges of the former office while opting to move to another historic building. The new location is approximately two blocks south on the opposite side of the Chicago River, on the site of where the historic Fort Dearborn once stood.
The limitations of the original office were the key motivators in designing the new space. According to Kevin Kamien, Principal at Eastlake Studio, the project’s goal was to maintain the open working relationship and studio vibe that was emblematic of the organization.
The new office encompasses the most beloved features of the old space – such as the cityscape views and areas for creative production – while also delivering elements it had been missing.
Employees who were previously spread out across three floors, along with a finicky HVAC system, were just a few of the aforementioned space limitations.
“We wanted to take the working relationships on our floors and transcribe that into a new space with natural light, keeping the views, but also giving us all the things that we were missing: meeting space, more collaboration rooms, and formal meeting areas,” Kamien explains.
The design firm has been on a path of steady growth for the last several years and the new location represents the brand and its future. The 65,000-sq.-ft. space reflects the company’s culture, supports its work process, and serves as a showroom during client visits.
Eastlake Studio’s single-floor office is divided into two suites, one occupying the north side, the other on the south. The north suite is a section that was once part of the original Art Deco building and offers views of some of Chicago’s most notable architecture from the large formal conference room and two executive suites that also serve as a respite from the active, south-side suite.
The bustling south-side suite encompasses employee workstations, private phone rooms, collaboration areas, and a resource library where the design team can deliver presentations.
Connecting these two areas is a long corridor with a multi-use seating area where a feature wall prominently displays the company’s revamped logo. It is illuminated by Chicago-based lighting manufacturer Focal Point’s Seem® 4 suspended luminaires in a custom black finish that seamlessly blends with the dark open ceiling structure. Seem® 2 Asymmetric recessed luminaires were used to light the hallway leading into the large open work area.
“We wanted to use vendors and manufacturers that we [specify for] a lot of our projects,” Kamien states. “It was an easy path to select Focal Point and to start working with them to develop and find solutions that kept the open office area feeling open. We found the asymmetric fixtures work really well for highlighting and wall washing, and that they give out a lot of ambient light to properly illuminate the rest of the corridor and pathway.”
With a history of designing noteworthy commercial interiors, it was no surprise Eastlake Studio knew exactly which elements to incorporate into their new office to create a modern and collaborative environment.
“We were looking for lighting solutions that went with the conceptual process of the studio atmosphere…something that was elegant and spoke to the quality of projects that we do on a daily basis,” Kamien says.
By including products typically used in their projects, the design team is able to show examples of the quality and aesthetic Eastlake Studio can create, plus it allows clients to see the products in a real application. To ensure the open and airy design of the workstation area was preserved, a continuous run of Focal Point Nera® linear luminaires was installed. Nera’s modern aesthetic, unobtrusive design, center void, and Power Up™ technology was chosen to elevate the look while providing optimal illumination.
Since there is a variety of distribution, configuration, and lumen output options in the Nera collection, Eastlake was also able to use individual units of Nera linear luminaires in the north side suite to off-set the confined feeling that the lower ceilings deliver while bringing a cohesive look to the office.
“Having something that we can see through, it feels elegant in the space,” Kamien remarks. “You don’t see messy power cords as everything is run through aircraft cables. It was critical to keep that kind of aesthetic and tone in the open spaces.”
The Eastlake Studio update is just one of many renovations that recently took place inside the historic building at 333 North Michigan Avenue, which was designed in 1929 by renowned architecture firm Holabird and Root. 333 North Michigan is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service and is designated as a Chicago Landmark by the City of Chicago.
Client: Eastlake Studio
Design Team: Eastlake Studio, Kevin Kamien, principal
Lighting Manufacturer: Focal Point, LLC, Chicago