13 Jul 2021 • Work
A mid-century architect’s home inspired the new office of Chicago’s Swiss Consulate
Swiss architecture office HHF and Chicago-based practice Kwong Von Glinow joined forces for the workspace of Chicago’s Swiss Consulate.
Where can you find an intersection between the cultural and architectural histories of Switzerland and the Windy City? For the Consulate’s work interiors, Kwong Von Glinow and HHF looked to Otto Kolb, a Zürich-born architect who taught in Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology during the 1960s. The project establishes parallels to Kolb’s work by taking reference from what was his primary residence in Switzerland, a villa on a hill in Wermatswil. Two defining characteristics of the home’s design being fluidity and organic geometry, the collaborating architects similarly opted to organize the office space around a social-oriented ‘Green Core’, from which the consular programme is totally visible and accessible.
Office spaces, a conference room and support areas surround this partially divided central area. The curvilinear walls’ vertical slats emphasize the 14-ft-tall, exposed ceiling, lending the space visual depth. Private offices, like the General Consul’s workspace, and conference rooms are lined with frosted glass that, while, providing necessary boundaries, continue the openness of the design.
Residential interiors have been a huge point of inspiration in workspace design as of late, a trend we don’t envision relenting any time soon, as people make a slow transition between their own homes and the office. In the case of the Swiss Consulate, it’s a particularly apt reference – taking cues Otto Kolb’s villa was a great way to establish a cultural parallel while accommodating modern needs. We also appreciate the effort to make a governmental interior – so often closed-off and stiff – more welcoming and intimate. It would be interesting to see if the use of a warmer material palette for the surfaces in particular could take this atmosphere even further.