CHICAGO – Australian studio Those Architects has generated an refined response to the ongoing dilemma of the work–life balance. The firm was responsible for Ansarada’s Sydney office two years ago, when the financial data services company was still finding its feet. Now, the team has adapted a ‘sophisticated new office fit-out’ for the company in the centre of Chicago’s River North district – a neighbourhood buzzing with cultural venues and start-up companies.
The office utilizes the entire fifth floor of the old warehouse that hosts it. Although the Chicago building does not hold listed status, the firm was still careful to respect the interior architecture and historic detailing. As such, the primary design feature is a black plywood box insertion – an intervention method which bears little to no impact on the existing building – which splits the open space into three distinct areas. The central zone features the utility functions, with the exposed brickwork providing the backdrop for the workstations and meeting rooms on either side.
The central plywood installation features hundreds of thousands of holes for brushed-brass pegs which can be used to hang coats, pin notes or moved around to create a multitude of graphic designs. It’s not just a fit-out of regular office furniture, however.
The full-height black cupboard doors hide various functional spaces, including a library and an unusual room which contains only spherical stools.
‘Perhaps the last thing you would expect to encounter on entering the workspace is a luxurious “collaboration room” with woollen sphere seats, more akin to a fine art installation that a meeting room,’ the architect comments – and they’re certainly right. Although, who’s to say what a ‘normal’ workspace should be?
The casual and informal spaces add atmosphere that encourage collaborative creativity in what could otherwise be an average working office, lined with desks and computers, where nobody ever talks to one another. The interactive spaces open up the potential for dialogue and communication between colleagues. Given Ansarada’s mantra of ‘sophisticated simplicity’, the addition of a full-scale baseball batting cage – complete with functioning pitching machine – might seem a little over-the-top. Then again, in an interior that’s all about blurring the division of work and play, maybe it fits right in.