Contract - Above the Legal Limit: Butler Rogers Baskett Greens Manhattan Law Firm

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Above the Legal Limit: Butler Rogers Baskett Greens Manhattan Law Firm

19 April, 2010

-By Danine Alati



As one ascends the elevator 44 floors to the reception/conference center of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s new midtown Manhattan office, it’s necessary to toss any preconceived notions of what a law firm should look like out the window—a floor-to-ceiling, low-iron glass window with panoramic views of New York City, that is. Butler Rogers Baskett’s striking design for this 235,000-sq.-ft. LEED Gold-certified space occupying 6.5 floors near the top of One Bryant Park, the first high-rise to achieve LEED Platinum certification, is truly eye-opening and breathtaking.

Designed by Cook + Fox Architects and developed by the Durst Organization, the 54-story tower bordering Bryant Park was inspired by the context of its site. Constructed of steel, aluminum, and glass, the building references Carstensen & Gildemeister’s Crystal Palace, America’s first glass and metal frame tower, set in Bryant Park in 1853. The crystalline skin with sculptural facets creates a building with movement that also informs the interiors. “There’s a rhythmic quality to the perimeter glass,” explains Barbara Zieve, former associate partner and design director at Butler Rogers Baskett (BRB) and now design director at IA/Interior Architects. “Because of the flowing ribbon curtainwall, we had to approach the floor plan of the interiors differently, and we took a ‘cube approach.’”

Since the building does not have regular north, south, east, west orientation, designers enclosed the building core elements in a square shape at center of each floor plate. On attorney floors, translucent and clear glass walls separate private perimeter offices from support spaces that fill the oddly shaped area between attorney offices and the square central core so that daylight penetrates deeper into the space. “In the reception area, we pulled everything off the windows, peeling back elements from the skin,” Zieve explains. “The idea was to create a very open area and a two-floor conference center with a sculptural stair connecting the double-height space.” A caucus room at the top of the stair offers a meeting spot with acoustical privacy but visual openness that remains connected to reception and the floor below with extensive views.

With its main headquarters in Washington, D.C., and its lease up on its New York office, Akin Gump took the opportunity to expand into a space that would give the firm a more contemporary aesthetic and a greater New York presence, be true to its commitment to environmental stewardship, and act as a real recruitment tool for young attorneys, says Vincent Bell, director of administration for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. “We wanted a more ‘New York’ New York office,” he adds, “and you can’t get more New York than this, with continuous views of all of the city.”

Inspired by the office’s relationship to the park below and the grid of Manhattan, BRB created a “garden pavilion” concept, beginning with a walnut-clad elevator lobby. In reception, the planks of a walnut wall reflect the trees of the park and reference the lines of the city’s grid. “We wanted the reception area to feel like a layering of gestures,” Zieve says, referring to the glass guardrail, stone floor, walnut millwork, and the blackened steel that cradles the dramatic staircase down to the second level of the conference center. “These gestures give the project meaning.” The materials palette of millwork, glass, and steel that is established in reception is combined with random red accents throughout the interiors from the attorney floors, which each has an interior conference room and two pantries, to amenity spaces like the café and multipurpose room on the 43rd floor.

“There is systemized organization to the interior architecture,” Zieve adds. To facilitate wayfinding, designers set major conference rooms as anchors at the ends of corridors, offering a sense of arrival. The walnut wall behind the reception desk continues into a main conference room that holds 400 people and accommodates teleconferencing, while another conference space on the other side of the floor features grand-scale pivot doors, flanking a custom wall that feels like a sculpture and is specially designed to provide acoustical control.

In accordance with the client’s sustainability goals, the designers painstakingly selected eco-friendly furnishings and finishes, specifying carpet and upholstery made from natural or recycled fiber, low-VOC paints and adhesives, and materials from local sources. Additionally the building’s air filtration system removes 95 percent of particles from the air before redistributing fresh air through an underfloor system; a gray-water system reuses rain and wastewater; and waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures conserve water. Task chairs were specified that meet Green Seal and Cradle-to-Cradle certifications. Copious amounts of glass bring natural light deep into the office, and energy-efficient light fixtures, dimmers, and sensors save on energy usage.

All of these environmentally sustainable strategies helped Akin Gump achieve its second LEED-certified project—only the second LEED Gold law firm in the nation. “We always thought we’d try to get as good of a rating as we could,” Bell recalls. “We didn’t want to change the project or increase the cost, but we thought [environmental responsibility] was important in terms of recruitment and retention.” He thought right. Employees, he says, are “blown away” by the new office.



Above the Legal Limit: Butler Rogers Baskett Greens Manhattan Law Firm

19 April, 2010


Paul Warchol

As one ascends the elevator 44 floors to the reception/conference center of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s new midtown Manhattan office, it’s necessary to toss any preconceived notions of what a law firm should look like out the window—a floor-to-ceiling, low-iron glass window with panoramic views of New York City, that is. Butler Rogers Baskett’s striking design for this 235,000-sq.-ft. LEED Gold-certified space occupying 6.5 floors near the top of One Bryant Park, the first high-rise to achieve LEED Platinum certification, is truly eye-opening and breathtaking.

Designed by Cook + Fox Architects and developed by the Durst Organization, the 54-story tower bordering Bryant Park was inspired by the context of its site. Constructed of steel, aluminum, and glass, the building references Carstensen & Gildemeister’s Crystal Palace, America’s first glass and metal frame tower, set in Bryant Park in 1853. The crystalline skin with sculptural facets creates a building with movement that also informs the interiors. “There’s a rhythmic quality to the perimeter glass,” explains Barbara Zieve, former associate partner and design director at Butler Rogers Baskett (BRB) and now design director at IA/Interior Architects. “Because of the flowing ribbon curtainwall, we had to approach the floor plan of the interiors differently, and we took a ‘cube approach.’”

Since the building does not have regular north, south, east, west orientation, designers enclosed the building core elements in a square shape at center of each floor plate. On attorney floors, translucent and clear glass walls separate private perimeter offices from support spaces that fill the oddly shaped area between attorney offices and the square central core so that daylight penetrates deeper into the space. “In the reception area, we pulled everything off the windows, peeling back elements from the skin,” Zieve explains. “The idea was to create a very open area and a two-floor conference center with a sculptural stair connecting the double-height space.” A caucus room at the top of the stair offers a meeting spot with acoustical privacy but visual openness that remains connected to reception and the floor below with extensive views.

With its main headquarters in Washington, D.C., and its lease up on its New York office, Akin Gump took the opportunity to expand into a space that would give the firm a more contemporary aesthetic and a greater New York presence, be true to its commitment to environmental stewardship, and act as a real recruitment tool for young attorneys, says Vincent Bell, director of administration for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. “We wanted a more ‘New York’ New York office,” he adds, “and you can’t get more New York than this, with continuous views of all of the city.”

Inspired by the office’s relationship to the park below and the grid of Manhattan, BRB created a “garden pavilion” concept, beginning with a walnut-clad elevator lobby. In reception, the planks of a walnut wall reflect the trees of the park and reference the lines of the city’s grid. “We wanted the reception area to feel like a layering of gestures,” Zieve says, referring to the glass guardrail, stone floor, walnut millwork, and the blackened steel that cradles the dramatic staircase down to the second level of the conference center. “These gestures give the project meaning.” The materials palette of millwork, glass, and steel that is established in reception is combined with random red accents throughout the interiors from the attorney floors, which each has an interior conference room and two pantries, to amenity spaces like the café and multipurpose room on the 43rd floor.

“There is systemized organization to the interior architecture,” Zieve adds. To facilitate wayfinding, designers set major conference rooms as anchors at the ends of corridors, offering a sense of arrival. The walnut wall behind the reception desk continues into a main conference room that holds 400 people and accommodates teleconferencing, while another conference space on the other side of the floor features grand-scale pivot doors, flanking a custom wall that feels like a sculpture and is specially designed to provide acoustical control.

In accordance with the client’s sustainability goals, the designers painstakingly selected eco-friendly furnishings and finishes, specifying carpet and upholstery made from natural or recycled fiber, low-VOC paints and adhesives, and materials from local sources. Additionally the building’s air filtration system removes 95 percent of particles from the air before redistributing fresh air through an underfloor system; a gray-water system reuses rain and wastewater; and waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures conserve water. Task chairs were specified that meet Green Seal and Cradle-to-Cradle certifications. Copious amounts of glass bring natural light deep into the office, and energy-efficient light fixtures, dimmers, and sensors save on energy usage.

All of these environmentally sustainable strategies helped Akin Gump achieve its second LEED-certified project—only the second LEED Gold law firm in the nation. “We always thought we’d try to get as good of a rating as we could,” Bell recalls. “We didn’t want to change the project or increase the cost, but we thought [environmental responsibility] was important in terms of recruitment and retention.” He thought right. Employees, he says, are “blown away” by the new office.
 


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