Architect: Eppstein Uhen Architects
Owner: Northwestern Mutual
Contractor: C.G. Schmidt, Inc.
The seven-story, 145,000-square-foot Van Buren office building is designed as a lab to test new furniture and new ways of working, with the goal of selecting the best options for the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons (to be completed in 2017). The building is not meant to be a quick fix to house employees, but is a permanent piece of Northwestern Mutual’s downtown campus.
Originally built in the 1920s, the structure posed many challenges including low floor-to-floor heights, tight column grids, cavernous floor plates, and inconsistencies from multiple prior renovations. The visioning process pushed Northwestern Mutual to think differently about how work is done, leading to a workspace solution longing for bright, open and interactive spaces. This new way of working further magnified the building’s challenges.
Intense planning and modeling became the method to create an elegant, restrained solution that subtly melds essential building infrastructure with interior elements. Leveraging meticulous BIM modeling, prefabricated mechanical runs became integral to the design language (in addition to saving time and money). Finishes create a sophisticated energy, amplified through the juxtaposition of clean white walls, warm white oak, metal mesh, glass and existing concrete.
The resulting space supports a dramatic departure from Northwestern Mutual’s traditional workspace environment, elegantly proclaiming their 21st century trajectory and market leadership.
Photos: Darris Lee Harris