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11.16.2010
Design at Work> Nilan Johnson Lewis
Modern design and sustainable materials create the next generation of law office
A lounge area with custom coffee table at the office of Nilan Johnson Lewis.
Dana Wheelock

The Minneapolis law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis (NJL) wanted an office that would convey a simple message. “They’re not your father’s law firm,” said Sara Weiner, a project architect with the Cuningham Group, the project’s designers. For Cuningham, this meant using sustainable design to create an open, collaborative atmosphere, reflecting the company’s egalitarian values and its client-centered approach.

Cafeteria with walnut detailing.   Conference room.
A cafeteria featuring walnut detailing (left) and a conference room (right) at the law office.  
 

Located in the podium of a midcentury modern office building originally designed by Holabird, Root & Burgee with Thorshov & Cerny, the resulting interior has a handsome, relaxed feel. “The design reflects the clean lines of the midcentury building,” said Weiner. With lounges and collaborative areas sprinkled throughout the space, the atmosphere is more reminiscent of a hip midcentury residence than a buttoned-up corporate modern office. “We wanted to create places where people could kick back and share the news of the day,” she said.

Filling two floors, the 77,000-square-foot office is divided into groups by practice areas, which the designers call “neighborhoods,” that branch off a central corridor, or “main street.” Each cluster has a common area, many of which are outfitted with beverage stations and comfortable lounge seating. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer generous views out to the city, which, since the offices are located in the podium of the building, feels close at hand. “It’s really in the heart of everything,” she said. “You feel the activity of the city all around you.”

Lounge space with bar stools.Another Lounge space with bar stools helps create a collaborative atmosphere.

Offices are kept at a standard, rather modest size, 10 by 15 feet, to de-emphasize the sense of hierarchy. Custom glazed office fronts, with a geometric pattern of translucent and transparent glass, balance openness and privacy while allowing natural light into the large floorplates. Glass is also used in the systems furniture for administrative staff, which was customized using a system from Haworth. Corner spaces, typically the most coveted offices, are left open for collaborative areas and conference rooms.

Sustainable features include recycled and low VOC materials, certified sustainable hardwoods, bike storage and shower facilities, abundant use of day lighting, highly efficient heating and cooling systems, lighting with occupancy sensors, and locally sourced materials. The designers are seeking LEED Silver certification for the project.

According to Weiner, the firm and their clients are thrilled with the new space, so much so that clients have borrowed NJL’s conference rooms for their own use.

Resources:

Broadloom carpet:
Constantine

Carpet tile:
Shaw

Paints:
Sherwin-Williams

Systems furniture:
Patterns and Masters from Haworth

Solid surfacing:
Corian

 



Ceiling tile:
USG interiors

General office lighting:
Focal Point

Accent lighting:
Kurt Versen
Lithonia
Zumtobel

Lounge sofas:
Bernhardt
Keilhauer

Lounge Chairs:
Coalesse

 
Glazed office fronts admit light to the office interior.Glazed office fronts admit light to the office interior.

 

Alan G. Brake