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Design at Work> Metropolitan Capital Bank
Cannon Design reinterprets the Prairie Style with a modern vocabulary.
The reception area features sculptural room dividers and custom banquet seating.
Chris Barrett

It’s not often that a modern office speaks so clearly and boldly of its context and its history. The recently completed second phase of the Metropolitan Capital Bank (MetCap) on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, however, is a pitch perfect synthesis of the two. The Chicago office of Cannon Design has developed a holistic two-phase design including a renovation of the 1912 Tree Studios annex and a recently completed interior in the adjacent Courtyard building. “The client wanted to establish his company and create a new brand,” said Mark Hirons, lead designer for corporate interiors at Cannon. “The interior had to have a sense of character which aligned with the MetCap brand to create a sense of trust and longevity.”

Left to right: The 1912 building's arts and crafts details were preserved in the renovation; The first phase of the MetCap officesretained historic elements like the fireplace and balustrades; a smaller conference area has a custom tile mosaic over the fireplace.

The 7,000-square-foot flagship office, located on Ohio Street in the North River neighborhood, was completed two years ago and marked the launch of the MetCap Bank. Designed to respect the building’s original Arts and Crafts style and at the same time reflect a modern, forward-looking start-up with embedded technology and custom-built furniture, the derelict interior was restored with its historic features, including the fireplaces (converted to gas) and balustrades. The spaces were also reconfigured to accommodate a contemporary working practice—for example, restrooms were installed on the ground floor, and the upper level bedrooms were converted into private offices. While the boardroom was treated to a cubic lighting system by Cannon, in which four lights contained within elongated boxes of amber and a lighter frosted glass stem from a concentric square ceiling plate. Along with the 30 foot wooden bench lining the wall, which anchors the large window, the sculptural massing was intended to break up the volume and maintain an intimate scale.

The second phase of the MetCap offices reinterprets the Prairie Style in a modern vocabulary.

To accentuate the unique, atypical design, Cannon kept the majority of furniture and lighting design in-house, manufactured by Decca. “The drawers are carved out of solid wood—like sculptures,” said Hirons. Indeed, the recently completed expanded space in the adjacent Courtyard building followed this concept of sculptural furniture and cubic massing. The custom-built dark wood lounges upholstered in Edelman Leather are designed to act as a piece within a space as opposed to anchored objects, “like the inverse of a plinth,” said Hirons. The design, using level changes and grouped geometries to demarcate spaces in the flowing open plan, takes its cue from the Prairie Style by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright (who once took a studio at Tree Studios’ artist enclave), which referenced the broad landscape. In the reception of the Courtyard office, wooden box frames stacked to create screens are fitted with amber glass, referring to the feature glass in Prairie School-designed doors. Along with Cannon’s bespoke geometric glass tile wall hanging above the fireplace, the screens refract the light and cast a warm light even when the fire is left unlit.

Left to right: The conference room; a typical office; the reception area; and a detail of the sculptural room dividers.

The bank also doubles up as an art gallery. While digital screens in the reception of the annex display a slideshow of artwork, metal frames embedded in the larger hall walls facilitate a flexible hanging gallery. With a rotating exhibition every three months, the interior was designed to maintain a sense of continuity with the former function as well as impress and gently bait potential customers viewing the art.

The interplay of dark and medium walnut stain throughout the two separate offices, a reference to the original wood selection, contributes to the overall luxurious and well-established atmosphere. The resulting interpretation of the modern Prairie Style firmly asserts MetCap’s location with roots in Chicago’s history as well as in its future.

Gwen Webber




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