Neurotransmitters are not typically among the guiding design criteria for the offices of a major corporation. But Cannon Design looked to different human organ systems for inspiration for each floor of University Health Systems Consortium’s (UHC) three-story Chicago space.
UHC wanted to create a home base that was unique to them and reflected their company values. It reached out to Cannon Design who took on the challenge to create an environment that represented UHC’s network clients across the U.S.
“We were trying to be innovative, crisp, simple, user friendly, in our translation of who they are,” said Mark Hirons, a principal at Cannon Design.
Located on North Wacker Drive, in the heart of downtown Chicago, UHC offers product services and healthcare data to medical centers across the United States. The 38th, 39th and 40th floors were designed according to different systems of the body.
The 40th floor, for example, was inspired by the nervous system. The lights and glass fixtures on this floor are meant to evoke ideas connecting the mind.
“The lights and screens are artful translations,” Hirons said. “If you took a diagram of how the nervous system looks, it basically has this connected geometry.”
The 39th floor reflects inspiration by breathing life into the space. As a result, there are cellular-shaped screens that are similar to air nodules in the lungs, Hirons said. The geometric patterning is shown in the screens, as well as in the color glass tile in the lounge portion of the cafe on the 39th floor.
Alluding to their client’s strong foundation as a company, Hirons said Cannon designed the 38th floor with a “skeletal” approach, including more solid forms. Throughout the floor there are the many horizontal elements that represent ribs of the body. The idea, Hirons said, was to show the image of strength that holds everything together.
“There is a sense of transparency and openness about the organization that we wanted to communicate,” explained Hirons. They achieved this through the open spaces and the glass screens.
UHC’s mission is to create knowledge, foster collaboration, and promote change to help members succeed, according to their corporate mission statement. One of the ways Cannon Design interpreted this mission was by making the communal and private spaces open. The majority of the private office’s fronts are glass adding to the transparency.
In addition Hirons wanted to maximize the daylight and views within the space that he said creates an idea of connectivity with the outside. On each floor there are certain spaces that draw people together. Each café and reception area is set up in the center of the floors.
“Conceptually it’s like the spine. Everything comes back to that central place and location across the building,” Hirons said.
UHC wanted to create a new global presence and wanted to have a strong identity with their members. “The idea was to create this strong end result that would be unique and identifiable,” Hirons said, “elegant and quiet, but also very crisp, modern, and progressive.”