The sprawling Chicago offices of CannonDesign span two buildings just south of the Magnificent Mile, but its 60,000 square feet are a gateway to projects around the world.
The space occupies a single floor across two connected towers, 205 North and 225 North Michigan Avenue—the 11th floor views of downtown Chicago are left to the studio spaces, not corner offices. Cannon’s open plan is meant to promote collaboration, while sophisticated communication technology throughout helps the firm’s architects and design professionals keep in touch with colleagues in other time zones. Almost 100 years after Will Cannon, Sr. started the practice in Niagara Falls, New York, Cannon has more than 1,000 employees in 15 offices across four countries.
When AN dropped by in February, the social work environment was in full swing, with designers gathered around a marker board projection that grafts manual notes and comments onto digital files. No less busy were the board’s more old school counterparts—a wealth of white dry-erase panels covering nearly every free space, including the building’s structural columns.
The LEED Platinum office features real-time energy monitoring displays and recycled materials, including a large steel wall salvaged locally. Like most firms today, Cannon stresses sustainability in corporate literature. Being a large global firm, it has the opportunity to practice what it preaches, whether that be local work done in partnership with architecture students at Virginia Tech, or building new cities in Asia from the ground up.
Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center
Large photos of this 270,000-general-square-foot LEED Gold outpatient neuroscience center stick out on the walls of Cannon’s healthcare design studio, in part because the building’s facade features a jagged cut resembling the read-out of an electroencephalogram. The interiors also incorporate imagery from neuroscience research, with patterns taking after cellular forms and blocks of color inspired by the vibrancy of PET and fMRI brain scans that help visitors and staff find their way.
University of Minnesota Ambulatory Care Center
Another healthcare facility, this Minneapolis project was the first building of the newly formed Minnesota Health organization—a public/private partnership of health providers in the state. Three quarters of all occupied spaces are naturally
lit thanks to glass-clad lobbies and a flexible work model that orients collaboration areas across clinics toward daylight apertures. Where glass does not punctuate the facade, the exterior color palette draws on local geology with deep purple, rust, and earth tones.
Jaypee Sports City
Jaypee Sports City is a brand new city for 1 million people along the highway between New Delhi and Agra, India. Privately funded by a business magnate, Jaypee will be an industrial city “in harmony with nature,” according to Peter Ellis, who leads Cannon’s urban and city design practice. A continuous park system works with the Himalayan monsoon, managing floods during the wet season and saving moisture during the dry. Smart circuits of stormwater facilities and power plants maximize efficiencies where older cities, whose infrastructure evolved unevenly and in organizational silos, cannot. “Nature is actually the fundamental designer of this city,” said Ellis.
University of Texas Brownsville
In Brownsville, a border town at the southern tip of Texas, Cannon’s master plan for the local University of Texas campus calls for a contained water cycle and net-zero energy consumption. Last year the city allocated 76 acres of land to the push for an urban campus near downtown. If the plan goes through, the new campus could include integrated systems of waste and water recycling, local power generation, and extensive green infrastructure.
CRUDEM/Hôpital Sacré Coeur
Through Cannon’s pro bono Open Hand studio, designers are working to help resuscitate a battered hospital In Milot, near the northern coast of Haiti. Sacré Coeur was one of a few hospitals to survive the devastating 2010 earthquake, but its 100 beds were far too few for the demand that the disaster created. Since then another earthquake and subsequent challenges have made the problems worse. Using land provided by the government, Cannon’s design emphasizes community outreach and scalability, should the hospital expand again in the future.