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Chicago Trading Firm

Chicago Trading Firm

A custom-made band of light leading to the interior animates the reception area.
Christopher Barrett

Increasingly over the past decade companies have used design as a means to attract new talent. In the case of Cannon Design’s latest office space for a financial services firm in Chicago the project is a honey-trap of new technology and sophisticated workspace. In an effort to enliven the company brand, reinvigorate its existing workforce, and attract future employees, the client, a Chicago-based trading firm, enlisted Cannon Design to create the interior of the 32,000-square-foot space in the Loop. “The design was about rebranding as well as recruiting, and also the firm wanted to firmly position itself in the market,” said Mark Hirons, Design Leader for Corporate Interiors at Cannon Design.

To achieve this, Hirons focused on the idea of freshness. The interior design reflects the inherent energy and fast pace of the financial sector as well as the collaborative nature of the work. Walking out of the elevators a wide band of light shoots up from the far wall and cuts a jagged path along the ceiling, visually connecting the entrance, the reception, and the boardroom. Alluding to a typical stock chart tracking price fluctuations over time, the light is a literal representation of a key aspect of the company’s daily duty of monitoring markets. Yet it is a striking design, reminiscent of Daniel Libeskind’s characteristic incisions into dark, faceted surfaces. “We wanted the first impression to be ‘Wow! That’s not what I expected,’” said Hirons.

     
Left to right: Mobile furniture enables reconfiguring the break-out space; the boardroom space has wooden wall panels and continues the green color scheme; a separated quiet zone provides a contemplative space, usable for meetings; a naturally-lit break-out cafe space with flexible seating.
[+ Click to enlarge.]
 

Indeed, much of the interior responds directly to the long hours and intensive screen interactions common to this sector. By using faceted surfaces, such as those on the elevator hallway ceiling and glass panels—which offer a sense of transparency and fluidity—Hirons and his team have created a visually dynamic environment for a typically conservative industry. The furniture systems by Teknion and Woodtronics have organized the trading stations in bench-style seating, and each trader’s station has the space and infrastructure to accommodate up to twelve monitors. The bench seating gives traders the ability to look up and down the row at each other, as well as see the televisions that are mounted at the end of each row.

In contrast to the muted tones wrapping most of the interior, the bursts of electric green glass and blue walls offer a sense of vibrancy. While the tectonic metallic tiles by Ceramica Fioranese on the floor and USG’s metal ceiling tiles impress upon the user a sense of gravity, the use of light wood on the reception desk introduces warmth and intimacy, and the boardroom is shelled in wood. From there the spaces become progressively more complex to accommodate the technology-heavy workplace. As the design moves from abstract forms into a more integrated design, the variety of material creates a textured environment. “There is a constant duality between the ‘techy’ side of the company and the more sophisticated aspects,” said Hirons.

   
Left to right: The green color scheme in the lobby; the jagged band of light continues through the elevator hall; traders’ workstations/benches can accomodate up to 12 monitors.
[+ Click to enlarge.]
 

The color green is a recurrent theme throughout, including in the break-out spaces. Green upholstered Moroso chairs and Myto seats pepper the space where bleary-eyed workers can relax in a naturally lit café area, or play ping-pong and Wii. “Although it relates to the green from money, it also reflects the company’s logo and identity,” said Hirons. “And it is fresh, like the company’s rebranding.” In the same space, a flexible mobile table and kiosk kitchen area allow for multiple functions, including presentations, group events or parties. Meanwhile at the back of the informal area a green glass enclosure provides a more peaceful oasis. Here the Alfredo Haberli-designed chairs are curved around the head for more privacy. Though it is designed to offer a mental break from work as well as a distinct spatial distance, the break-out room remains in close proximity to the trading room.

Cannon’s considered and direct approach to such a high-octane working environment has succeeded in creating a responsive, unique office, but it seems that design can only offer so much respite from the volatile financial markets.

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