Most people conjure up an image of plush leather seating and mahogany wood-paneled rooms when they think of a law office. Stepping into the new offices of Armstrong Teasdale, in Kansas City, Missouri, designed by local firm 360 Architecture, you could easily be entering a corporate advertising firm or technology company. That old, dark elitist aesthetic of your traditional attorney has been transformed into an airy, modern office.
“Our inviting space was designed to inspire new ideas and facilitate communication and collaboration,” said Larry Tucker, managing attorney for the law firm’s Kansas City offices, in a statement. After a rebranding effort a few years ago, St. Louis–based Armstrong Teasdale has been renovating their offices to match their new ethos. It was from the renovation of their headquarters, designed by Washington, D.C.–based STUDIOS Architecture, that 360 Architecture took some of their materials cues, including an innovative use of wood.
As you first enter, you may see paneling, but the sleek and curvilinear cut of the mahogany wall and reception desk is anything but standard. This conversation piece sets the tone for the office and draws you into the space as the wood ribbons across the room and is repeated at doorways and thresholds. At $72 per square foot, the $2.2 million gut renovation of the two-story, 30,216-square-foot office was done on a relatively conservative budget. What it lacked in the luxurious finishes of other law offices, it made up for in detail and location. Situated on the 14th and 15th floors, the office takes full advantage of its views of downtown Kansas City and its historic Union Station. Peter Sloan, principal with 360 Architecture, explained, “We used the amenities outside the windows as much as the materials inside. At this level the office really feels like they are in the urban space as opposed to above it.”
Sticking with the mission of the rebranded firm, the design approach emphasizes transparency. The offices and meeting rooms have glass walls that let in daylight from the floor-to-ceiling windows, wide hallways provide a scale and enclosure to the large open space, and the workstations at the center of the plan are cut low and include frosted glass dividers. Law is a paper-laden business, but even the filing system was embedded into the walls to minimize obstructions.
White marble tile and glossy white paint refract light and bring an airiness to the space. Influenced by the firm’s logo, red is used throughout the space. At the entrance it is on the ceiling; in transition spaces, it is on the walls; and in the offices, it is on the carpet flooring. Refracted by the contrasting white, there is a soft crimson hue day and night. “Every aspect of the design and materials selection addresses the new brand,” said Eric Linebarger, lead designer for the project at 360 Architecture.
While transparent materials encourage openness and communication internally, the office was designed to allow the 35-person office the flexibility to grow with the community. Said Sloan, “The client also wanted to create a vehicle to better connect and develop their relationships in the Kansas City community.” To have a space for community events, whether business oriented or to host one of the firm’s many nonprofit clients, meant creating a comforting and open setting. The office boasts an 8,000-square-foot conference center for community events as well as board meetings.
In the highly competitive law field, the office was developed to recruit, attract, and retain new clients and talented attorneys as much as it was to represent the culture of the firm. “We were very impressed with how the younger attorneys were encouraged to be engaged in the design process. It was really about the future of the firm,” Sloan said. To meet the demands of the modern attorney and the casual nature of the firm, the reception area doubles as a meet-and-greet space for after-hours cocktails or off-the-books conversations with clients. Moving down to the second level by the communicating stairs, the space opens up to a break room for employees that feels more like a trendy cafe. With its new offices, Armstrong Teasdale seeks to evolve the perception of lawyers and the expectations of its clients.