Young Plan!

Young Plan!

A custom sofa and recovered Mies MR chairs accent the lobby.
Michael Robinson

For the corporate headquarters of the YMCA of the United States, Chicago-based designers Gary Lee Partners created an open, bright environment that smartly embraces the organization’s values and also happens to be in tune with contemporary office strategies.

After careful programming analysis, the top priority for the project emerged: “Give everyone access to daylight,” said David Grout, principal at Gary Lee Partners.

This meant reducing the number of private offices to about half, making the rest open offices. In order to alleviate concerns about noise and privacy, open areas employ a generous benching system from Allsteel, with 12-foot-long workstations and high storage towers.

Lounge chairs by Coalesse and cafe chairs by Blu Dot (left) and Workstations by Allsteel (right).

Collaboration areas, cafe spaces, and printer and copier areas are all grouped around the building core to encourage casual encounters with people coming to and from the elevators. “It’s a way to get people to interact with coworkers they may not otherwise see,” Grout said. Locating the printers and copiers at the core also promotes walking within the office, one of the Y’s stated goals.

The budget for the 80,000-square-foot project was modest, so the designers made strategic moves to make it look and feel more high-end.


Instead of using a standard gridded ceiling tile, for instance, they specified large 20-by-60-inch panels and staggered them in a brick pattern. “It gives it a more refined texture,” he said. They also recycled pieces from another client, a law firm, such as private office wall panels and vintage Mies MR chairs that were re-covered in white leather. A custom, low-slung green sofa with colorful accent pillows becomes a bright focal point in the lobby. Contemporary pieces like Blu Dot’s Real Good chairs and barstools and lounge chairs by Coalesse add to the modern, eclectic, and youthful feel.

“The Y never lost sight of its goals for the project, which was a lighter, brighter office, with better communications and more visibility,” he said. With that mission in mind, the designers delivered an office that facilitates and celebrates their work.