Perkins+Will balances a high-tech aesthetic with coziness and craft in this Chicago office

Prescient Design

Perkins+Will balances a high-tech aesthetic with coziness and craft in this Chicago office

Prescient’s new office in the Prudential 1 Tower in Chicago is exactly what you might expect from a high-tech global security firm’s office, and a bit of what you might not. Designed by Chicago-based Perkins+Will, the space is specifically designed to facilitate both human and technological collaborations.

Transparency may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a security firm, yet Prescient’s office is predominantly an open space: The main area of the office is filled with staggered standing desks, and there are glass-encased break-out areas around the periphery. Framed windows that once made up the former exterior facade of the building are now used as dividers and are specially coated to act as transparent dry-erase boards for impromptu conversations and meetings. Along with the open lunchroom and break areas, the entire space is specifically designed to encourage free interaction between all of the employees.

“We use elegant technology coupled with human analysis to identify and manage threats for our clients,” Prescient CEO David Walsh explained. “Our vision for the office was to be able to stand anywhere and take measure of the energy of an adaptable, team-oriented company in a space that fosters collaboration and transparency.”

Along with the spatial considerations of the office, material details play an important role in Perkins+Will’s design. At the entrance, a continuous line of fluorescent light fixtures guides visitors to the reception area. The linear lighting and corresponding linear detailing throughout the space is a nod to the movement of digital information. In addition to the extensive use of glass, steel and walnut make up much of the designed surfaces and furniture. Perkins+Will worked closely with small Chicago-based furniture maker Modified Originals on using an extensive amount of reclaimed wood for the custom furniture. Other custom components were designed by Perkins+Will and built by MTH Industries and Imperial Woodworking. The design called for exposing the ceiling and brick of the original 1955 modernist office tower to contrast with the clean lines of the new dark finishes. The result is a high-tech, loft-like space with expansive views of Millennium Park.

“The clients wanted to have a sleek modern office that communicated strength and stability, but still had a feeling of warmth and comfort,” Perkins+Will associate principal Eric J. Mersmann said. “This balance was achieved with the use of the hot-rolled steel panels and concrete floors combined with the liberal use of reclaimed wood paneling, reclaimed wood on the furniture, and pops of bright color in the casual furniture.”

Not all of the office is bright and open, though. Dedicated to Prescient Traveler, one the company’s main offerings, a hushed, dimly blue-lit amphitheater is dominated by a full-wall digital display of the world. Here, employees monitor international security issues 24 hours a day.

From the more serious Prescient Traveler space to the more casual and comfortable meeting areas, every part of the design is an aspect of Prescient’s new brand. The company specifically moved from the more suburban McLean, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., to this highly visible space in downtown Chicago to complete its new image. Not only does the space bring the company in closer contact to a bustling commercial center, its newly designed officealso plays a role in attracting the best young tech workers, who often expect to be able to live in an urban area. With their new office, those young tech workers can watch over clients while also enjoying one of the most envied views in the city.


General Contractor
Clune Construction

Project Management
The 4M Group

MEP Engineers
Kent Consulting Engineers

Custom Furniture
Modified Originals