Featured Project: Landing in the Right Place

March 1, 2006
By Janet Wiens • Photography by Robert Solomon
The Chevy Chase Land Company’s new offices bring the firm back to a building it developed years ago in a space that reflects the company’s established yet progressive image.

By Janet Wiens

Returning back to a place that you've once been isn't always easy. But for the Chevy Chase Land Company (CCLC), Bethesda, MD, coming "home" was certainly the right choice. The firm, which has served clients in northern Washington, D.C., and Maryland since 1890, decided to relocate its headquarters—a decision that presented multiple opportunities for this established real estate company.

"We have strong ties to the community," says Michele Horwitz Cornwell, CCLC's senior vice president. "We wanted our offices to reflect the firm's status in the market while also reflecting the architecture of some of our clients. We desired an elegant space that was open and very functional."

The company turned to HOK, Washington, D.C., to design the new headquarters. "We have worked with CCLC for a number of years," says Robert Cox, the firm's lead designer. "Our design respects the company's family-oriented approach to business and fulfills the operational goals it has established."

CCLC elected to relocate in a building that it had developed in the 1970s. The firm wanted to reposition the building in the marketplace, and believed that moving to the property would send a strong message to others evaluating both the building and the surrounding area.

"We were charged with creating a fresh, new image for the company," says Cox. "We did this by taking cues from some of the company's high-end retail clients and by also referencing its ties to the construction industry. The result is a sophisticated design that is progressive and modern, and that will serve the firm well for 10-15 years."

Cox says that one of the main challenges for the HOK team was working with the shallow floor-to-deck plenum. The 14-foot-depth allowed for 8' to 8'-2" ceilings, and limited options for recessed lighting. The design team focused on maximizing the horizontal expression in the space because there was not room for extensive vertical elaboration.

The 11,000-square-foot rectangular floor plate accommodates a very open lobby, two conference rooms, executive offices and areas for their assistants, an employee break area, and a storage print room. The lobby and conference area are open and light. The sandstone floor blends with the oak ceruse of the transaction counter and the off-white and green walls to create a warm welcome for clients and project partners.

The walls of the conference rooms adjacent to the lobby and corridor feature an aluminum-plate frame and door that is combined with etched glass. The combination provides the required level of privacy with an open touch. Both the large conference room, which seats 18, and the small conference room, which seats 10, have full AV capabilities, including video conferencing. An existing table with a deep-green stone inset and existing green chairs were used in the large conference room. The sandstone flooring in the lobby was brought underneath the aluminum and glass wall as a border around the conference room floor. Inset carpets occupy the area beneath the conference tables.

The reception lounge seating by Nienkamper is upholstered in Edelman leather and contrasts nicely with the Oak ceruse of the T-configured coffee table. The area, located outside the conference rooms, provides a place for impromptu meetings. Employees and visitors can access the Internet via connections near the chairs.

The executive offices are grouped in a suite formation, and the space for the executive assistants anchors the corner entries into this area. The angular design of the assistants' area, constructed of oak ceruse, creates an interesting architectural touch at the ends of the corridors. Broadloom and woven carpet covers the floors in the offices.

CCLC maintains extensive project files and plans, and the core of the space is dedicated to document storage and management. The HOK team designed an ergonomically correct solution for plan storage and retrieval that also provides excellent visual access. Custom overhead cabinets are tied into the concrete wall with steel cables—an arrangement that allows employees to both easily see and reach required plans. A layout table in the room offers a convenient place to review plans with team members. The high-density file room provides ample space for current and future document storage.

Fluorescent indirect lighting is used in the lobby and the corridors. The indirect cove lighting used on the walls creates the illusion of a greater wall height while also providing the desired level of illumination. The high-output T5 lamps used throughout the space are extremely energy efficient. Low-voltage incandescent fixtures were used in select areas.

Sustainable design was a key goal for the project, and is evident in the lighting, materials and approaches that were used. HOK team members worked with the mill worker and the ornamental metal fabricator to ensure that material waste was minimized and fabrication simplified. The wood veneer was pre-finished, and the aluminum plate was not anodized to minimize costs and to lessen the environmental impact of production. The durable sandstone flooring is cost effective and requires little maintenance.

CCLC's new headquarters reflects the firm's commitment to the community and to the high level of quality that has been associated with the firm since its founding. The firm landed in the right space—a space with a timeless design that will serve it well for years to come.

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