Featured Project: Times Square Renaissance

Sept. 1, 2005
By Janet Wiens
The new offices for Pillsbury Winthrop reflect the aesthetics of two cultures within an environment that is welcoming and efficient.

New York City 's Times Square has undergone an amazing transformation in recent years. New developments and renovations have brought about a renaissance within the area, making it a more attractive location for companies and businesses of all types. One company that now calls Times Square home is Pillsbury Winthrop, LLC, a dynamic law firm whose new offices represent a transformation of their own. In moving to Times Square , the firm seized an opportunity to contribute to the health of the area while also choosing the optimum location for
the practice.

Pillsbury Winthrop was created in 2001 through a merger between Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro of San Francisco , and Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts of New York. The firm hired Butler Rogers Baskett Architects (BRB), New York, to design the firm's new offices in the city.

"There were three main project goals," says Barbara Zieve, BRB's associate partner and senior project designer. "The first was to create a new image while merging two very different cultures in terms of aesthetics. Pillsbury's California office was modern while Winthrop's New York office had a design best described as old-line law firm. We needed to find a middle ground."

Improving accessibility for the firm's clients was also important. The decision to locate the new offices in the Bertelsman Building in Times Square was great from a location perspective but had some structural drawbacks according to Zieve. "The building has a large number of columns with many located along the perimeter wall," she says. "The window modules are different on each side of the building, and three different colors of glass were used on the curtain wall. None of these factors are ideal when it comes to law firm design, but it was the right solution because the location was so excellent."

The final goal was to provide a space that would help with employee recruitment and retention. Attorneys and their staffs often work long hours, so creating an environment that was efficient and enjoyable to work in was critical.

The firm occupies 178,000 square feet on seven floors. Six floors are dedicated as attorney floors with one floor serving as the conference/ reception or client floor. "The trend is to put all conference rooms on one floor rather than spreading them throughout a law firm's space," Zieve notes. "This was a good solution in this case, and enhanced our flexibility regarding the design."

Orientation throughout the space was very important. Architecture, materials and lighting blend to provide information regarding both direction to and the importance of a space. The curved wall at the end of the elevator lobby, as one example, helps guides guests to the reception area. The folded-plate wood canopy with carpet underneath provides further directional guidance. www.interiorsandsources.com

The theme introduced on the client floor is carried throughout the office. Woods of Anigre, Bubinga and Ivory lacquer on wood were combined with glass, white marble floors with gray veining, inset woven wool carpet and stainless steel to create, in Zieve's words, "an elegant calm within the building as a contrast to the visual activity outside in Times Square."

An 18,500-square-foot conference room on the client floor overlooks Times Square and is located at the building's "prow." The space can be combined with the adjacent reception area to create one contiguous special event space that is ideal for firm gatherings. The conference room features a 12-inch-deep translucent wall of glass and stainless steel with two layers of patterned glass panels held apart by an eight-inch air pocket for sound insulation. Pivoting wood doors on each side allow guests to easily move between the two areas when open. The matt finish on the glass allows light to pass through while affording visual privacy. Eight smaller conference rooms and a multimedia center provide ample facilities for numerous meetings to be held simultaneously.

The deep space from the building core to the window wall facilitated the placement of support spaces inboard on the attorney floors with attorney offices located along the perimeter of each floor. These offices feature full-height metallic doors with porch-like light fixtures above each pair of doors. A fluorescent down-light in the canopy washes the doors and the center panel between the doors to emphasize the importance of the entry. The corridors on the attorney floors are 16-feet wide but appear more ample. The design team placed files in front of the workstations to visually create more width in the space.

Legal assistants had private offices in the Winthrop firm's previous space. These individuals now have workstations as do the firm's secretaries. BRB developed a system of custom casegoods that enables the spaces for legal assistants and secretaries to be interchangeable. The workstations for the legal assistants feature a six-foot-high glass transom that can be easily removed to make the space suitable for a secretary.

Each attorney floor has a touchdown seating area because these floors do not have receptionists. Clients can wait in these areas, which feature comfortable seating. The oculus in the wall adjacent to each of these areas provides a unique touch to the space.

Zieve reports that employees have responded very favorably to both the firm's new location and the design of its new offices. In fact, Pillsbury Winthrop is now expanding into additional space on one floor to accommodate the thriving firm's needs.

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