Boutique Legal

Jan. 1, 2003
Janet Wiens

The Boston office of Epstein Becker and Green, created by a team from CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares, departs from traditional law firm design with spectacular spaces that hark to post-Industrial era New York apartment buildings.

Law firm design has changed significantly in recent years. You'll still find plenty of conservative and traditional offices, but a number of firms are going in new directions. Epstein Becker and Green in Boston, MA, certainly falls into the latter category.The firm's 50,000-square-foot offices, housed on two floors in 111 Huntington Ave., a new skyscraper that affords dramatic views to the Charles River, the Back Bay and the Christian Science reflecting pool, are as spectacular as the skyline that they look upon. And that's exactly what the team from CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares (CBT), also of Boston, was charged with creating. (The firm also designed the 111 Huntington Building.)"Epstein Becker and Green's partners wanted their offices to be very approachable while making a very different design statement for a law firm," says Erin Kennedy, CBT's project designer. "They wanted a residential quality that would encompass elements of New York's post-industrial-age apartment buildings. We were charged with incorporating a number of features that would give this boutique law firm another distinguishing trademark from its competitors."That they have. The realization that this is not your "typical" law firm begins the moment one walks off the elevators into the elevator lobby. Neon lighting within the oval soffits in the ceiling (ovals are used as one unifying design element throughout the space) cast a warm blue glow into the elevator lobby. The custom-designed carpet and the rich Brazilian ebony wood floors lend further warmth and richness to the space. The oval-shaped reception area has an inset carpet and multiple seating options in a variety of fabrics—all very residential in quality. The boardroom opens onto the reception area.CBT wanted to incorporate innovative components into its design. The signature solution was to use a floral motif Bergamo fabric. CBT collaborated with Knoll to customize the company's Imago wall panels for the offices. The application is introduced in the reception and drop-in areas, seen in either direction when coming off the elevators, and catches the eye immediately."We inserted the fabric, which is very sheer, into the plastic resin of the Imago panels," Kennedy notes. "The flowers appear to float in the panels and work with our other design features to create a very distinct and rich environment. It's a dramatic and warm effect that we also carried into other office areas."CBT also wanted to use the Imago panels and floral treatment in the firm's oval-shaped conference rooms, but the solution would not work based on acoustical considerations. Instead, the team partnered with a local supplier to have the material photographed and digitally output. The output was then applied to film and adhered to glass that was used on the walls of the conference rooms. The look is a perfect match, and also provides the privacy that is necessary in these areas. Other design features include a floating credenza, a custom-designed table and acoustical wall panels.The boardroom has curved, raised pocket doors that open into the reception area. This enables the firm to use the reception area as a break out space when larger meetings and events are held in the boardroom.Another conference room showcases rich wood treatments in the inlay of the custom-designed table and the room's structural columns. Sheers were used on the windows rather than blinds to provide a touch of translucency while softening the room. The overhead lights are whimsical and play with the rectangular table and columns to further enhance the room's visual interest.Work areas and offices, in some law firms, receive less attention to detail than an organization's more public space, but that's not the case here. Epstein Becker and Green wanted the same level of detail in its offices and work areas, and asked CBT to use a key design feature in the these spaces. Custom-designed, rosewood work stations by Mark Richey that are both elegant and functional were used as the standard. Work stations feature leather panels in the center that are hemstitched with a contrasting trim. Back-painted, light blue glass panels on the top of the work station front counters are very durable and visually pop off the darker wood beneath. The overhead storage does not go to the ceiling; lights above cast a warm glow off the cabinets and into the offices. Doors and the trim for the private offices were painted—yet another reference to more traditional residential design standards.An employee dining area is different and harder in design than the firm's other areas. The room, which is used for employee gatherings every Friday, has limited food preparation capabilities, but can be used for catering firm events. The columns feature back-painted glass, like that used on the work stations, and lights in the ceiling above the columns wash the columns in a soft glow. Metal tables and chair arms and legs are industrial in feel.Lighting was a major consideration throughout the space both to accommodate employee work requirements and to light the firm's extensive art collection. Many options were used for lighting fixtures and are, again, more residential in quality. Both down lighting and up lighting were used depending on the requirements within individual spaces.The firm currently occupies one full floor and subleases part of the second floor to another tenant. The sublease space is finished to the firm's hard construction standards, which will facilitate the firm's move into the sublease space when it requires additional room.

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