Perkins + Will | Nixon & Peabody – 2016 Design Is…Award Global Winner

Shaw Contract conducted interviews with all firms of all Market Award winning projects from the 2016 Design Is…Award program. As part of this process, we always like to share a portion of the response on our blog for readers to learn about the winning projects. These are their stories.

Describe this project in one word.


How does this project demonstrate design impact?

Although corporate workspace design has been evolving for years, the basic principles of law firm design that have existed for decades are only recently being rethought. This project challenges many of the sacred law firm design characteristics such as the large corner office, solid walls and solid doors, liberal use of stone and mahogany, and the segregation of attorneys and support staff. We focused on crafting not only a visually-impactful design, but one that was reflective of the Nixon Peabody brand.

Each project is a process. Explain your journey with this space.

Nixon Peabody is a global law firm and our journey began with a firmwide re-branding process aimed at differentiating Nixon Peabody from the competition. The Washington, DC office was the first to design new space after the re-branding process and the team was challenged to create the “law firm of the future.” Focusing on strategies impacting health and social equity helped create a paradigm shift in how they work together in the space, aligning office culture more closely with their firm values. The reduction in perimeter office sizes affords the opportunity to have public spaces along the window line that benefit all staff. Office fronts and doors are made of frameless clear glass and allow views to the outside for staff typically buried within interior space. Traditional corner offices are given up to shared team rooms. The Café, prominently located adjacent to Reception, serves as a hub for attorneys, staff and clients. The space promotes communication, collaboration, and cross-over between practice groups, which was a journey we had to work closely with our client on in order to navigate successfully.

Tell us about any challenges or lessons learned from working on this project.

For the design to be successful, changes in cultural behavior typical of a law firm environment were required. Managing this change posed a challenge that needed to be addressed for a successful implementation of the many innovative strategies on the project. Additionally, the design team worked with the client to develop educational signage and operational guidelinesfor everything from lighting and automated shades in the typical offices, to care and maintenance for the living wall and irrigation system. Communication was also critical in order for staff to see the benefit of smaller universal office sizes as an opportunity to open up for more collaborative spaces. Informal post-occupancy surveys have revealed overwhelming approval for the variety and number of collaboration spaces.

On trends: Is there anything in particular with this project that is reflective of current culture/society?

In a world that is increasingly connected with technology, there is still a desire to surround yourself with things that were made by human hands. This idea of craft is very reflective of current culture, whether it’s handcrafted communal dining tables or textures that look like they were created by an artisan rather than a computer. Similarly, we believe humans also have an intrinsic affinity for materials, patterns, and colors from nature. This project uses biophilic strategies such as the use of plants in the living wall and café, using wood in a natural state, allowing for distant views, and using colors most commonly found in nature.

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