Designer Forum: Fish & Richardson’s new office aims to create a comfortable work environment - May 2021
By Deborah Elliott
Fish & Richardson, a global intellectual property law firm founded in Boston in 1878, has represented some of the world’s greatest innovators. The firm played a crucial role in patent litigation during the development of the light bulb, telephone, radio, automobile and steam engine and its early clients included Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright brothers. In the decades since, it has grown to more than 400 attorneys and technology specialists in 14 offices across the United States, Europe and China and serves as trusted advisors to a broad range of clients, including startups, multinational corporations and world-renowned academic and research institutions. Fish & Richardson’s lasting success is attributable to the firm’s creative and inclusive culture, which values the diversity of people, experiences and perspectives.
When the firm planned an expansion into a new office in Southern California, Fish & Richardson expressed a desire to show a purposeful relationship between the professional nature of the firm and the relaxed welcoming environment shared by employees. Says Roger Denning, managing principal of the office, “We want our office to be a place where our employees are comfortable, feel at home and enjoy coming to work, and we want our clients to have that same feeling.”
The new office, which offers ample meeting space and multiple custom design features, occupies the entire top floor and half of the floor below of a building located within a new mixed-use development that includes office spaces, retail shops, restaurants and luxury apartments, all within a walkable, vibrant community.
As part of the office’s design, ID Studios aimed to strike a balance between bold rectilinear shapes and hard surfaces to represent strength, and soft, round lines, warm woods and resilient finishes to reflect the firm’s more relaxed side. The concept of “structured nature” shaped the team’s design decisions.
Butch Miller, project manager for Pacific Building Group, admits that building the staircase was “an adventure.”
The multiple glass panels on each side of the stair, which go from the bottom floor to railing-height on the top floor, were 500 pounds each and had to be brought in with a crane through an exterior window removed just for this task. Miller says, “Glass doesn’t bend. There were a lot of layout checks, rechecks, field checks with the designer to make sure we were headed in the right direction.” Adds Denning, “We really wanted to make sure that the two floors felt connected rather than having two separate spaces. We’re super excited [the stairs are] going to really connect the floors to make it feel like one big workspace.”
FLEXIBLE, FUNCTIONAL DESIGN
Upon entering the suite, visitors walk onto Arizona Tile’s Terrazzo, a large-scale porcelain tile in Black, leading from the elevator to the reception area. Bentley Mills’ Repose broadloom in Routine defines the reception desk and helps to soften acoustics within the large open space.
The reception area includes soft seating and a hospitality bar. Overhead is a series of lighted, curvilinear “waves” in the double-height ceiling, creating soft movement juxtaposed against the structure of the architecture. Underfoot is Arizona Tile’s Terrazzo in White, punctuated with a soft, blue custom area rug reflecting the warm San Diego sky and highlighting the seating area that sits adjacent to a spacious terrace connected by a glass operable wall.
Unique break and coffee areas on both floors feature different types of tables or seating areas. The spaces are each defined by using two coordinating wood-look luxury vinyl tile products from Shaw Contract-Terrain II in Grove and Cut in Cacao. Traffic routes are created with Terrain, while seating areas are arranged atop Cut. An acoustical underlayment beneath the LVT helps keep acoustic distraction to a minimum.
Integral in the design was a new stair connecting these amenity spaces, which required a custom-designed, two-story feature stair. The cantilevered stair treads are welded to an architecturally stunning central steel beam enclosed in walls of glass. The stair treads are inset with Shaw’s LVT Terrain II in Grove for a wood-look stair that brings the warmth of wood against the strength of the steel but that will stand up to high traffic.
The office space has multiple conference rooms, which were designed for maximum flexibility. Bentley Mills’ Ritual broadloom in Routine brings rich blues and soft movement into the flooring, complementing the custom art and vibrant wallcovering used in each conference room.
The largest conference room can be divided into two equal conference spaces by lowering the Skyfold operable partition and can open directly to the lobby by folding back the glass NanaWall that surrounds the perimeter. When the NanaWall is closed, the Designtex Casper Cloaking Film, which was added by ID Studios, blocks all information on the large format monitors from passersby.
In a breakout space within the conferencing suite, a soft curve in the flooring design allows for the strong contrast of Arizona Tile’s Terrazzo in White porcelain flooring against Bentley Mills’ Repose, creating a perfect space for collaboration with a custom live-edge wood table and monitor access.
Primary work zones in the office required careful coordination of custom ergonomic solutions and classic design. A desire to provide adjustable desks without sacrificing aesthetics was a primary focus for private offices.
The modern styling of Knoll’s Reff line, including its sit-to-stand desks, and the use of Bentley Mills’ Sure Bet broadloom in Ante on the floor fit the bill. The final design provided full-height glass to define the private offices, paired with the warm walnut desks and neutral flooring to create spacious, light and bright work environments to fulfill the needs of paralegals and lawyers alike, while open office spaces were able to take advantage of the light streaming through the glass walls.
Covid-19 presented challenges for everyone this past year, and this project was no different, says Elliott. The construction was completed largely while Covid-19 stay-at-home orders were in place. She adds, “We were pleased that we were able to move forward with the original product selections and were able to receive all the flooring products we originally specified, which wasn’t always the case during lockdown. The contractor, PBG, said it was diligent to ensure a safe building environment throughout the construction process, by adhering to, and strictly enforcing, the Covid-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and San Diego County. Ensuring everything was completed on time and within the safety guidelines was a challenge that the entire team worked diligently to achieve.”
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