Designer Forum: SkB Architects' design of Boston Consulting Group's Seattle office - Apr 2018
By Melissa Maddux Renner
Positioned at the top of the 1201 Third Avenue Tower in downtown Seattle, occupying the 54th and 55th floors, Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) new Seattle office represents a substantial shift from its former offices. Previously quartered in a smaller, less bespoke office setting, the Seattle branch of the global management consultancy sought a more inviting and sophisticated environment in which to work. SkB Architects was challenged to create an environment out of the 24,223-square-foot project that accommodates the firm’s flexible approach to workspace without sacrificing the incredible views the space has to offer.
With much of the office featuring a double-height space, flooring became an even more important element of the greater design story. With the ceiling plane further removed from the overall experience of the space by users, the floor would need to play a larger role in showcasing moments of detail, delineating zones and communicating BCG’s vision for a boutique workspace with a hospitality vibe.
The overall BCG Seattle office design blurs typical work-style boundaries with a heavy nod to textures and materials more often experienced in hospitality and boutique hotel lounge settings. Given that, significant thought and iterative exploration were put into the different flooring materials and the qualities that those materials impart. Light wood planks from Kentwood Originals were selected for the entry and greater hospitality experience. The warmth they brought to the space along with the subtle texture and ease of maintenance made them a perfect fit and a great starting point from which to layer or partner with additional flooring materials.
Visitors are greeted by dramatic Ege carpet runners in Smoke Grey upon entering the elevator lobby and before moving into the adjacent reception area. Here, the space is cozy. A curved, tucked-fabric-wrapped wall panel provides a soft backing for the reception area banquette seating, while an illuminated coved wall curves gently into the relatively low-height ceiling plane. From the reception, the custom-designed, 18’ long reception desk reaches out toward the adjoining office and work lounge space, where the volume explodes to reveal dramatic vistas of the surrounding city and Elliott Bay. The double-height volume accommodates a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional work spaces, including an open work lounge, a multi-use café-style break room, and abundant meeting and focused-work spaces.
In the break room, the design called for a flooring material that could provide visual patterning and help delineate and break up some of the large volume as well as be durable and stain-resistant. Chilewich’s woven Bouclé vinyl tiles were a perfect fit and came with great acoustic absorption properties. The range of colors and tones available made finding the right selection even easier. The break room is separated into two areas, one composed of loose seating arrangements, and the other defined by a large 18’x15’ island and the adjoining kitchen. A hidden bar, styled as a prohibition-era speakeasy, is situated behind a door that blends with the café casework. The tiny space features vintage lighting, bar stools and a tin ceiling. Flexible furniture arrangements and folding, accordion-style doors connect the break room to the reception area, transforming the area to accommodate large events and all-staff meetings. The Chilewich flooring plays off a subtly toned mural stretching from wall to ceiling. The mural was hand-painted on-site by a local artist on staff with SkB Architects.
BCG employees, mostly consultants who spend 90% of their time at client offices, are free to use almost any space in the office; a few desks are assigned for those needing privacy, including accounting, human resources and assistants. In response to the off-site nature of its employees’ work, the space is designed with only one workstation for every two employees.
Given this approach, it was important to BCG that there not be separately designed spaces from the front of the house to the back of the house, as can be found in workspaces that put all their effort into wowing the client at the front end, while employees toil in drab conditions “behind the curtain.” When it came to the design experience, there was no distinction between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Flooring was an integral link in creating this cohesiveness. As an example, not only is the Sculpted Oak Halfmoon Bay flooring from Kentwood Originals used in the reception area, but it is carried through the main circulation around the building’s core. Further, the dramatic Ege rugs encountered when entering BCG’s elevator lobby are found again as long inset runners in the main circulation.
The spacious work lounge features a curved and cantilevered stair made of dark-finished steel, glass and aluminum panels, with treads made of stone tile by Walker Zanger. Since the stair represented a “jewel moment” in the space, the unique Jet Set tile in Carrara White bolsters a special experience that helps it really stand out. And the stair rests on a wood plinth, which serves double duty as casual seating and ties into the Kentwood Originals wood flooring. The space is topped by a custom-designed steel and glass chandelier designed by SkB Architects, featuring hand-blown glass shades in amber, blue and smoky green tones. The mezzanine-style second floor holds several boardrooms, one with a Juliet balcony overlooking the communal break room, as well as a suite of private client meeting rooms. Tuva Looms by Bloomsburg Carpets provided the subtle but luxurious floorcoverings for the boardrooms.
SkB’s design team is often asked where the inspiration for a certain color, floorcovering or furniture piece comes from. The truth is that it’s all about the design process, the client and the design brief. SkB does not start with an endpoint in mind or a sweeping vision of “today there will be purple!” The design process itself will reveal the colors, textures and materials needed for the space to achieve its aesthetic, performance and financial goals established at the outset. If this iterative process of continuously evaluating against these goals is done right, the details inside the beautiful solution will slowly become apparent.
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