Legendary cereal mascots Tony the Tiger; Toucan Sam; and Snap, Crackle and Pop have a new home. Looking to consolidate a series of small offices in downtown Chicago, into one central location for its global growth and IT departments, the Kellogg Co. found a match. Their new office space is now located in the Merchandise Mart building, a building on the north side of the Chicago River.
The office renovation required a complete overhaul and overcame some lighting challenges that local luminaires manufacturer Focal Point was able to solve. In the words of Tony the Tiger’s catchphrase, “They’re grrrrrreat!”
“The client was heavily involved in all the details of the space, from layout to hand selecting furnishings and décor,” says Natalie McElligot, associate architect for The Architect’s Partnership Ltd. (TAP). That group and the Kellogg Chief Growth Officer collaborated on the design details of the new space. “It was clear,” continues McElligot, “the client had a vision for the space. A clean, white and modern style.”
The Merchandise Mart itself has a long and illustrious history. It opened nearly 90 years ago in 1930 and was originally built by Marshall Field, the local entrepreneur and founder of the famed Marshall Field & Co. department stores to consolidate its warehousing operations. Long before the stores were acquired by Federated Department Stores, the parent company of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, in 2005, the real estate of the building had been owned by the Kennedy family for over 50 years.
Occupying a full city block, the historic art deco style structure boasts 4.2 million square-feet of commercial office space and has attracted a bevy of architectural and interior design vendors, tech starts-ups and well-known brands. It is also home to showrooms and hosts NeoCon every June. Featuring a LEED-certified campus, its RiverPark area offers a green space alongside the river.
The Kellogg Challenge
Kellogg Co. embarked on an eight-month transformation project. In step with its motto, “Working Together for Solutions that Work”, TAP listened to the needs of the client to create a modern yet functional office that preserved the buildings’ historic integrity and embraced the local community. Supporting the Chicago community through locally sourced materials would become a valuable decision. But there were hurdles to clear from the start.
“It was a difficult project from a build-out standpoint,” says Eugene Mason III, superintendent at Power Construction and the general contractor for the project. “There were a lot of logistics because we were working on the floor above a high-end kitchen and bath showroom.”
Another issue was the previous tenant. Formerly occupied by a radio station, the second-floor space contained black painted ceiling and walls, creating a dark and enclosed environment. The ceiling was removed and the exposed structure was painted white to brighten and open up the space. Drywall also had to be removed to reveal the original brick walls and expose the natural character of the building. To further contribute to the open feel and provide a sound barrier for private conversations, glass walls were installed around conference room space.
As the project took shape, the designers of TAP took note of the monochromatic palette being formed by the natural and industrial elements. To offset the sterile feel, yet maintain the simple aesthetic, communal seating areas were created with bold colored vintage and custom furniture. The bright colors create visual interest and can be seen from most areas of the open office. A critical decision was made that the lighting needed to support these multi-use areas, while also blending into the architectural surroundings and elevating the modern aesthetic.
“We knew we needed to make a statement with the lighting,” recalls McElligott. “The client wanted a clean, modern luminaire, so we first showed them the Nera pendant from Chicago-based Focal Point. He agreed the simple form was perfect for the aesthetic of the space. He also appreciated that the product was locally manufactured. We could have used other luminaires, but we selected a combination of Nera linear suspended and square pendants for a cohesive look.”
Individual Nera linear luminaires were suspended over workstations; the angular optic lens and 60 indirect / 40 direct distribution provides uniformity on the ceiling and work plane. Clustering four, four-foot by four-foot Nera pendants was a way to play with the simple form while creating a statement piece: an oversized chandelier suspended over the collaboration spaces helps define the area while providing general illumination.
A combination of continuous rows and square pendant Nera luminaires grace the boardroom, conference rooms, meeting spaces and hallways for a uniform look. Selecting Nera also procured the project team with a short lead time and access to customer assistance, all while supporting the local economy.
As with many tenant buildout projects, tight deadlines intensified the need for coordination with multiple vendors. During the buildout, ductwork was installed too close to the linear runs of Nera luminaires, interfering with the indirect illumination. Two luminaires were already installed when the issue arose. However, interaction by the Focal Point Field Service team allowed the project to continue without disruption to the schedule.
“Focal Point’s Field Service team addressed the issue quickly,” notes Mason, a 20-year industry veteran. “They were in and out with ease.”
Despite the constraints posed by transforming a space in one of Chicago’s iconic buildings and a tight schedule, the project turned out to be a success. The office fuses modern and classic elements, resulting in a functional statement, and garnering praises from Kellogg. “I received direct communication from the client on how pleased they are with the overall project,” sums up Mason. “I thought it was beautiful, the flooring and lighting are really the showpieces of the space.”
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