Maximizing Space

With sweeping views of the downtown skyline, an inviting coffee lounge, and acoustically private yet visually transparent offices for all of the attorneys, the Seyfarth Shaw Houston location is an elegant alternative to the ubiquitous open plan. Rottet Studio makes designing an efficiently laid-out space in the trapezoidal towers of the iconic Pennzoil Place look easy.

“The Pennzoil floor plate certainly helped us justify our final design layout,” said Ashleigh Rogers, project designer. Seyfarth Shaw leased half of the 14th floor and the entire 15th floor, and the disjointed plans, argued Rogers, worked to the design team’s advantage. Rottet Studio was able to maximize space on both floors and accommodate a 25 percent increase in total staff within the same amount of square footage as the previous Seyfarth Shaw office occupied.

“By pulling the offices off the window wall, we were no longer constrained by the module determined by the mullions,” noted Rogers. “This allowed the offices to all be the same size, while not requiring them to be the same configuration.” Reception and conference areas reside on the lower floor, with a full floor of attorneys above. Additional conference rooms, collaborative work spaces, and the coffee lounge are interspersed strategically among the offices. Skyline views for all of the employees from their offices were paramount to the clients as the project began. Glass partitions put these concerns to rest, allowing for views outward and for daylight to penetrate deep into the center of the floor plate. The continuous view along the window wall of the skyline is known as the office’s “veranda.” Custom furniture throughout the 

space includes office shelving, storage, and the coffee lounge dining counters. Nydree flooring has been installed on both levels, and tamo ash wood veneer finishes all of the millwork in the reception and conference areas on the lower level.

“The client came to us with a progressive model,” commented Rogers. “They had eliminated the corner office years prior and wanted nothing to do with the dreaded open concept workstations.” The focal point of the project is the coffee lounge: It provides an area for impromptu collaboration and a space for relaxing. Rogers continued: “There has been a trend in corporate interiors to provide ‘living room’ spaces, but our research determined that most of these spaces did not provide enough privacy for multiple groups to collaborate at the same time. We decided to provide a variety of arrangements in the main coffee lounge: regular dining; counter dining; a casual lounge collaboration area centered around the Knoll Power Cube with a dry-erase surface; and multiple high-back sofas along the perimeter that act as more private collaborative niches.” The bookshelf/display area in the center of the lounge acts as a transparent barrier that provides an additional element of privacy without obstructing the view. The Seyfarth Shaw office is designed to do just that — create a sense of visual confidentiality, yet with all of Houston at your fingertips.

Catherine Gavin is editor of Texas Architect. 

Originally published in the November/December 2014 issue of the Texas Architect