Nixon Peabody's Ultra-Modern Office
Nixon Peabody recently moved its DC office to the newly renovated 799 Ninth. DC managing partner Jeff Lesk and lead architect Ken Wilson of Perkins+Will gave us a tour through the light, open office.
Ken and Jeff went on a 40-mile bike ride when the design process started. (Jeff is an active long-distance biker.) They decided: "Why look at something designed five years ago for an office we'll be in 15 years from now?" We snapped Jeff in front of the three-story internal staircase, which doubles as a light-well into the office. Along the stair runs a three-story live plant wall watered by a drip-irrigation system using condensation from the HVAC.
The new office's square footage decreased by 30%, with a corresponding drop in real estate and energy costs. To make the smaller space feel bigger and open, they used design elements like transparent office fronts. The design process was inclusive. Architects presented to the full office in what they dubbed "town hall meetings," and the design committee counted associates, partners and staff. Buy-in for some innovations came partly from explaining the economics: savings go to the firm's bottom line.
The lunchroom just off of reception takes up space that would have belonged to corner offices. (There are actually no corner offices across the firm's three floors.) Here we spotted coffee makers on counters and herbs growing along the windowsills, and nearby scissors with which to trim the herbs and add them to your lunch. (We also toured the office in hard hats before it was built out: take a look.)
Ken took concepts the firm uses to define itself—sustainability, authenticity, honesty, integrity and craft—and conveyed them in the physical space. This wall, he points out, shows the materials as they really are: it keeps its prominent wood grain and shows the connecting clips; in the lunchroom, there are uncovered concrete columns and live edge walnut tables. Adding to the sustainability piece are plans for solar panels on the roof that will split energy between the office and local underprivileged communities, a brainstorm of partner and Chief Innovation Officer Herb Stevens.
This 140-person conference room runs parallel to the exterior windows, leaving space for a walkway with chairs and a view of the Chinatown archway and the Calvary Baptist Church built in 1865. It can convert into a reception space or divide into quadrants using walls that lower from inside the ceiling. Flexibility was one way to reduce a lot of space and leave options for future changes in firm composition. Smaller glass-walled rooms throughout the office function as spaces for visiting or retired attorneys and can easily be converted to permanent offices.
All of the lawyers' offices are single-size, and corner spaces are team rooms with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards. Any attorney workspaces are behind key-coded doors. No furniture came over from the old office (most of it was donated), and attorneys could choose to get standing desks. In preparation for the move, Jeff tells us they did a lot of recycling and digitization.
The big question: How have the changes been received? We spotted people using numerous shared work areas and several people approached Jeff and Ken to compliment them on the space. There are no active complaints, Jeff tells us. A few former skeptics either came over or are reserving judgment. Some who were hesitant about the space changed their minds after they held meetings and clients said they loved the space.
We spotted paralegal Lois Watson sketching the view into Chinatown from one corner of the office on her lunch break. She tells us, "We love this place. It's changed attitudes. People from other offices visit and they want to stay."