Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 101
By Zach Mortice
Lining the western
window wall, informal
seating areas with classic
furnishings and rugs
cultivate a domestic vibe.
The new headquarters for the International
Interior Design Association (IIDA) in Chicago
expresses the organization's core identity
and function from the start. "When you walk in,
you know immediately that it's about design,"
says IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO
Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA.
Occupying 17,000 square feet on the second
floor of One Illinois Center, a high-rise by epochal
modernist Mies van der Rohe, the office interior by
Gensler implements Miesian orthogonal minimalism
as a remarkably flexible, neutral space enlivened
by furnishing flourishes. IIDA's lobby announces
"Chicago" immediately, with a print of the 1909
Plan of Chicago by Daniel Burnham and Edward
Bennett on a retractable wallcovering, fronted
by a burnt maple reception desk-an implicit
reference to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Overhead, the office's palette of subdued grays
finds its most textural expression in the original
concrete waffle-slab coffered ceiling, exposed
with Gensler's renovation.
Todd Heiser, IIDA, a principal at Gensler
who was Contract magazine's 2016 Designer
of the Year, oversaw the project with colleagues
from Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Gensler
Principal Jim Williamson, FIIDA, who was the
2012-2013 IIDA president, brokered numerous
design decisions between Durst, the IIDA board
of directors, and the Gensler team.
The office's northern section contains
the majority of the open and private spaces for
IIDA's 25 staff members. Nearby, connecting
a linear series of meeting rooms, the 15-foot-wide
"boulevard" section along the entire western
floor-to-ceiling window wall is changing how IIDA
employees work. Here, seven vignettes of casual
and classic furnishings, each defined by a
sumptuous rug, offer a free-flowing zone for small
informal meetings or simply a change of venue.
Classic chairs, tables, and other timeless pieces,
such as Eames sofas, are installed, though Durst
says her team will periodically refresh these areas.
The staff's attraction to the options along
the boulevard has been palpable. "Everyone
has expanded their personal workspace," Durst
explains, noting that employees might begin their
day at their desks but gravitate to the boulevard
as the day goes on. As a hybrid that places a premium
on spontaneous interactions, the boulevard has
further enabled IIDA staff to break out of their
professional silos and connect with one another.
The boulevard connects the workspaces
to the IDEA Studio, a flexible meeting and event
room that occupies one-third of the new office.
Also available for rent, the IDEA Studio allows IIDA
to convene discussions about design with diverse
audiences outside of the association's traditional
sphere. The IDEA Studio has already been host to
meetings of design firm principals, an IIDA advocacy
symposium with regulators and lobbyists, and a
think tank for manufacturers. "Our ability to have
a conversation about design excellence with the
American Hospital Association is very valuable
to us," Durst says, as an example. "It gives us a
built-in reason to talk about how design enhances
the human experience."
Now months since moving in, Durst and
her IIDA colleagues are enjoying the positive impact
that a well-designed workplace has on the team.
"At its essence, the new headquarters is about
people," she says. "And it is as steeped in purpose
as it is in personality." c