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Design

Perkins + Will creates an architectural laboratory

Clockwise from top: the break out area, the living wall, and one of the scrum stations at Perkins + Will architecture firm.

Richard Mandelkorn

The break out area at Perkins + Will architecture firm.

Fitted with uncommon furnishings, sleek finishes, and innovative fixtures, the interiors of global architecture firm Perkins + Will have always been forward-thinking and visually arresting. For the firm’s new Boston office, managing director Robert Brown and design principal Brian Healy opted to expand on that, by developing what they’re calling an architectural laboratory.

“We are in the business of creating environments for others,” says Brown. “So we had the sense that our workspace should be as open and experimental as possible.”

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There are virtually no walls in the vast space, which takes up the entire 11th floor of 225 Franklin St. and offers spectacular views of the city and waterfront. The layout was designed to enhance collaboration among the office’s 110 employees and features movable “scrum stations”; living-room-like conference areas; and multiple display walls where “mock-ups and drawings may be displayed in a critical way,” Healy says.

While it’s common practice for architects to create small-scale models, the new office serves as an area to test full-scale models such as an organic living wall where they can tinker plant growing methods, lighting, and temperature.

“By using experimentation,” Healy says, “we learn that some things work better than others.”

Richard Mandelkorn

One of the scrum stations.

Scrum stations

Inspired by the rugby term “scrum,” a method of re-starting play with several players binding together, the architects came up with 16 scrum stations: big movable carts are used as work surfaces. “They contain models and other materials related to current projects,” says Healy. “Team members will gather together to meet, then go off and do their part, and meet back up again at the cart.” The scrum stations speak to the office’s central goal: collaboration.

Lobby

The lobby’s curvaceous ceiling was made using parametric software. The innovative method creates a computational model from three-dimensional design, which is then fed into a CNC — or computer numerical control — machine for fabrication. “The undulating, prefabricated ceiling is drawn on the computer and a machine cuts the shapes out of translucent plastic, which would be very hard to do by hand,” Healy says. Installed in the heart of the office, the ceiling allows staff and visitors to better understand and visualize what the technology can do.

Living wall

Richard Mandelkorn

The living wall.

The living wall is designed to test the limits of growing plants on a vertical plane inside buildings, especially in low-light environments. “The wall is very dynamic, it has very exterior-like quality,” Brown says. “The intent is to test our premise that office environments [particularly hospitals, laboratories, and commercial spaces] suffering from low levels of natural light can be improved with plants,” says Healy.

Break out area

The office’s amazing corner views are “given to everyone,” says Brown, and the area is used on a first come, first serve basis. “Someone can spread out large materials alone or four or five people can gather in a casual way. It’s useful in that there are no doors or walls, so people at the table can engage with others walking by,” he says. “If you are in a closed conference room it’s very different, you don’t have the opportunity to have someone new come in and offer a couple of quick ideas.” The funky cube seating and whimsical light fixtures were introduced to give the area a “more lighthearted, playful feel,” says Healy.

Jaci Conry can be reached at
jaci@jaciconry.com.
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