Ranked second on the 2012 A-List of the American Lawyer, the Los Angeles–based Paul Hastings LLP is a 61-year-old firm with a progressive global vision—one that incorporates good design into a business strategy that aims to attract prime talent and clients with leading-edge facilities. So when the managing partners decided to open a Frankfurt office after a 2008 merger with the German firm Smeets Haas Wolff, they tapped architect Lauren Rottet to regenerate a high-profile 1950s location to reflect the open work style they embrace. Their new address is not only on a leafy residential street in Frankfurt's affluent Westend neighborhood next to the city's gorgeous Palmengarten and Botanical Gardens, it also has an intriguing architectural pedigree.
Siesmayerstrasse 21 is a 1955 building by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill that echoes his 23-story Lever House in New York City (1952), both in plan and by virtue of its distinctive facade made of contrasting rows of clear and tinted glass framed by a metal grid. Part of a diplomatic initiative as complex as a James Bond plot, the five-story structure is one of five similar U.S. Consulate buildings in West Germany designed by Bunshaft in collaboration with German architect Otto Apel, an assistant to Albert Speer from 1933 to 1943. The post–World War II era was fraught with Cold War politics, and the State Department commissioned America's top Modernist architects—including Harrison & Abramovitz, Ralph Rapson, and Edward Durell Stone—to design facilities around the world as symbols of democracy, culture, and power. “Architectural modernism became linked with the idea of freedom after the war,” writes Jane C. Loeffler in her fascinating Architecture of Diplomacy (Princeton Architectural Press, 1998). Bunshaft's style, she says, was considered one of the most “American,” and Lever House had the look and quality U.S. officials wanted to export.