It’s not often one walks into an office and feels a sense of calm and utter tranquility. An uncommon workplace in the center of downtown Chicago is serious in tone, as well as serene, designed as much for receiving visitors as for providing its 25-person staff the best environment in which to work.

The space, with its zen atmosphere, is, not surprisingly, anchored by a strong Eastern influence, reflecting a desire of the client, who has traveled extensively in Asia and amassed an impressive collection of art from the continent. What may be surprising, however, is that its design comes via Italy.

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The Rome-based architecture firm Alvisi Kirimoto, headed by Massimo Alvisi and Japanese-born partner Junko Kirimoto, was tapped to tailor the space—its first project in the U.S.—working with the local office of CannonDesign, which had been brought on earlier to organize the layout of the rectangular floor plate. The straightforward arrangement has private offices and conference rooms lining the window walls around a central core containing the elevator banks and bathrooms.

“It was very clear from the beginning that the client wanted something special,” recalls Alvisi. Working with CannonDesign, the client had already selected two consecutive midlevel floors in a new tower being built along the Chicago River, after deciding to relocate from just a few blocks away. The office for one enterprise would occupy the full lower floor, nearly 30,000 square feet, taking advantage of its 12-foot ceiling height and carving out a piece of the floor above—which houses another of the client’s businesses—to create a large double-height room that has come to be known as the Winter Garden. “We had an unusual amount of flexibility with the building, which was just beginning construction,” says CannonDesign principal Mark Hirons. “We were even offered the possibility of balconies, but we opted for a light-filled interior space at one end of the floor that could be enjoyed year-round.”

The 24-foot-high Winter Garden, with a giant window over the river, serves as a multipurpose room—for meetings, events, exhibitions, and even as a place to relax. (The office not only regularly hosts clients but board members of related companies and institutions.) Alvisi Kirimoto initially conceived the space as a wood box, but wanted it to appear weightless. So they developed its walls as two layers of offset vertical hickory slats with a glass partition between them. The slats begin at the ceiling and end 10 inches above the floor, giving the impression that the box is suspended. “Because the layers of slats don’t align, it looks very different when seen from straight on or from an angle. That’s a very Eastern concept—to have different views of the same object,” says Alvisi. “We also wanted to bring in daylight on all sides but needed to control it, since there would be art inside at times.” (The motif of hickory slats set in front of glass is used for partitions throughout the floor, including ones that enclose private offices and small conference rooms.)

A permanent artwork was commissioned for the Winter Garden. Japanese bamboo artist Ueno Masao created a 12-foot-tall spiraling sculpture that hangs from the ceiling like a lantern to punctuate the soaring volume, its thin, curving bamboo poles in dialogue with the thicker slats surrounding it. Kirimoto designed a long table, manufactured in Japan, to stand beside it. Its deep red lacquered top adds another eye-catching note in the dramatic space.

The design team applied touches of color, both soft and bold, throughout the mainly monochromatic office—unified by a creamy white carpet—to striking effect. Bright orange fabric-wrapped acoustic panels, hung beneath the tall ceilings in private offices, match desk chairs; rose-hued Japanese rice paper covers wall panels in the reception area; glossy white cubicles separate private offices along the perimeter from interior, windowless ones; more deep reds mark the staff lunch area and private dining room (serviced by a professional-grade kitchen that often hosts renowned chefs). A game room, where employees, who tend to work long hours in the office when not traveling, can take a break with a table tennis match or a round of virtual golf, introduces more pops of color.

The integration of the client’s extensive collection of modern and Asian art was as critical an element of the design as any. A bronze Henry Moore sculpture of abstract reclining figures greets visitors in the reception area. Ceiling-high murals, previously on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago, line a wall by a waiting area near the executive offices; large, ancient bronze medallions are arrayed along a wall beside the Winter Garden. A contemporary Buddha statue marks an end of a long hallway (one of two corridors that traverse the entire floor), set in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that offer the city as a backdrop.

Perhaps even more than the Eastern influences, it is those 360-degree vistas high above Chicago, with the Willis Tower and other landmarks nearby, that take this office space to another level. “Part of the goal was to turn the hallways into small streets with a very strong direction, to connect flows of people with these incredible views,” says Alvisi. While providing a quiet, art-filled oasis in the sky, the office also grounds its occupants in the center of a dense urbanity—a reminder that, despite its luxury-hotel or museum-like feel, it is a place where business gets done.



Alvisi Kirimoto
Viale Parioli 40, 00197 Rome (Italy)
tel. +39 0645473803
fax. +39 0645476648

225 North Michigan Avenue, Suite
1100, Chicago Illinois 60601 (USA)
tel. +1 3123329600
fax. +1 3123329601

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Alvisi Kirimoto
Partners in charge: Massimo Alvisi, Junko Kirimoto
Project Manager: Carolina Ossandon Avetikian
Project Architects: Alessio Montanari, Donato Labella, Silvia Rinalduzzi

Design Principal: Mark Hirons, FAIA
Principal: Meg Osman
Project Manager: David Pugh
Project team: Angela Furman, Noelle Kinyon, Taofik Lasisi

Architect of record:



Interior designer:

Alvisi Kirimoto



MEP Engineer: CannonDesign
Structural Engineer: CannonDesign
Lighting Engineer: CannonDesign
Structural Cabling Engineer, Audio Visual, Security Service, Wireless, DAS, Sound Making, IT: Environmental System Design, Inc.


Acoustic consultant: Arup
Furniture dealer: Kayhan
Audio Visual programming: Netrix
Kitchen Consultant: S2o Consultants

General contractor:

Executive Construction Inc. | ConopCo Project Management



Nic Lehoux,, +1 6468087535



Glass: Christopher Glass & Aluminum, INC.



Entrances: Glass entrance doors: Christopher Glass & Aluminum, INC.

Wood doors: Millwork doors: Parenti & Raffaelli, LTD.



Locksets: Adams Rite

Closers: DORMA

Pulls: Millwork pulls: Parenti & Raffaelli,LTD.


Interior Finishes

Acoustical ceilings: Installer: Performance Contracting, Inc. (PCI)
Manufacturer: Armstrong

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Millworks and caseworks: Parenti & Raffaelli, LTD.
Office workstations and custom design furniture: HALCON

Paints and stains: Pinnacle decorating, Inc.
Manufacturer: Willow Springs, PPG Paints, IdeaPaint

Wall coverings:

Paneling: Parenti & Raffaelli, LTD.
Fabric for wall and ceiling panels: Maharam

Plastic laminate: Plastic Laminate Manufacturer for Cases: Abet Laminati

Solid surfacing: Countertops: HI-MACS

Special surfacing: Countertops: OKITE

Floor and wall tile: Installer: Northern Illinois Terrazzo & Tile Co.
Private Toilet porcelain tiles manufacturer: Virginia Tile
Shower wall tiles manufacturer: Caesarstone
Kitchen quarry tiles manufacturer: Daltile

Resilient flooring:

Carpet: Installer: Vortex Commercial Flooring, Inc.
General carpet manufacturer: Bloomsburg
Playroom carpet manufacturer: Silver Creek Carpet

Raised flooring:

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Japanese lacquered table top: designed by Alvisi Kirimoto, manufactured by Wajima Kirimoto
Rice wallpaper panels: Ginrei-Washi
Wood floor planks: White Oak, Muskoka
Wood wall finish: Hickory


Reception furniture: Custom reception desk: Parenti & Raffaelli LTD

Chairs: Carl Hansen, Herman Miller, Knoll

Tables: Custom design tables manufacturer: HALCON

Upholstery: Fabric Manufacturer: Maharam
Leather Manufacturer: Edelman

Other furniture: Sofas and Lounge Chairs: B&B Italia, De Padova, Driade, Knoll


Interior ambient lighting: Fabbian, iGuzzini, MP Lighting, SSL Lighting, Tech Lighting, Vibia

Downlights: Juno, Usai, Focal Point, Kenall

Tasklighting: Artemide



Elevators/escalators: Schindler Elevator Corp.



Plumbing: Sherman Mechanical, Inc.
Underfloor Plumbing: Great Lakes Plumbing and Heating
Manufacturer: Kohler, Toto


Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project: Bonsai provider: Foliage Design Systems
Golf Simulator Provider: aboutGolf