Launch Slideshow

Serta International Headquarters

The Serta International Center is a suitably Midwestern exercise in horizontality.

Serta International Headquarters

The Serta International Center is a suitably Midwestern exercise in horizontality.

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    Andrew Metter

    The Serta International Center seems to float above the wetlands in its suburban Chicago site.

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    James Steinkamp

    The west façade, facing a wetlands area, is almost entirely glass, maximizing daylight inside and views out. The horizontality of the structure is emphasized by what Metter refers to as 'brows,' thin concrete projections that run along the top and bottom of the single-story main building and cantilever beyond the end of the window wall.

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    Andrew Metter

    A two-story volume on the east side of the building houses R&D facilities as well as a large public showroom. Channel glass continues the vocabulary of glass bordered by concrete, while obscuring the more industrial space within.

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    Andrew Metter

    Because of the rugged nature of the site, the building was constructed on a platform, which allowed the long, thin main floor to remain level without requiring any excavation. This gave rise to an interesting, Brasilia-like treatment for the building's two entry ramps (one of which is seen here).

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    Andrew Metter

    The building's west facade is interrupted by a series of projecting bays that house private offices, training rooms, and conference spaces. An ipe deck runs in front, providing outdoor space for employees. Glass guardrails prevent someone from stepping off the edge but don't interrupt sight lines.

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    Andrew Metter

    The building's S shape and ample glazing mean that not only do employees get views of the wetlands, they can also see into other parts of the workspace, creating a visual sense of community throughout the long, thin building. At the center of the structure, a roof deck—connected to a second-story employee lunch room—is covered with a metal-grate awning that provides some shading and contributes to the building's horizontal aesthetic.

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    Andrew Metter

    A hallmark of this building is its meticulous detailing. A concrete plate projects from the building's base and forms the lower edge of the horizontal façade, but instead of resting on that slab, the projecting bays hover above, clad in differentiating aluminum panels. The panels were exactingly installed and wrap under the bottom lip of the bay with the same careful assembly as on the visible surfaces.

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    Mark Ballogg

    The Serta R&D facility is a double-height space for the study of new and existing products. Raw materials for mattresses, such as springs, padding, and fabric, are stacked on shelves on the south wall, and machinery to construct and run tests on mattresses takes up most of the open floor. The main showroom on the second floor overlooks the work area so that visitors trying out and buying mattresses upstairs can see the product development process.

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    Mark Ballogg

    The open office space in the single-story portion of the building has cubicles with translucent partitions to allow daylight from the floor-to-ceiling windows to penetrate into the space. Circulation paths hug the glazed perimeter walls, with their operable windows to promote air circulation. Lighting and HVAC needs are centralized in an Armstrong TechZone ceiling system over the cubicles.

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    Mark Ballogg

    Running the length of the building is a frosted glass wall that serves as the barrier between the public and private zones of the building. Since much of the information being discussed in the office areas is proprietary, the glass serves as a means of obscuring visual and aural information without cutting off daylight. Here, the wall begins to separate an open office space (at right) from a small showroom (at left). The staircase leads to the second floor cafeteria and outdoor roof deck.

The commission for Serta International’s new Chicago-area corporate headquarters didn’t begin with a lengthy RFP process. It started when a Serta executive walked into another office in a commercial development in Hoffman Estates, Ill., and asked the receptionist: “Who designed your building?”

The answer was Andrew Metter, of the Chicago firm Epstein | Metter Studio. He worked with the mattress manufacturer to create a structure iconic enough to serve as a world headquarters but pragmatic enough to address the day-to-day needs of a major corporation. The building houses operations and sales staff, showrooms, and the R&D facility where the company’s products are created.

Located on a sloping wetlands site in the Prairie Stone Office Park near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the Serta headquarters is a suitably Midwestern exercise in horizontality—along the historical lines of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. The bulk of the building is an S-shaped, single-story, post-tensioned concrete volume that seems to float on its recessed base. “We wanted to play with the idea of sleep being a world apart,” Metter says. To that end, the lobby is reached by walking up a ramp. The south end of the building rests on piers to maintain the horizontal baseline where the site slopes sharply down to a water detention pond.

The building façade is demarcated by a projecting lip of concrete at the top and another at the base; both run the length of the structure. The area within these “brows” is glazed to allow maximum views out and daylight in. Interrupting the glass expanse are five projecting bays, which add texture to the façade and create additional space within the narrow floor plate for executive offices and conference rooms. The largest bay houses a training room and cantilevers out 14 feet from the building’s base.

A two-story steel-framed structure on the east side of the building houses the R&D facility. Metter opted for steel over concrete here because “we wanted to achieve the aesthetic affect, and there were very functional considerations about efficiency and layout,” he says. “We needed large spans across big distances and a large height and volume, and that can really only be achieved with steel in any kind of efficient way.” Clad in channel glass to obscure the industrial interior, the structure features a roof canopy that covers the sole second-story element on the main building—a cafeteria and sunshaded roof deck.

The main building’s interior is split into two zones—public and private—by a frosted glass interior wall along the eastern edge. Most enclosed spaces are ganged up along the wall, leaving the rest of the floor for open office space. And open it is—post-tensioned concrete beams allowed for 47-foot clear spans, limiting the number of columns in the space. The finishes show a hyper-attention to detail, with Metter designing some of the drawer hardware himself to maintain the minimalist aesthetic.

A walk through the building sees the enthusiastic client updating the architect on maintenance efforts—like power-washing the roof deck to return the sun-bleached ipe to its original reddish hue—and how the building systems are running. The receptionists know Metter by sight, too, which—if past precedent holds true—might just lead to another project.


Project Credits

Project: Serta International Center
Client:
Serta International, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Architect: Epstein | Metter Studio, Chicago—Andrew Metter (principal designer); Daesun Park (design architect); Doug Fullick (project manager)
Landscape Architect: Jacobs/Ryan Associates Landscape Architects— Terry Warriner Ryan
Engineers: Epstein Engineering—Bernardo Remo (structural); David Hilty (civil); Tod Soukup, Joe Romano, Paul Valente (M/E/P)
Interior: Epstein Interior—Stella Volkman
A/V: Allen Visual
Security: Engineering Plus Contractor G.A. Johnson & Sons
Size: 90,000 square feet


Toolbox

Spancrete Concrete Plank
Spancrete
spancrete.com
Architect Andrew Metter specified precast planks from Spancrete as infill between the roof’s cast-in-place post-tensioned concrete beams. He chose concrete because it could give a much sleeker profile at the perimeter roof overhang than a steel structure would have allowed, and Spancrete panels helped to finish the structure in a cost-effective manner. The roof is strong enough to support the additional weight of a green roof—an idea that was discussed but did not make the final design.

Channel Glass
Bendheim Wall Systems
bendheim.com
To conceal the industrial R&D works without minimizing daylight, Metter’s team turned to channel glass from Bendheim Wall Systems. The glass allows the space to operate largely without artificial lighting but hides the piles of materials and machinery from public view. The glass channels are one of the few vertically oriented elements on a very horizontal building, emphasizing the relative height of the two-story volume.

Aluminum Panel
Nic Solutions
nicsolutions.biz
The projecting bays on the west side of the building are clad in ?"-thick brushed aluminum panels. Careful detailing ensures that each of the square panels—assembled in a grid, almost like tiles—is the correct distance from its neighbor and is installed properly along the top, sides, and bottom of the cantilevered volumes.

Frosted Glass Wall
Glass & Mirror Craft
glassandmirrorcraft.com
A frosted glass wall runs nearly the whole length of the east side of the building, creating a public hallway cut off from the sounds and sights of the open office area—while keeping proprietary information from getting into the wrong hands. The wall is also an organizing element in the space, with private offices and bathrooms placed up against it to allow maximum daylight into the cubicles on the other side.