Serta International Headquarters

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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