Project Detail


RTKL Chicago Offices

Chicago, IL United States



Project Description

For nine of RTKL's first 11 years in Chicago, it occupied offices in Holabird & Roche's Marquette Building—a late 19th century classic of the Chicago School. Looking for a new space, the firm decided to take a completely different direction, and the 105-person office moved to the 18th and 19th floors of the midcentury Borg-Warner Building. “It's the oddball building on Michigan Avenue,” says vice president and project lead designer Mark Lauterbach. “We wanted a space that felt different,” Lauterbach says, “but we wanted it to be neutral.” RTKL sought this effect by developing the public spaces as a play on white. Glossy white concrete floor tiles greet visitors at the 18th floor elevator lobby and extend through a glass wall into the reception area, where a Corian desk, model display stands, and a plaster wall all reinforce the white-on-white motif. The 18th floor is devoted to shared work areas. Bracketing the reception area are three conference rooms and the glass-enclosed Design Lab, which hosts intensive client workshops at a high-top table and puts the team on display for visitors and RTKL employees. “Clients love that. It's so atypical,” says Lauterbach of the fishbowl effect. In one corner of the 18th floor, Lauterbach and project designer Jason Peters carved a double-height space out of two 21-foot-square concrete structural bays; it functions as a “third place” where one is likely to find staff working away from their assigned desks. A ceremonial stair in the double-height space leads to the 19th floor, which is an open studio with a small central library offering seating at the top of the stair. Rows of glass-enclosed, semiprivate offices for the vice presidents line the internal core of the building. Every workstation is open to views of the lake and has natural light from two directions. The collaborative nature of RTKL's working process informed the choice of furnishings. The firm asked six vendors to set up workstations for its employees to test-drive for a few weeks. At a reception, each manufacturer presented its products, and a vote resulted in the selection of a European design by Alea. Its low partitions preserve the lake views from every desk while promoting interaction and even eavesdropping among team members. “You learn a lot listening to how somebody handles a contractor or a consultant on the phone,” says Lauterbach, who describes this as a form of mentoring. All of RTKL's old furniture from the Marquette Building was recycled—reused, sold, or donated—as part of the green strategy for the project. While the offices achieved a LEED Silver certification, Lauterbach notes that their commonsense approach to reuse doesn't earn any LEED credits. The new furnishings are intended to be even more sustainable. RTKL hopes to keep durable modern classics like its new Eames chairs in service for three decades or more. “It's about keeping things,” Lauterbach says.


Project Details

RTKL Chicago Offices
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Project Team:
    Mark Lauterbach, vice president; Daniel White, vice president; Michael Schwindenhamme, principal designer; Alan Kirkpatrick, project manager; Caesar Vitale, project manager; Kevin Montgomery, project architect; Jason Peters, project designer; Michelle McMinn, interior designer; Aimee Stern, conceptual designer; Todd Kaiser, Erin Grigsb, LEED AP; David Davenport, commissioning agent; Patricia Kazinski, lighting consultant;
  • Electrical Engineer: Ramm Associates 
  • Mechanical Engineer: Ramm Associates 
  • Plumbing Engineer: Ramm Associates 
  • Structural Engineer: TGRWA 
  • Speciality Systems Consultant: The Whitlock Group 
  • General Contractor: Oscar J. Boldt Construction 
  • Lighting Designer: Lutron Electronics Co. 
Project Type:
Project Status:

Specified Products

Herman Miller Inc. Aeron task chairs

Materia Mayflower Plastic Stack Chair in white and green



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