7 mar 11  | Crain's Chicago Business

Crain's 2011 Coolest Chicago Offices: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

by Andrew Schroedter

When Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill launched their firm, they drew up a list of amenities their new office needed.

Room for a high-tech model shop was a key one for the former architects at Chicago-based Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP. Another was outdoor space so they could view materials in natural light, Mr. Smith says.

Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture got what it wanted when it moved in December 2006 to the top floor of a 23-story high-rise, the east addition to the Harris Bank Building, 111 W. Monroe.

The office had ample room for a model shop, in addition to a pair of 1,000-square-foot courtyards. The outdoor spaces, each with a fountain and enclosed by 10-foot glass walls, are the focal point of the office.

“In the summer, it's beautiful,” Mr. Smith says. “I was blown away that we were able to get this space.”

What's surprising is the office sat vacant for nearly a decade before the firm moved in. The space was completed in 1958—coincidentally, its designer was Skidmore—for Harris Bank and included offices and a private dining room.

When Messrs. Smith and Gill redesigned the interior, they left some original details, like stainless steel-clad columns and green marble walls. But there are modern touches, as well.

The partners work in glass-walled offices, and a bright red reception desk, which they designed, greets visitors in the lobby. The firm is known for creating super-tall towers, and models of their designs—created in-house—are displayed just off the courtyards.

“It's a key part of the office,” says Kevin Nance, the firm's director of publications. “Everyone gravitates to the displays.”