Things are looking up at Fallon Worldwide, a Minneapolis office by Perkins & Will
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 6/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
When Perkins & Will was hired to design the Minneapolis headquarters of ad agency Fallon Worldwide, principal James Young called the new client to ask exactly why his firm had won the competition. The reply: "Because I could tell how much you wanted this job." Enthusiasm, the ad executives theorized, would no doubt drive the architects to scale new creative heights. Little did anyone suspect, though, how dizzyingly high the plans would go.
Not only does Fallon's new home take up the top five floors of a 29-story tower in the Twin City's downtown business district, but Perkins & Will's program furthermore called for opening up the 145,000-square-foot space vertically as well as horizontally. The architects started from the top down, breaking through the roof to create a row of 12 skylights along the center of the floor plate. Toward the north end of the building, four of these skylights cap a glass-enclosed staircase that connects the three topmost stories.
Young marvels at the powerful impact made by light cascading down the stairwell's 18-foot square cutout. "It's like being in a canyon and looking up to see the sun pierce the darkness—it's unexpected, dynamic, and dramatic," he says. Guardrails are tempered glass; risers, treads, and spine are surfaced in earth-friendly bamboo. To keep fire marshals happy, the architects employed technically difficult encapsulation techniques: an integrated system of fire walls and gates, plus overhead fire shutters at the 27th floor.
The stairwell cum light well becomes the focal point for Fallon's public areas, serving as a backdrop for the unconventional 28th-floor reception area. Anyone with a fear of heights should proceed no farther than the elevator lobby. From here, visitors must cross a 24-foot-long catwalk with glass balustrades to reach the waiting lounge and conference zone. Halfway across the catwalk, a short perpendicular walkway leads to the reception desk. On either side of this walkway, the desk's maple-veneered front curves down through open space to the level below.
Near the waiting lounge, Young's team installed a break-out area with an amazing view of the Mississippi River and an angular recessed gas fireplace surrounded by 3/8-inch split-face stacked travertine. Smaller break-out galleys, tucked on either end of all five floors, are outfitted with a kitchen and TV monitors; maple stools pull up to café tables and counters topped by granite or plastic laminate. For supporting interaction of a more official kind, 100 small utilitarian meeting rooms, designed to accommodate up to four people, are scattered throughout all five floors.
An open floor plan overall combats what Young refers to the "silo tradition": different departments housed in separate zones. To encourage staff movement and communication, Young's team decided to mix it up, so an account executive on a BMW project might sit next to a media planner working on a Starbucks ad campaign. Distributed around the perimeter of each floor plate, identical maple-veneered custom workstations for Fallon's 385 employees are semicircular, explains Young, "like compact ergonomic cockpits." Quite an appropriate simile for such a sky's-the-limit environment.