Mark McMenamin -- Interior Design, 5/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
More than a gateway, a lobby is a calling card. To instantly announce the arrival of the Columbia Center—making the 415,000-square-foot office building stand out from what Hickok Cole Architects principal Michael E. Hickok calls the "dreary canyon" of precast-concrete structures near McPherson Square in Washington, D.C.—his design embraces the light. He says he envisioned the four-story, 4,220-square-foot atrium as a "glowing glass cube."
Dominating the lobby's focal wall is a row of giant vertical strips of backlit laminated glass, predominantly blue but punctuated by horizontal bands of yellow. "It's a conceptual waterfall," Hickok explains. The glass panels are fastened together with shiny stainless-steel fittings and placed at 3-foot intervals—gaps reveal the honey-tone anigre veneer of the paneling behind. Directly opposite the focal wall, a cluster of internally lit polycarbonate rods is planted, like a stand of bamboo. The rods not only cast a gentle white glow but also throw long, slender shadows across the gleaming beige and dark gray marble flooring and a series of benches made from slabs of schist. Thanks to the lobby's corner location and two glass sides, these subtle interplays are visible for blocks. How's that for political transparency?