A Houston Law Firm Balances Functionality with a Sense of Modernity

With this being Winstead Attorneys’ third office location, Perkins+Will, gives its Houston office a flexible workplace with a local personality

When Winstead Attorneys decided to renovate their Houston office, they turned to Perkins+Will, previously lauckgroup, to do the job. Having previously designed a number of Winstead offices, lauckgroup set out to create a design for the downtown office that offers a fresh and flexible workplace for the well-established law firm.

The new, 54,000-square-foot space in the downtown area was designed to allow the firm to grow quickly and includes larger open spaces, a conference center, and offices for 75 lawyers. Staying true to the art and culture focus of the Houston locale, the designers, introduced a distinctively light and airy design intended to instill a feeling of community within the once dark space. With the goal of balancing functionality with a sense of modernity, the design team focused on creating open, architectural touch points to celebrate the strong sense of camaraderie evident among Winstead’s people.

Winstead features a brightly lit reception area outfitted with a concrete 3D tile installation, designed to symbolize the company’s diverse workplace culture and act as an anchoring point within the space.

When was the project completed?   

2017

How much space (SF)? 

Level 50: 8,767 USF, Level 51: 20,185 USF, Level 52: 20,187 USF)

Was this new or renovated space?

Renovation

SF per person? 

415

How many employees?

130

Centralized, multi-use workspaces provide a practical use for requirements today that can easily transform for Winstead’s future needs.

Describe workspace types.

  • From spacious communal areas to flexible conference rooms, centralized, multi-user workspaces provide a practical use for requirements today that can easily transform for Winstead’s future needs.
  • Sit-to-stand desking spaces are provided for heads-down work

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

There are a number of different types of meeting spaces, including open communal areas and flexible conference rooms. Even the traditional ‘war rooms’ were abandoned in exchange for multifunctional rooms that could accommodate both storage and attorney collaboration.

What other kinds of support space or amenity spaces are provided?

With the goal of balancing functionality with a sense of modernity, the design team focused on creating open, architectural touch points to celebrate the strong sense of camaraderie evident among Winstead’s people.

What are the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities? 

The project is located in a great spot at JP Morgan Chase Tower in downtown Houston. It’s at the intersection of Houston’s two light rail lines, adjacent to the theater district, and surrounded by food and beverage options.

Centralized, multi-use workspaces provide a practical use for requirements today that can easily transform for Winstead’s future needs.

Was the “C” Suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how? 

The main points of contact were with managing representatives from both Dallas and Charlotte who were able to keep the designers on track with the firm’s global business and project goals. In addition, Winstead had a fantastic local design advisory committee made up of a diverse group from the Houston office. This team was critical in communicating the local office’s culture, preferences, and functionality. Their input was invaluable in shaping the project to be something appropriate and tangible to those using the space. With this being Perkins + Will third office location to design for Winstead, they have continually appreciated the firm’s desire to give each build out a local personality versus solely attributing corporate aesthetic standards across the nation.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?

There was a fairly dense programming book for this project. Some of the activities included a visioning meeting to determine goals and framework for the project, focus groups across all levels of attorneys and staff, and analysis of existing space used for work, meeting, and storage. Coupled with these conversations and evaluations were ongoing planning studies and strategies so that dialogue and design were happening in tandem – giving both camps the opportunity to influence each other.

Was there any other kind of employee engagement activities?

Yes, the design team met with each person in the office via focus groups. This included everyone from the file clerks to the most senior shareholders. The team asked specific questions to understand proper functionality and office aesthetic, but also opened it up to free conversation for employees to express whatever was on their minds. The designers wanted to know what Winstead Houston meant to each person and why each individual chose to work for this firm in particular.

Were any change management initiatives employed?

The local Winstead advisory committee was helpful in communicating ongoing feedback from employees as well as relaying project progress. The team had a series of more formal presentations to shareholders to keep them apprised of the process.

The new space features spacious communal areas and flexible conference rooms.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

More than ever, flexibility is a key priority for law firm design. The design team delved into this feature further on this project with special study and consideration for ‘flex rooms.’ A wide range of features to each room was implemented in order to function as meeting space, work/war room, heads down, research, or file organization by means of flexible furniture solutions and access to technology. It allowed these spaces to accommodate a wide range of needs over time as the profession continues to change.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

Plantlife strategically placed throughout and abundant access to natural daylight act as a sequencing path through the office and contribute to an overall sense of well being for occupants as they move from the entrance through the public spaces.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

Challenging the traditional notions of law offices, the design team chose a light color palette—with hints of vibrant hues from LED color-changing light installations while sit-to-stand desking solutions were incorporated in a variety of configurations to further encourage teamwork within the office.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

As attorneys and their clients step off the elevator into the new office, they are greeted by a brightly lit reception area outfitted with a concrete 3D tile installation, designed to symbolize Winstead’s diverse workplace culture and act as an anchoring point within the space.

The break room features corten steel planters, textured ceiling motifs, concrete, and glass table tops, and white-washed wood that allude to the fresh and modern yet warm spirit of the Winstead culture.

What is the most unique feature of the new space? 

Feature lighting installations in the reception and breakroom provide stunning focal elements, serving as art pieces that nod to Houston’s renowned modern craft scene.

What kind of technology products were used?

A concrete 3D tile installation is wrapped into a soft curve that guides visitors through spacious communal areas and flexible conference rooms, aiding in wayfinding throughout the entryway of the office.

If the company relocated to new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?

One difficult aspect for employees was the internal “commute” as the higher floor required an additional elevator leg to a secondary lobby. Another element was acclamation to the new design element – the change from a closed off, dark wood, traditional space to one of open, collaborative spaces, with glass walls and the introduction of significant natural light throughout the space.

How did the company communicate about the changes and moves?

Beginning months before final plans/construction began, committees of lawyers and staff began visioning exercises and feedback program meetings. Updates were consistently provided leading up to, through and beyond buildout. Updates were in the form of in-person meetings and email communications relating to, advanced move planning, progress updates, timeline adjustments, and utility/access/communications disruptions.

The space includes larger open spaces and offices for 75 lawyers.

If so, what were the most surprising, illuminating or hoped-for results?

One of the themes around which the design was shaped was celebrating the Houston office’s history of a strong cultural community while looking ahead to their bright, modern future. Walking the floors of the renovated space truly do accomplish this atmospheric goal. The brand and culture of the Winstead Houston group are felt amongst the bright daylight spaces, the warm textural materials, and the unique architectural and lighting features. It is a comfortable and welcoming space – which is reflective of the people that work there.

If a change management program was in place, what were the most successful strategies?

The most successful element was the transformation to a bright, energetic and healthy environment that was functional and promoted teamwork. The result was a creation of flexible spaces that facilitate collaboration for attorneys and staff.

The 3D tile installation is wrapped into a soft curve that guides visitors through spacious communal areas and flexible conference rooms.

Tell us more!

Interior Architect/Designer: lauckgroup, now Perkins+Will

MEP: IA Naman.

Construction Management: Cushman & Wakefield.

Lighting design: Taylor & Miller.

GC: O’Donnell Snider.

Furniture dealer: GL Seaman.

Images courtesy of Garrett Rowland

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