The new workplace for international law firm Jones Day in New York offers a confident answer to the question: What should a law office look and feel like today? The designers at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) created an interior for Jones Day—the largest legal practice in the United States—that balances formality with cool serenity while drawing upon the sweeping views of Manhattan and New York Harbor. Completing a move from Midtown to Lower Manhattan, Jones Day occupies 330,000 square feet on the top seven floors of 250 Vesey Street in Brookfield Place, the Cesar Pelli–designed postmodern towers formerly known as the World Financial Center. Visitors arrive on the 34th floor into a reception lobby flanked by a large waiting area with a terrace and a second sitting area facing north across the city. This axial establishment of exterior views is utilized throughout the firm’s floors, the top of which is primarily client serving, while the remaining floors are geared toward the practice.
Forward-looking, with rigor
“The goal was to bring the essence of the exterior and the views into the design,” says Stephen Apking, FAIA, interior design partner at SOM in New York. “It’s disciplined, simple, and direct. The firm wanted the spaces to be forward-looking, and there is no difference in quality between the client-facing areas and the practice floor.”
Beyond the lobby are more sensational axial views and the perimeter terrace, formerly inaccessible, which has been upgraded with low vegetation-filled planters and sculpture. To take advantage of the sightlines, all perimeter conference rooms have glass partitions, large sections of which are transparent, while other portions are back-painted. The company’s blue chip art collection—including works by Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, and Kara Walker, among many others—lines the corridors. “The wonderful thing about their art collection is that it doesn’t feel corporate,” Apking says. “It feels personal, like visiting the home of the collector.”
Off-white terrazzo floors and pale stained oak slats lining the lobby bring forth a lightness that recalls the open sky. From the lobby, employees can take a terrazzo-and-steel stair down to the practice floors. Glass balustrades and cantilevered treads allow light and views around and through the staircase, strengthening the connection between levels. The blackened steel structure and thick steps provide a sense of solidity and security.
Enclosed, but maximizing an open feel
On the practice floors, nearly all of the offices—320 in total—are enclosed. The careful, orthogonal space planning and extensive use of transparent glass maintain an open feel. Using a Halcon furniture and casegoods system, SOM customized the units with a gray laminate finish to add to the serene, businesslike atmosphere. Illuminated ceiling planes provide even light distribution and add to the airiness inside the conference rooms, which include large versions of the Mesa table with a marble top, designed by SOM for Halcon. The tables feature under-surface data ports and power sources that are easily accessible by small tilt-down drawers.
Designed to the same level of detail as an upscale restaurant, a 70-seat firm dining room on the 33rd floor is a highlight of the interior. A custom brass chandelier spans the ceiling with a series of overlapping grids of tubes capped with tiny bulbs. Banquettes, surfaced in marble, contrast with wood-and-upholstered seating with curved backs. A retail-style cafeteria offers several stations with different cuisines along with grab-and-go options. Carefully detailed with stainless steel and stone finishes, the space feels akin to the upscale food halls that have become popular in the city.
For informal meetings or breaks, a pantry and large marble coffee bar are also on the 33rd floor, as well as a seminar room that can seat several hundred or be subdivided with folding walls for smaller events. An exclusive private gym with group exercise classrooms, changing rooms, and showers provides an incentive to linger in the office and work long hours.
One of the 10 largest law firms in the world, Jones Day has 44 offices globally. The New York office, somewhat surprisingly, was the first SOM interior for Jones Day attorneys. “They took their time and made sure that it was the right fit,” Apking says. “It was great to build something here together.”
who Architect and interior designer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Project team: Stephen Apking; Mark Regulinski; Emily Billheimer; Jason de Chambeau; Ye Li; John Pickens; Robert Connelly; Mary Broaddus; Lauren Kosson. Contractor: StructureTone. Lighting: Fisher Marantz Stone. Engineering: Robert Derector Associates. Kitchen: Romano Gatland. Landscape: Blondie’s Treehouse. Graphics and signage: Coyle & Company. Acoustician: Cerami & Associates. Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti. Wind studies: RWDI. IT/AV: Robert Derector Technology. Fitness: MediFit. Art: Ash Fine Art. Furniture: JAS Consulting. Project management: Gardiner & Theobald.
what Wallcoverings: Wolf-Gordon; Phillip Jeffries; Forbo; KnollTextiles. Paint: Sherwin-Williams. Laminate: Formica; Nevamar; Wilsonart. Dry wall: National Gypsum; Clark Dietrich. Movable walls: Skyfold; McKeon Fire Shutters. Glass walls: IOC Office Fronts; McGrory; Galaxy. Hard flooring: Zonca Terrazzo; Porcelanosa bathroom tile; Haywood Berk. Resilient flooring: Mondo; Roppe. Carpet/carpet tile: Bloomberg; Scott Group; Tandus. Ceilings: Armstrong. Panel grilles: Rulon. Recessed lighting: Cooper Lighting; Juno Lighting; LF Illumination; Reggiani; Focal Point. Floor/table lamps: Armani Casa. Pendants/chandeliers: Zaneen; Vision Quest Lighting. Other decorative: GE Lighting; Philips. Hardware: Schlage; Von Duprin; LCN; Rixon; Zero. Doors: Total Door. Architectural glass/glazing: IOC Office fronts; McGrory Glass; Galaxy Glass. Window treatments: Dedar; MechoShade. Workstations: Halcon (custom); Haworth. Seating: Steelcase; Davis; Bright; Holly Hunt; Minotti; Zographos; Knoll; Kush & Co.; Desiron. Upholstery: Holly Hunt. Tables: Halcon; Mark Jupiter; ABC Worldwide Stone; Viccarbe; Cumberland; Svend Nielsen; Gallotti&Radice; HBF. Storage: Office Specialty; Modern Office Systems; Aurora Shelving; Commercial File NY. Architectural/custom woodworking: PGS Millwork. Plumbing fixtures/fittings: Toto; Elkay; Fiat.