October 1-3, 2018 | Chicago
The previous fourteen editions of the Design Retreat had international destinations, though it’s long been a desire of the firm to visit noteworthy domestic locations, and Chicago provided a target rich state-side alternative for the 2018 retreat. With our award-winning project at the University of Chicago recently completed and an abundance of extraordinary work by other architects to see, Chicago compelled us.
While always focused on buildings and places, we have a tradition of visiting aspirational firms. Having recently re-branded the firm and redesigned our Norfolk office, we were particularly interested in observing firm culture. In certain ways, the culture of a firm can be expressed in their process and reflected in a firm’s work. We sometimes see in other firms, a model for what we’d like to emulate. On this trip, we dropped in on Studio Gang, SOM, and Cannon Design, and saw both parallels and contrasts, all useful and enlightening as we shape our practice and culture.
We toured the Loop, seeing the Pritzker Pavilion and BP Pedestrian Bridge by Frank Gehry, Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa, and Cloud Gate (the Bean) by Anish Kapoor, all in Millennium Park. Along the Chicago River we saw Aqua Tower by Studio Gang, the Apple Store by Norman Foster, 333 Wacker Drive by Kohn Pederson Fox, 111 S, Wacker Drive by Goettsch Partners and the Willis (Sears) Tower by SOM, and slightly off the river, the Poetry Foundation by John Ronan, and further yet, the John Hancock Tower by SOM. In the course of our wanderings we saw significant historic buildings by Louis Sullivan, Burnham & Root, Mies van der Rohe, Bertrand Goldberg, and Howells & Hood. We also ventured to the south side to the University of Chicago and saw work by Murphy Jahn, SOM, Rafael Vinoly, and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and our own work with Studio Gang. At the Illinois Institute of Technology we toured S. R. Crown Hall by Mies van der Rohe, and recent buildings by Rem Koolhaas and Helmut Jahn.
As always seems to be the case, the meals shared, the transport time between destinations, and relaxing late night cordials allowed us time to mull over and talk about the revelations of the day.