Boies Schiller Flexner (BSF), a globally recognized legal practice, has long operated with an entrepreneurial spirit while confined to the templated workplace of a more traditional law firm. The design team re-imagined their New York offices to align the built environment with the firm’s collaborative workstyle while fostering a uniquely egalitarian corporate culture.
BSF, like many other legal practices had maintained many of the legacy components of traditional legal space because as tradition would have it, that is how a law firm traditionally works best. With a 2016 decision to move to Hudson Yards, a new building yet to be built, they decided in consultation with the design team to expand their thinking to consider how they might occupy space for work without legacy constraints.
As an architectural and design consultancy, Schiller Projects was excited to be commissioned to work with BSF at this pivotal time in their history. Due to the benefit of our own inter-disciplinary team, we took on a multifaceted role which responded to many design-related challenges, outside of the traditional role of architects. This project represents a push into the greater role an architecture firm can play from re-thinking space to re-imagining the business practices that happen within that space. The final architectural design reflects the client’s design brief to foster a collaborative culture that was disconnected due to a stale environment and the persistent excuse of digital communication. The design team conceptually brought out the “core wall” to form a new inner boundary closer to the curtain wall - connecting people to light and each other - and canted and curved all these interior surfaces in concrete. The flowing organic nature of the design reminds people that there is something around the next corner, above or below you. A central sculpture spans the three main floors of the space connecting people visually across the business.
Critically, the design took associates out of private offices for the first time in a leading American legal practice. This controversial decision was supported by rigorous data analysis and a design focus on supporting the entire facility as “the office” freeing the focus on “the desk.”
BSF saw this move as an opportunity to also improve their community and culture, alter their means of communication, update their branding and marketing approaches, and overall rethink how they could best invest in the future of their practice.
We refocused on the SF of various support space per attorney based on work type. For example: if we removed the private office space, then we needed to assign the meetings that took place there to new room types based on frequency and duration. We were able to leverage the newly liberated square footage to diversify and democratize the space to better meet a broader platform of work. The worktypes studies and program analysis empowered a metric based proposal to completely re-write the design program.
To increase retention and encourage recruitment, we emphasized the creation of new types of space. We approached connectivity architecturally by understanding how and why employees interact with one another in an office setting. Impromptu meetings and new collaborative work spaces replace the legacy water cooler setting. These encounters can have a huge impact on feeling of the community.