Meet The Winners: Eastlake Studio’s Vertical Agora

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Chair Of The Month

Emma Weckerling
Emma Weckerling
Emma is the Managing Editor of Work Design Magazine.

Meet the Eastlake Studio team: winners in the Office Building category and honorable mention in the Common Shared Amenities category.

Christina Brown, Principal, Designer 

Peter Randolph, Director, Architect

Reyes Sanchez, Technical Designer

Andy Naoumov, Technical Designer  

Megan Stroud, Designer

Camille Hunter, Graphic Designer

Karen Chow, Design Intern 

Check out their submission:

This is a theoretical project envisioned by the team.

At the very moment when pandemic-enforced isolation and atomization suggests the death of the urban office, the persistent human desire for collectivity has created a paradoxical result. As traditional office spaces, structures, and concepts evaporate, they will distill into a newly defined space for work and play, allowing for opportunistic interactions and shared resources.

Being together—as citizens, colleagues, in person and virtually— is already shaping the next wave of workplace design, and it will grow to exemplify the new normal. Additionally, office buildings will do more to give back to their communities, understanding their position as one piece of the woven fabric of the city. As a result of this, building amenities, which are so often spread out from the rooftop to the basement, have the powerful potential to shift to lower levels to increase their engagement with the public sphere.

We used 300 North LaSalle in Chicago as our case study to showcase how this tactic could enhance their prime location. Inspired by the ancient Greek “assembly place,” Vertical Agora layers public incubator space within the lower floors of a riverfront high rise office tower, transitioning into coworking and meeting spaces on top. In this amenities program, both the tenants and other civilians have access to practical assets that support mental, physical, and social wellness.

Not only does the amenities plan provide areas where anyone can directly interact with nature and the urban environment, it enhances the financial and cultural value and use of the office building. A street-grade plaza connects sectionally to the Chicago Riverwalk with attractions for the public on a lower level, including market kiosks for local vendors. The plaza slopes into the water, allowing watercraft to dock, and providing dynamic scenery of people, their urban canvas, and nature. A low, semi-autonomous volume to the west (currently a restaurant) serves as a vertical linchpin between the water, the street level public programs, and the semi-private programs in the levels above. The second floor contains exhibition space for community art projects, a gym to promote physical wellness, and conferencing programs to support the work happening in the tower above. Above them are two floors of flexible, reconfigurable coworking space where tenants can offer their staff a drop-in work area, and individuals can rent out desks as needed.

In a world of endless novel amenities, Vertical Agora provides spaces akin to university commons that aid in reconnecting people after what was, for many, a long and lonely pandemic. No longer just a “perk,” the idea of a building common amenity will expand, resurface, and coalesce into a new typology: a public interface between the urban realm and the private occupancy of the office tower; a layered resource for visitors, workers, innovators, and revelers; and a building within a building.

Click on an image to see it full size.

To celebrate their win, we connected with the team to see how their idea evolved since it was submitted.

“Our idea has been reinforced by the need for community support over the past few months, as people return to urban centers after isolation. We’ve all suffered a collective trauma during the pandemic. As we revert back into mask mandates and other protective measures to fight the new variant, open air spaces, camaraderie, and interactions with nature—all parts of our amenities program—are more important than ever. Office buildings can’t move forward in this new world without accentuating the significance of the public spaces they occupy, and prioritizing the health and wellbeing of tenants.”

Comments from the Jury:

I really love the connection to the river and the activation of the waterfront that’s proposed in this particular solution. I think the solution could really be fit for a future of working.

I appreciate that this submission starts to ask some different questions around how we program our work spaces.

The big plus for me with this concept is moving more of the ground level space, the easy Public Access space into public use, coworking, club type of space, and making it much more accessible.

🏆 Did this submission earn your vote? Vote for the People’s Choice award here! 🏆

Voting ends September 24th – one vote per person. 

A special thank you to our sponsors: 


Thank you to our 2021 Market Partners: Workplace Evolutionaries (WE) • Allwork.Space • IFMA Foundation • ACT • IIDA

Emma Weckerling
Emma Weckerling
Emma is the Managing Editor of Work Design Magazine.
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