Step Inside Warner’s New Detroit Law Offices Designed by HED

HED’s open design concept for Warner Norcross + Judd LLP (Warner) has accommodated for a safe return to office as employees have transitioned back to an in-person working environment in recent months. 

Located in the emerging District Detroit neighborhood just north of downtown, the new 2715 Woodward Class A office building opened for occupancy in 2021 and is now home to the new office of Warner Norcross + Judd (Warner). Designed by national design firm HED, the law firm’s new office occupies the third floor of the building, encompassing a total of 27,000 square feet. More than 50 private offices were designed into the space, with additional open workspaces and flexible amenity areas for collaboration.

Crafted through a highly hands-on, participatory design process, the design team learned a great deal through the study of the firm’s other eight offices throughout Michigan. Virtual walk-throughs were also hosted within the new building’s shell, allowing Warner employees to ask questions and contribute ideas along the way.

Ultimately, Warner’s goals were fully achieved with this space that feels open and full of natural light and offers great views of the city – inspiring and attractive for employees across the experience spectrum. This kind of attractive office environment has undoubtedly helped Warner as it continues its ongoing growth during these challenging recruiting times.

When was the project completed? 

May 2021 but occupation came later due to COVID.

How many SF per person?

412

How many employees work here?

68 Employees

What is average daily population?

60

Describe the work space type.

The Open Office: A unique take on an open office concept with added vertical ‘armatures’ that feel open and airy while simultaneously providing various degrees of privacy, storage and elevated greenery within the space. Surrounding spaces incorporate a combination of: Private offices along the perimeter and interior core areas, free address stations for visiting attorneys, designated workstations for administrative staff, and open plan environments that allow work in lounge settings.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

  • The Vault: A modern day law library sanctuary. A place for attorneys to get away from their desk for focused work. Tucked in the belly of the interior floor plate, shrouded in floor-to-ceiling glass patterned to mimic the perforated wall on the opposite side of the suite to allow light to filter in while sheltering the full view of those inside.
  • The Woodward Lounge: Located at the perimeter of the building along Woodward Avenue, this space is dedicated to employees only. A casual setting for a soft buzz of activity while overlooking the city.
  • The Media Room: Multiple wall monitors create a technology hub located directly adjacent to the client meeting space and social café. By day, a meeting space for clients and employees, by night a wonderful area to host guests for a game night, film viewing, etc.
  • Small, Medium and Large meeting rooms

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

A front of house kitchen, social bar, café seating, prep kitchen, storage for files & dry goods, mail/resource room, print/copy spaces, wellness room, coat room, and dedicated changing rooms

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

Downtown Detroit at 2715 Woodward Ave., Suite 300, Detroit, MI, located on a bus line and near Detroit’s QLine streetcar.

How is the space changing/adapting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The space was designed from the onset with the goal of providing ample space and a level of privacy / division between workstations which naturally allows for social distancing. The remainder of the workspace was designed with private offices for individual use and a variety of work-focused lounges that allow employees the choice of working individually away from their desk or with others. With so much variety to settings, we did not have to change the space as a result of the pandemic.

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

Yes. The process between HED and Warner was highly collaborative, from the project onset, HED worked with Warner leadership and their design committee to gain better knowledge of the types of daily activities and needs they had for their new space.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used to create the space?

The process between HED and Warner was highly collaborative, from the project onset, HED worked with Warner leadership and their design committee to gain better knowledge of the types of daily activities and needs they had for their new space.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

Yes, HED provided a program survey for employee input as well as conducted in-person workshops with employees.

Were there any other kinds of employee engagement activities?

  • Observations – HED toured & documented Warner’s existing space to understand how place and space is currently used
  • Workshops – HED worked with Warner to ideate future space, needs and goals
  • Virtual Reality walk-through’s & QR codes – HED developed to help iterate design options – employees could walk the space at their leisure and understand design ideas to provide feedback
  • Visual story book – that captured all the elements to show design concepts, trends, and comments from Warner – so the team could follow the process and see progress
  • Material exploration

Were any change management initiatives employed?

Warner looked at how the future of law would be practiced. The firm wanted to invite clients into a space that offered more than just heads-down legal work. The new design focuses on collaborative space where we can interact with clients in a number of formal and informal settings, perhaps most notably is the large Woodward lounge where we can socialize with visitors and build personal relationships.

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

  • The Vault: a modern take on the law library. Providing employees an enclosed space away from their desk. The design includes both lounge furniture and study-style desks for focused work. The space is central to where staff sit and tucked away from the social zones for privacy.
  • Media Room: A multi-purpose space that would allow for large meetings/trainings for staff and clients as well as a space that could open for social events. Equipped with an audio/visual wall and flexible furniture to allow for a variety of settings.

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

Yes, project goals included: maximizing natural light throughout the space for employees and guests. Providing a variety of settings and postures for flexibility and choice of work styles, and to create a dedicated private wellness room.

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

  • Live green wall at the café (Planterra)
  • Mull-it-Over partition to mullion acoustic closures
  • Large sliding doors (AD Systems)
  • Large format porcelain wall tile on kitchen backsplash (Iris Ceramica – Liquid Cosmo)
  • Linear Wood Acoustic Ceiling (Rulon)
  • 2×8 acoustic ceiling panels
  • K-13 acoustic spray at ceilings
  • Full height restroom stall partitions (Scranton Products – Aria)
  • Multi-panel video wall at media room
  • Ventless Fireplace (Modern Flames)
  • Custom millwork: screen panels & armatures at workstations

How were the products used and did they solve any specific problems?

  • Live green wall at the café: Designed as a turn-key solution in collaboration with Planterra, the green wall provides live plantings in individual pots that have a self-contained water drip irrigation. Pots are easily accessible and maintained. Specialty lighting was designed to provide plants with proper light levels.
  • Mull-it-Over partition to mullion acoustic closures: In collaboration with our acoustic partner, acoustic closures were provided throughout the space for an added layer of acoustic privacy.
  • Large sliding doors (AD Systems): Used in the media room to allow maximum flexibility and openness to the open social space during guest events.
  • Large format porcelain wall tile on kitchen backsplash (Iris Ceramica – Liquid Cosmo): In an effort to elevate the quality of fit and finish, large format porcelain wall tile was used to resemble a marble-look as a feature wall in the open social space at the bar.
  • Linear Wood Acoustic Ceiling (Rulon): Designed to warm the space and to create more of a feature at the ceiling. Incorporating wood with an acoustic treatment for maximum functionality at an acoustically sensitive area at the large meeting rooms.
  • 2×8 acoustic ceiling panels: A large format acoustic ceiling tile to create a slightly more elevated look to a simple material in functional spaces like conference rooms.
  • K-13 acoustic spray at ceilings: A large portion of the open workspace is exposed ceiling, applied K-13 acoustic spray helped with acoustics while maintaining an open feel.
  • Full height restroom stall partitions (Scranton Products – Aria): The toilet rooms have been designed with an elevated aesthetic, including full height stall partitions for maximum privacy, and designated changing rooms.
  • Multi-panel video wall at media room: Linked monitors create a dynamic video wall for both employee engagement and as a social element when hosting guests for a social event.
  • Ventless Fireplace (Modern Flames): Located at the lobby as a specialty feature, a ventless and flameless fireplace creates more of a hospitality aesthetic for guests and employees.
  • Custom millwork: screen panels & armatures at workstations: Located throughout the space to provide a variety to the open landscape between workstations. Used as natural dividers, areas for plantings and acoustic separation.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

  • Acoustics: With the addition of acoustic elements (wall/ceiling treatments & door seals) the environment feels very comfortable and quiet, especially in larger volume spaces & social areas.
  • Manufacturer: Whisper Wall & Maharam Product Name: Acoustic Panels
  • Manufacturer: Filzfelt Product Name: Acoustic Walls
  • Furniture: Overall furniture selections provide a variety of postures and settings for maximum flexibility and choice. Manufacturer: Haworth
  • Fireplace: Modern Flames
  • Wall Tile: Iris Ceramica – Liquid Cosmo

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

Warner signage was incorporated into the design at the entry lobby. In addition, Warner provided in-house brand graphic signage throughout the space as wayfinding elements.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

The balance and placement of active and focused settings is the most unique feature of the WARNER environment. Employees and guests have a variety of settings to choose from whether you are looking for a quiet place to work, or if you want to socialize and work with a team.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

There is a designated wellness room that provides complete privacy

What kinds of technology products were used?

Multi-panel video wall at media room, motorized window shades, electric fireplace. Warner provided all their own internal IT and AV.

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

Our move was complicated by COVID. When the new office opened in April 2021, most firm members were still ensconced in their home offices. Although firm leadership was eager to staff the office, we needed to be cognizant of and respectful to each person’s individual circumstance and comfort level. Therefore, we’ve been slowly ramping to full occupancy over the past ten months while allowing employees’ flexibility to work from home.

How did the company communicate the changes and moves?

Warner engaged employees at all stages of the design and build process. In addition to our diverse design committee that most directly led the effort, all firm members had a voice in the process including an open vote to move from the suburbs into the city center. As a result, firm members had a shared sense of ownership and strong engagement throughout.

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

Warner needs to attract and retain attorneys. Our welcoming space is located in the heart of Detroit, just steps away from the city’s key business, entertainment and cultural attractions. As a result, the firm is attracting attorneys, ranging from young associates in their 20’s to more senior partners in the 60’s. We wanted to design a space where people would just naturally want to be, and we think we accomplished that.

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

  • HED / Project Role: Architect, Interior Designer, MEP and Structural Engineer
  • Oliver/Hatcher /Project Role: General Contractor
  • ABD Engineering & Design / Project Role: Acoustic Consultant
  • Interphase (Grand Rapids) / Project Role: Furniture Dealership
  • Planterra / Project Role: Interior plants (live wall)
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