When Los Angeles design and fabrication firm Arktura started working with Partners by Design Chicago on Mead Johnson Nutrition’s Chicago office, they had a challenging task to accomplish. The client, a major manufacturer of baby formula, wanted an acoustical ceiling installation that not only attenuated sound across its 61,660-square-foot office, but also one that communicated their brand’s mission to nourish children around the world. Oh, and it had to be earthy-friendly, too. The company’s new headquarters in the Windy City sits at the intersection of the north, south, and east branches of the Chicago River. Arktura took that watery influence and ran with it, expediting the development and launch of its Soft Sound Wood Finish product, a PET-based, fully recyclable acoustical material that mimics wood grain. The firm installed the material using a custom application of its Atmosphera Analog 3D ceiling system, an attachment system of morphing fins and baffles. Using these two products in concert, Arktura echoed the soft undulations of the Chicago river across the large office space, resulting in a beautifully designed, high-performance sound attenuation ceiling system that made the connection between water, a symbol of life, and Mead Johnson’s mission statement.
Interior Design sat down with Sebastian Muñoz, Arktura’s director of project design and development, to learn more about the particulars of this exacting project.
Interior Design: What was your approach to the Mead Johnson Nutrition project?
Sebastian Muñoz: The client was really drawn to the site’s natural surroundings and location, and they wanted to use a natural palette. Our approach was to incorporate the organic movements of water with another natural, but more inflexible element: wood. We wanted to marry the fluid, flexible image of water with the warmth and sturdiness of wood.
Interior Design: What was the biggest design challenge?
SM: The most difficult part was actually the most fun part. Getting all the little details to fit together just right can get complicated when you are coordinating with a lot of different people on a project. Having a great team made that part achievable.
Interior Design: What does this project represent in Arktura’s overall profile?
SM: The Mead Johnson Nutrition headquarters showcases how we are constantly pushing ourselves in terms of R&D and manufacturing. We used Soft Sound Wood Finish for the first time for this project, which is also completely new to the architectural industry. I’m very proud of the level of R&D we pushed through, especially for such a high-profile space.
Interior Design: What design problems does your product solve in the Mead Johnson Nutrition project?
SM: From a performance standpoint, our aim for this product was to create a pleasant acoustically treated space. When someone is standing a floor below, talking to a colleague, and the room responds well acoustically, they shouldn’t even notice what’s going on—it should just sound and feel natural. That means our product is working very well.
Interior Design: What’s next for Arktura?
SM: We’ve expanded our manufacturing team to increase the scope of our capabilities, including our use of robotics. We’re also expanding our range of custom services. We just finished seven sports stadium canopies at Orange County Great Park, in Irvine, CA, one of the largest sports facilities in the country.
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