Tag Archives: Skidmore

SOM Fashions Former Chicago Firehouse Into Bespoke Men’s Hat Atelier

PROJECT NAME Optimo
LOCATION Chicago
FIRM Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
SQ. FT. 7,700 SQF

Chicago is renowned for myriad phenomena. Jazz and the blues. Politics. Pizza. And, of course, architecture. But hats? Yes, according to Graham Thompson, founder of Optimo, a men’s hat company based in the city’s South Side. Steady growth over its 25-year existence has called for expansion—and a new space. It comes courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 82-year-old firm with significant ties to the city.

> Project Resources

Thompson has been a hat devotee since he was 16, when he’d saved up for two years to purchase his first one from legendary Chicago hatmaker Johnny Tyus. He eventually apprenticed with Tyus for seven years, and then, upon graduating college and Tyus’s retirement, Thompson bought his equipment and opened Optimo. Last year, when it came time to move someplace larger, he found the ideal venue in a 1914 firehouse about a mile from his original location.

Custom steel armatures power and illuminate the machines in the workroom. The same metal forms the custom rolling racks along the window wall. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

Though derelict for years, the 7,700-square-foot, two-story building was “built like a brick tank,” Thompson recalls. Interiors, though, were another story. “It looked like a bomb went off.” To re-envision it as a bona fide factory and showroom, Thompson’s dream was to enlist SOM. The firm values craftsmanship, authenticity, and timeless luxury just as he does, but rarely takes on projects of such scope.

Fortunately, retired SOM managing partner Richard Tomlinson is an Optimo collector and helped facilitate a meeting between Thompson and the firm. Although a small endeavor, design partner Brian Lee saw an opportunity. “It’s a great story for the city,” the architect says, “helping to continue a rich history of craftsmanship in South Chicago. Plus, the building was in better shape than others we’d seen before.”

Optimo felt hats line shelves formed from aircraft cable. Photography by AJ Trela.

Thompson had already gotten the renovation ball rolling by commissioning a pair of gleaming brass-clad entry doors. Then SOM took charge. Masonry was re-pointed and cleaned, especially on the interior, with its grimy diesel residue. Other walls were re-plastered. Upstairs, which is dedicated mostly to the showroom, new stained oak flooring was installed. On the double-height ground floor, the existing concrete floor was sealed and polished. That’s the workroom where each hat, ranging from $395 for straw to $1,000 for felt, gets handmade by Thompson and his seven-person team. Expressed as a contemporary workshop with an industrial aesthetic, its design draws from a palette of understated materials and colors.

To plan the space, Lee first researched the making of men’s hats, which involves blocking, surface- and brim-edge finishing, trimming, flanging, shaping, and steaming—a process that takes from two to six weeks to complete. “It helped us determine the organization of the machinery with the right power and lighting and how much space each machine would require,” he explains. “We ended up falling in love with them,” referring to such pieces as the French steam table that dates to the early 1900’s. (SOM painted all the machines, old and new, a dark gray for uniformity.)

Laminated glass covers the aperture left by the firehouse pole, so the workroom is visible from the upstairs showroom. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

That research resulted in what Lee calls “goal-post lighting,” brawny blackened-steel armatures with integral LEDs and power capability that frame the trio of workbenches arrayed down the center of the workroom floor. Along one side of the space, rolling hat-storage racks lined up between the window bays are framed in the same metal. Toward the back is the walnut and cork hatter’s wall, a nearly floor-to-ceiling construction that houses hundreds of hat forms plus the doors to the sewing and surface-finishing rooms behind it.

The second floor emits an airier, more refined aesthetic compared to the industrial vibe downstairs. But it didn’t start out that way. It had similar proportions to the workroom—“almost too overscale for the gracious feeling we were going for,” Lee notes. So, he and his team tempered the scale by installing a kitchen and an office for Thompson, and then creating a steel pendant fixture 10 feet in diameter to center the remaining showroom space. The fixture is like “an extended wing,” he adds, anchored by cables from a central escutcheon. Below it, a lengthy table crafted from two solid planks of walnut hosts design discussions between Thompson and his clients. He can narrate the history of the hat-making craft with the rare vintage tools and artifacts displayed in the tall steel-framed shelving unit nearby and throughout the atelier—he has traveled to over 15 countries in search of them.

Stained oak flooring flows through the lounge, furnished with Mermelada Estudio sofas. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

Off the showroom, a portal of walnut repurposed from Thompson’s original hatter’s bench leads to the lounge, the firehouse’s former captain’s room. But what’s a firehouse without a pole? Yes, this venue once had one, but it was stolen. So, Lee and his team decided to fit the aperture with a round of transparent laminated glass. Now, with light from the showroom’s windows streaming deep into the workroom below, craftsmanship is clearly on display.

> Project Resources

Project Team: Jaime Velez; Jeremy Bouck; Daniel Bell; Dennis Milam; Rebecca Delaney; Michelle Mirrielees; Dickson Whitney III: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Bureau of Architecture and Design: Design Consultant. Carpenter Corey: Woodwork. Bader Art Metal & Fabrication: Metalwork. Hugo Sanchez: Plasterwork. Cotter Consulting: Project Management. Helios Construction Services: General Contractor.

See more from the April issue of Interior Design

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Continue reading SOM Fashions Former Chicago Firehouse Into Bespoke Men’s Hat Atelier

SOM Fashions Former Chicago Firehouse Into Bespoke Men’s Hat Atelier

PROJECT NAME Optimo
LOCATION Chicago
FIRM Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
SQ. FT. 7,700 SQF

Chicago is renowned for myriad phenomena. Jazz and the blues. Politics. Pizza. And, of course, architecture. But hats? Yes, according to Graham Thompson, founder of Optimo, a men’s hat company based in the city’s South Side. Steady growth over its 25-year existence has called for expansion—and a new space. It comes courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 82-year-old firm with significant ties to the city.

> Project Resources

Thompson has been a hat devotee since he was 16, when he’d saved up for two years to purchase his first one from legendary Chicago hatmaker Johnny Tyus. He eventually apprenticed with Tyus for seven years, and then, upon graduating college and Tyus’s retirement, Thompson bought his equipment and opened Optimo. Last year, when it came time to move someplace larger, he found the ideal venue in a 1914 firehouse about a mile from his original location.

Custom steel armatures power and illuminate the machines in the workroom. The same metal forms the custom rolling racks along the window wall. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

Though derelict for years, the 7,700-square-foot, two-story building was “built like a brick tank,” Thompson recalls. Interiors, though, were another story. “It looked like a bomb went off.” To re-envision it as a bona fide factory and showroom, Thompson’s dream was to enlist SOM. The firm values craftsmanship, authenticity, and timeless luxury just as he does, but rarely takes on projects of such scope.

Fortunately, retired SOM managing partner Richard Tomlinson is an Optimo collector and helped facilitate a meeting between Thompson and the firm. Although a small endeavor, design partner Brian Lee saw an opportunity. “It’s a great story for the city,” the architect says, “helping to continue a rich history of craftsmanship in South Chicago. Plus, the building was in better shape than others we’d seen before.”

Optimo felt hats line shelves formed from aircraft cable. Photography by AJ Trela.

Thompson had already gotten the renovation ball rolling by commissioning a pair of gleaming brass-clad entry doors. Then SOM took charge. Masonry was re-pointed and cleaned, especially on the interior, with its grimy diesel residue. Other walls were re-plastered. Upstairs, which is dedicated mostly to the showroom, new stained oak flooring was installed. On the double-height ground floor, the existing concrete floor was sealed and polished. That’s the workroom where each hat, ranging from $395 for straw to $1,000 for felt, gets handmade by Thompson and his seven-person team. Expressed as a contemporary workshop with an industrial aesthetic, its design draws from a palette of understated materials and colors.

To plan the space, Lee first researched the making of men’s hats, which involves blocking, surface- and brim-edge finishing, trimming, flanging, shaping, and steaming—a process that takes from two to six weeks to complete. “It helped us determine the organization of the machinery with the right power and lighting and how much space each machine would require,” he explains. “We ended up falling in love with them,” referring to such pieces as the French steam table that dates to the early 1900’s. (SOM painted all the machines, old and new, a dark gray for uniformity.)

Laminated glass covers the aperture left by the firehouse pole, so the workroom is visible from the upstairs showroom. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

That research resulted in what Lee calls “goal-post lighting,” brawny blackened-steel armatures with integral LEDs and power capability that frame the trio of workbenches arrayed down the center of the workroom floor. Along one side of the space, rolling hat-storage racks lined up between the window bays are framed in the same metal. Toward the back is the walnut and cork hatter’s wall, a nearly floor-to-ceiling construction that houses hundreds of hat forms plus the doors to the sewing and surface-finishing rooms behind it.

The second floor emits an airier, more refined aesthetic compared to the industrial vibe downstairs. But it didn’t start out that way. It had similar proportions to the workroom—“almost too overscale for the gracious feeling we were going for,” Lee notes. So, he and his team tempered the scale by installing a kitchen and an office for Thompson, and then creating a steel pendant fixture 10 feet in diameter to center the remaining showroom space. The fixture is like “an extended wing,” he adds, anchored by cables from a central escutcheon. Below it, a lengthy table crafted from two solid planks of walnut hosts design discussions between Thompson and his clients. He can narrate the history of the hat-making craft with the rare vintage tools and artifacts displayed in the tall steel-framed shelving unit nearby and throughout the atelier—he has traveled to over 15 countries in search of them.

Stained oak flooring flows through the lounge, furnished with Mermelada Estudio sofas. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

Off the showroom, a portal of walnut repurposed from Thompson’s original hatter’s bench leads to the lounge, the firehouse’s former captain’s room. But what’s a firehouse without a pole? Yes, this venue once had one, but it was stolen. So, Lee and his team decided to fit the aperture with a round of transparent laminated glass. Now, with light from the showroom’s windows streaming deep into the workroom below, craftsmanship is clearly on display.

> Project Resources

Project Team: Jaime Velez; Jeremy Bouck; Daniel Bell; Dennis Milam; Rebecca Delaney; Michelle Mirrielees; Dickson Whitney III: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Bureau of Architecture and Design: Design Consultant. Carpenter Corey: Woodwork. Bader Art Metal & Fabrication: Metalwork. Hugo Sanchez: Plasterwork. Cotter Consulting: Project Management. Helios Construction Services: General Contractor.

See more from the April issue of Interior Design

For More Information About This Blog Post, Click Here! 

Benny Chan Receives Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award

Edmunds.com headquarters in Los Angeles by M+M Creative Studio. Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.

Mention the phrase architectural photographer, and a few names come immediately to mind. Julius Shulman, arguably the best of our time and a special Interior Design Hall of Fame inductee, is undoubtedly the first. Benny Chan tops the list, too. So, it’s only fitting that he will receive the 2018 Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award in conjunction with Los Angeles’s Woodbury University.

Full disclosure: Chan is a profound personal and professional friend of all of us at Interior Design. With his artistry and grace, he helps our pages and covers look great month after month. He’s a joy to work with whether shooting on the West Coast near his home base of Los Angeles, on the East Coast near our New York City headquarters, or further afield in Europe or Asia. The close coterie of designers and architects with which he works feels the same way. In short, everyone loves Benny.

CBRE’s Glendale office by Gensler. Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.

He shoots not only architecture and interiors but fine art photography, filtered through his unique take on seemingly mundane subjects. L.A. traffic? Runways at LAX? Their images become works of art through Chan’s eyes and technical ingenuity. He has shot these series dangling from a helicopter harness shouldering an immense camera of his own making. How about forlorn laundromats at night? Or hospital x-rays rendered stunning black and white abstracts via his vision. Further abroad, he has shot the impeccable Vitra factory, helping us understand why its products, too, veer on works of art. His latest endeavor, a series on Los Angeles architecture under construction, is the subject of his exhibition at the Woodbury University Hollywood (WUHO) Gallery, opening May 12.

Hong Kong-born, Chan earned a bachelor of architecture degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) where he received the Henry Adams Student Award and the 1992 Paris Prize. He then traveled through Europe focusing on his dual passions of architecture and photography. Returning to Los Angeles, he worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Neil M. Denari Architects. Opting for full-time photography, he established Fotoworks in 1993.

WithMe’s Los Angeles outpost by Giorgio Borruso Design, a 2017 Best of Year winner for Small Retail. Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.
Drago Ristorante in Los Angeles by Felderman Keatinge & Associates. Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.
Gores Group’s Los Angeles headquarters by Belzberg Architects and Joan Behnke & Associates. Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.

Continue reading Benny Chan Receives Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award

HOW ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN FIRMS WORK WITH PHOTOGRAPHERS

01-FEAT-Architecture-SOM-USAFA-CCLD-SOM-MagdaBiernat-1914

Magda Biernat photographed a Skidmore, Owings & Merrill building at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. SOM tends to build long-term relationships with photographers “because there is a learning curve with every new photographer,” says SOM photo coordinator Lucas Blair Simpson.

Continue reading HOW ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN FIRMS WORK WITH PHOTOGRAPHERS

The Most Expensive Buildings in the U.S.

Ask the average American which city contains nearly half of America’s most expensive buildings and what would they say? New York, perhaps? Or maybe Los Angeles? Chicago, for those who know of the Windy City’s rich architectural history? But alas, none of those answers would be correct. According to a new survey by Emporis (a data website that collects information about buildings around the world), Las Vegas houses nine out of the 20 most expensive buildings in the country. While big-name architects and location both play a part in the final cost, oftentimes it’s the infrastructure that makes a million-dollar design turn into a multimillion-dollar project. Below, ADsurveys the 20 most expensive buildings in the United States.

 

Millennium Tower

Building: Millennium Tower
Location: Boston, MA
Cost: $620 million
Year: 2016
Architect: Handel Architects

The Mirage

Building: The Mirage
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $650 million
Year: 1989
Architect: Joel Bergman

Palms Place

Building: Palms Place
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $650 million
Year: 2008
Architect: KGA Architecture

 

Belfer Research Building

Building: Belfer Research Building
Location: New York, NY
Cost: $650 million
Year: 2014
Architects: Todd Schliemann, Ennead Architects

Rush Hospital, East Tower

Building: The Rush Hospital, East Tower
Location: Chicago, IL
Cost: $654 million
Year: 2012
Architect: Perkins & Will

7 World Trade Center

Building: 7 World Trade Center
Location: New York, NY
Cost: $700 million
Year: 2006
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

 

Elara

Building: Elara
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $750 million
Year: 2009
Architect: Gerald Koi

Devon Energy Center

Building: Devon Energy Center
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Cost: $750 million
Year: 2012
Architect: Jon Pickard

Paris Las Vegas

Building: Paris Las Vegas
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $785 million
Year: 1999
Architect: Joel Bergman

 

The New York Times Building

Building: The New York Times Building
Location: New York, NY
Cost: $850,000,000
Year: 2007
Architect: Renzo Piano

Trump International Hotel & Tower

Building: Trump International Hotel & Tower (center)
Location: Chicago, IL
Cost: $850 million
Year: 2009
Architect: Adrian Smith, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa

Building: Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $925 million
Year: 2006
Architect: Friedmutter Group

 

MGM Grand Resort & Casino

Building: MGM Grand Resort & Casino
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $1 billion
Year: 1993
Architect: Veldon Simpson

SunTrust Financial Centre

Building: SunTrust Financial Centre
Location: Tampa, FL
Cost: $1 billion
Year: 1992
Architect: Cooper Carry

Bank of America Tower

Building: Bank of America Tower
Location: New York, NY
Cost: $1 billion
Year: 2009
Architects: COOKFOX Architects and Adamson Associates Architects

 

Wilshire Grand Center

Building: Wilshire Grand Center
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Cost: $1.2 billion
Year: 2017
Architect: AC Martin Partners

The Palazzo

Building: The Palazzo
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $1.9 billion
Year: 2007
Architect: HKS

Goldman Sachs Headquarters

Building: Goldman Sachs Headquarters
Location: New York, NY
Cost: $2.1 billion
Year: 2010
Architects: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and Adamson Associates Architects

 

Wynn Las Vegas

Building: Wynn Las Vegas
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: $2.7 billion
Year: 2005
Architect: Marnell Corrao Associates

One World Trade Center

Building: One World Trade Center
Location: New York, NY
Cost: $3.8 billion
Year: 2014
Architects: David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

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