Unitrin Insurance Headquarters

I designed a full floor of offices for the executive and legal departments of Unitrin Insurance. This was located in the Unitrin Building, a 40-story tower located at the intersection of Chicago’s State Street and the Chicago River. Unitrin built this building in 1960, and have proudly occupied it ever since. Elements of this office buildout recall the building’s exterior to honor the company’s history and stability, but also to give the customers and executives who visit this floor a little reminder of where they are.

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Upon arriving in the floor’s elevator lobby, the visitor’s eye is immediately drawn to the glowing wall at the end of the reception lobby. This glazed wall is free-standing, and combines artificial light with daylight.

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The reception desk, to the right of the entrance, features raised mahogany millwork, with a Cherokee white marble transaction counter, the same stone as used for the exterior of the building.

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Looking across the reception desk, the relationship of the glass sign wall with the windows can be seen. There’s another window behind the glass wall.

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The reception area had many design alternatives. We started with a simple, streamlined modern approach. This was seen by Unitrin’s project management team as in keeping with the building’s streamlined, minimalist aesthetic. I provided rendered three-dimensional views to facilitate speed and comprehension of the space.

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More detail was tried, but the top executives still weren’t falling in love with their space. I suspected that a more traditional approach would be appreciated, so I prepared three distinct treatments for millwork, and had the alternates priced by a couple of local millwork fabricators.

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Scheme C was full-on traditional, and given the amount of wood and detail, it was no surprise that it was the most expensive. But it was the scheme that the executives loved, so we proceeded with it.

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Traditional millwork was used throughout the floor, including the boardroom kitchen (above). The black granite counters match the black granite at the base of the building.

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Three dimensional renderings were used throughout the project to study form and materials. In yet another homage to the building’s exterior image, the existing painted metal elevator doors and frames were clad in stainless steel. The doors were etched with vertical bands in the same number and proportion as the exterior elevation of the executives’ beloved tower.

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This work was completed while I was an employee at Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. I provided complete project design, development and construction management services.

All drawings, renderings and photographs in this post were created by me.