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SOUND VISION, INC.
1450 DAVIS ROAD
ELGIN, IL 60123
847 742 6000
Sound Vision

UNIQUE HEADQUARTERS COMBINES OUTSTANDING TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN
 
Boardroom with rear projection screen.
Boardroom with rear projection screen. Click for more photos.

Building exterior with massive Shure logo.
Building exterior with massive Shure logo. Click for more photos of the exterior.
How does a technology company today show its leadership?

That was the challenge architect Murphy/Jahn, interior designer HOK, Inc. and AV integrator Sound Vision took on in designing the new headquarters for audio products manufacturer Shure in north suburban Chicago.

The new building combines terrific architecture with cutting-edge presentation systems. Among the most dramatic architectural elements is a "supergraphics" theme which puts a giant Shure logo on two steel and mesh billboards that are visible from a half mile or more. Beyond that, the building features all-glass curtain walls, a curved glass roof and dramatic interiors featuring a great deal of exposed concrete and large areas of jewel-tone colors.

There are four major conference areas: a boardroom and media room on the seventh floor, a 'sessions' room on the fifth, and a training center on the first. Because they are an audio equipment manufacturer, it's no surprise that Shure was very concerned with the sound quality of each room. Shure has an extensive artist sponsorship and endorsement program that's central to its marketing. Listening to music, in particular new artist CDs and cassettes, is thus very important to management. In addition they needed to project production video in Betacam format and videotape material from artists and clients from around the world. They were unwilling to compromise quality in any area and required absolutely top notch systems.

Creativity and innovation

Architect Helmut Jahn describes the building's dramatic quality: "This is a building of maximum transparency. Traditionally light has been directed at the material fabric of a building, illuminating the solid. But here we are moving into a realm where light is the essence of the design. The building is luminous, not illuminated."

The Media Room.
The Media Room. Click for more photos.

Sixth floor lounge area and glass roof.
Immediately above: sixth floor lounge area and glass roof. Below: break area with expanse of color. Click for more interior photos.

Break area with expanse of color.
Projection are behind the boardroom.
Projection are behind the boardroom. Click for more photos of the boardroom.
This is a very high tech building. For example, a sensor on the roof tracks the position of the sun then opens or closes the shades on each wall to maximize natural light while shutting out glare.

Each level has a floor raised 14" to carry high and low voltage cables, sprinkler pipes and HVAC. Putting the utilities in the floor serves several functions, not the least of which is that it makes it very easy to add AV or computer network components to the building. "If you've got some electrical changes that you need to make you just pop up these floor tiles," says HOK's Vice President and Senior Designer John Hopkins.

John Miles, Sound Vision sales manager, says that "for our part, we tried to design a very clean system. We provided full data and video presentation capability, music playback with surround sound processors, audio reinforcement from computer, DVD, satellite and multi-format VCRs, plus AMX control in all of the meeting rooms. The boardroom and media room have videoconferencing capability plus audioconferencing, with a Shure Conference One discussion mic system at the conference table.

Miles saw rear projection as a high priority for the boardroom, particularly with the amount of daylight coming into the room. "Rear projection offers some important advantages," he says. "First, the projection screen has the property that it allows light within the room to pass through the screen material without reflecting off it and competing with the image. That increases contrast and image quality, which was something we had to worry about in a room with a floor to ceiling window taking up most of one wall. Second, it takes all of the projection noise out of the room, which was particularly important to Shure."

Miles likes to use mirror mounting systems to save space in projection rooms, and at Shure he put the entire setup in a black enclosure to prevent any problems resulting from someone turning on the projection room's light during a meeting.

Acoustically, Miles says, "the boardroom is not really a lively room, but there's glass on one wall as well as the concrete ceiling, so I know HOK took some care. They installed a floating ceiling, carpeting and acoustical fabric on the walls. That made our job much easier than I expected."

Schedule, budget and teamwork

Shure occupied the space on a multi-stage basis, moving employees from their old Evanston, Illinois facilities as the various parts of the building were completed.

"The teamwork between Clune Contraction, HOK and the facilities project manager at Shure was remarkable," says Miles. "The planning process was very short and construction deadlines tight." Sound Vision began its design work on the boardroom in November, 2002, with the project completed in April, 2003. The media room was completed in June, with the fifth floor conference room and first floor training center finished in November.

Hopkins agrees. "The architect, the engineer and the contractor were all on board early. Both phases had challenges of time and of budget, but those tend to be the drivers on any project. We were able to develop a culture of working together and looking after the client."

Hopkins says that budget was an important concern. "Nothing in the building's interior is custom. Our job was to find elements within the construction industry that we could apply or construct that were cost effective but still have a good quality aesthetic. The light fixtures, for instance, are standard light fixtures, but they're nice looking and they have great function in the amount of light output we get. We went with an aluminum framed door and window system in all the private offices rather than using special hardware. There really wasn't a reason to be ostentatious with materials. We wanted to let the simplicity of the building read through, that being where the beauty of the spaces comes in."

A whole new energy level

Equipment rack in the Media Room.
Equipment rack in the Media Room. Click for more photos.
A walk through this building will very quickly tell you what a terrific space it is. "There's such a wonderful clarity to the design," says Hopkins.

Jim Furst, Vice President of Global Support Services at Shure, says "we're very proud of the product that we build, and a lot of musicians join our company because they've grown up with the Shure microphone. Still, when it comes time for us to compete for talent, this building really helps. It draws a lot of attention."

Sometimes the attention comes in surprising ways, Furst says. "We get inundated with people wanting to rent space from us for commercials and photo shoots. I just finished one for Eli Lilly and another for Technion, which is a high end office furniture company. We've had people from Toyota wanting to take a picture of the big oval parking lot at the front entrance so they can superimpose cars there."

More importantly, the building works in the ways it was designed to. "The media room," says Furst, "is used seven hours out of eight every day, and the boardroom two or three hours a day. I'm still excited coming here. It's a whole new energy level. People just love it."

 


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