In 2018, after 25 successful years as a law firm, Kennedy Van der Laan launched a new communications campaign based around a refreshed corporate identity.
In the campaign, ‘The Clear Line – ‘The art of capturing the essence’, the team members are portrayed in a drawing consisting of one continuous line on the Kennedy Van der Laan website. The clear line is a metaphor for the way Kennedy Van der Laan has worked over the last quarter century for 25 years
When we were asked to create the firm’s new office interior, we naturally took our cue from the campaign title. Our office design embodies Kennedy Van der Laan’s brand values of transparency and openness – it’s ‘clear line’.
Law firm Kennedy Van der Laan
Interior design, Offices
Visitors to Kennedy Van der Laan’s former office came and went without glimpsing anyone at work. The consulting rooms were next to the entrance, while the lawyers’ workplaces – located on other floors and along closed corridors – remained out of sight, effectively invisible.
The new space needed to focus on the transparency of the firm’s working methods, and on its welcoming attitude towards clients. It should be easily readable and accessible and have a second identity as an events and exhibition space for art, debates and lectures.
Kennedy Van der Laan is located on the second and third floor of Amsterdam’s Molenwerf building. In our design, an expansive third-floor void functions to simultaneously open up and connect the two floors, while helping to fill the space with natural light. It also provides a central focus for movement between the floors, as well as clear sightlines.
The prominent wooden staircase in the void and the expanses of glass around it aid all of these functions.
Over the two floors, the space is divided into different sections that reflect the various specializations in the office. Every department has at least one consultation room. The different sections are located in the wings surrounding the centrally located facilities. The design is open, but also flexible: the wings can be closed for events, or in case of emergencies.
The corridors are no more. Instead, each room is accessed via a meeting place which has the atmosphere of a living room. Every section has its own meeting space, always furnished with a large kitchen table. This functions as a place to gather, to work and to hold short meetings.
The work rooms are separated from the central meeting places by staggered walls, which use as much glass as possible. This creates great transparency and provides long sightlines. However, because a law firm has to consider privacy and confidentiality, the glass walls of the consulting rooms have been sandblasted to opacity, while still allowing the light to enter.
A different kind of transparency adds life to the most important social spaces – the bar, the restaurant, and the ‘House of Commons’ – which have been designed so as to take advantage of the views of the leafy Westerpark.
One of the ways we apply Kennedy Van der Laan’s communication concept to our design is by using a bold, uninterrupted black line that runs around the walls at plinth level. The line rises to emphasize doorways, meeting places and other key spaces. In social areas such as the bar, the reception desk and the kitchen, the clear line is also experienced, due to the colour and the specific dimensions.
In addition, lines of light pick up the visitor at the entrance and lead him or her into the space. Both as a graphic black strip and as illuminated stripes, the clear line is a tangible theme that runs throughout the entire office and holds the different elements together.
The ceilings of the space are open, creating more height and underlining the transparency of the design. All the installations, which, like the ceiling itself, are executed in dark blue, have been left visible. Blue is the colour of Kennedy Van der Laan and we have used all kinds of shades of it in our design, along with complementary red and pink shades.
Inside the wood-covered elevator core, where we inserted spacious storage facilities including wardrobes, the walls, floors and ceilings are all white. The two pantries, the stairwell and the toilets are also white, because of the light effect this creates, and also to indicate when you are stepping in or out of the world of the office.
The offices now operate a flexible working policy and the partners have deliberately chosen not to have their own space. Instead, there are connection possibilities for equipment everywhere, even in the restaurant.
All the desks are height-adjustable and separating them are fabric privacy screens that create atmosphere and ensure good acoustics. The workspaces are next to the lobby, which is adjacent to the restaurant and the kitchen. These are not hard limits, but smooth transitions. People move naturally between the work areas and the centrally located facilities, totally in line with the concept.
Flexwork necessitates a multitude of meeting places. Our design therefore provides ample room for them. There are meeting places around the kitchen tables in each section, in the pantries in the centre of the space, at various locations in the lobby and around the glass walls. In addition, there is a break-out space, a bar and a roof terrace. These spaces are all highly flexible in use. Furnishings allow for various options: benches, chairs, high and low stools and poufs can be used separately, or converted into compact sofas.
From the third floor, a striking blue steel staircase leads you to the glass roof and roof terrace on the fourth floor. Thanks to the glass above the access staircase, plenty of light penetrates the floor below, and the roof structure itself functions not only as a consultation room, but also as a meeting space. The glass provides a pleasant inside/outside atmosphere.
The roof terrace has a wooden deck and is planted with special grasses and various flowers. These have been chosen to provide greenery all year round.
Downstairs there is a bar, executed in pressed steel grilles in a bright blue shade. In the windows behind the bar, compartments have been created in which bottles can be placed, allowing daylight to shine through them – another variation on the transparency theme. During the day, this space is a coffee bar with a barista. Music is provided via a connection for turntables, and there is also a piano in the lobby.
The pod is a volume with a double shell. The outer shell functions as archive space and is covered with aluminum in a geometric pattern. The inner shell serves as a document and printing centre and is painted red.
There are two pods, one on each floor. Each pod turns a necessary functional space into an eye-catcher feature.
A special ‘House of Commons’ has been designed for seminars and other events. Rather than the design of an auditorium (one speaker, many listeners), a ‘dialogue’ model was deliberately chosen to encourage communication. The House of Commons is a completely soundproof room, the colours of which were inspired (along with the model) by the British House of Commons.
This space has the standard debating chamber setup, and can also be divided into two or even three separate rooms quickly and easily, thanks to our ingenious system. With its dark wood tones and green palette, this space is a separate volume in the office. The outside is completely white and serves as a wall for the gallery.
When you step into the office via the entrance, you are rewarded with a long sightline through the entire space, even taking in the upper floor. On the left, the reception desk, which is located in a large open space, flows smoothly into the lobby. The reception desk is a sculptural raw concrete object that forms a pleasing contrast with the clean wooden wall behind it.
The wall opposite the reception desk (one of the outer walls of the House of Commons) is part of the gallery and is used for a huge art projection. Reception desk, sightlines and the art projection set the tone immediately.
Kennedy Van der Laan has a large art collection which it has been building since its foundation as part of its effort to be a committed, innovative office at the heart of society. The firm believes that, since art speaks to the imagination and can be controversial, it helps employees step out of their routine, broadens their horizons and creates lively discussions.
The focus of the art collection is on work by Dutch artists. There are also regularly changing exhibitions showing a wide diversity of work and even a ‘beginner’s podium’ which is offered to new and relatively unknown artists. An in-house curator buys the art, from installations to ‘temporary living art’, for example performances.
In addition to the prominent art projection in the entrance lobby and the impressive artwork in the two-story void, space has been created in the design to exhibit art throughout the entire office. A gallery occupies the exterior walls of the House of Commons, the windows of which not only provide light, but on the outside are also showcases for exhibiting 3D artworks.