When Conning, a leading global investment management firm serving the insurance industry, leased two upper floors in Hartford’s 26-story Gold Building, a significant design challenge was to create volume and openness in a sprawling horizontal space with a compressed ceiling height of less than 9 feet. Workers in the center of each 25,000 sf floor area had no feeling of being hundreds of feet in the air unless they sat by a window.

Designers solved the dilemma by opening not only the floor plan, but the floor to ceiling compression with the clever—and economical—use of an ordinary t-bar suspension grid in major spaces, such as reception, the trading area, and all circulation pathways. The bars are placed at intervals of 4 inches, and the spaces between the bars were left open allowing the eye to penetrate the ceiling plane. The volume was further enhanced by the stark contrast between the bright white of the ceiling grid and the sky blue ceiling plenum above. The theme of clouds and sky is reflected throughout the build-out. Core walls are painted dark blue. All tenant spaces, including more than 20 collaboration spaces, are faced with translucent patterned glass and are detailed away from the ceiling to appear floating. In the west-facing reception waiting area, dozens of tiny pendant mounted fixtures with reflective housings are hung at random heights and locations to mimic star clusters.

The open office accommodates 300 workers at sit-to-stand desks in 50,000 total square feet. Other amenities include an ample Work Cafe and a Library space, for heads-down focus in a communal environment. The reception space is distinguished by a custom-designed over-sized steel spiral staircase, replacing a former enclosed stair, lending a vertical counterpoint to the very horizontal reception desk.


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