Adaptive Re-Use – Chicago, USA
Our design celebrates the generosity and raw grain of this existing brick and timber structure, with crisp new elements inserted in contrast.
Chicago, USA
John Wilkin, Eren Harding, Sam Hughes, Dom Bennett

Some buildings are past their use-by date, while others can be successfully re-adapted, as was the case for a number of projects designed for Coates Signage. An Australian success story, the company has expanded exponentially around the globe, now with over 600 employees.

This rapid success can be partially attributed to its quick response to technology and, as importantly, commissioning Bennett Murada Architects to design their workplaces that both respond to advances in technology (moving from plastic signage in the 1970s to digital signage and coding today), as well as the company’s expanding workforce, whether located in the United States, China, Japan or their global headquarters in Alexandria, Sydney.

While each office relates to its context, each one features different typologies, flexible spaces, meeting areas, digital showrooms and, in some instances, support centres. Responsible for the delivery of McDonald’s golden arches and now digital menus, Coates, along with Bennett Murada Architects, is continually responding to changes in a fast-paced market.

The West Loop in an inner-city neighbourhood of Chicago, has been a drawcard for some of the world’s tech giants. It’s also the home to Coates, a 100-person design office and digital showroom. Initially a meat-packing district, many of the warehouses, including Coates’ building, show the hallmarks of their early 20th century history - red brick, Oregon structural columns, trusses and generous spaces.


While Bennett Murada reused and retained many of the warehouse’s original features, the building now includes open plan work spaces, breakout areas and, importantly, a gallery space upon arrival where clients can see the effect of driving up to signage (be-this to order fast food) or the way this signage is perceived when standing on the other side of a counter - often referred to as ‘Innovation Lab’. And for functions or for staff get-togethers at the end of a week, the bar/kitchen in the gallery space, combined with a large meeting area, ‘morphs’ into a social space.  


A fusion of the building’s past and present, the interior retains the warehouse’s red brick walls, along with its unique crusty concrete-based columns, a reminder of when the floors were continually hosed down. And to allow the original structure to be ‘read’, the ceilings are fairly raw with services, such as heating, exposed. Some of the materials were salvaged for this renovation, along with inserting a new void to accommodate a staircase that leads to the reception and offices on the first floor. Mindful of how staff need to fully understand how electronic signage appears as a customer (for example, from in front of counter), there’s a distance of a few metres from their workstation to the images shown on a gallery wall.

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