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Seasoned Architects, Designers & Planners

July 21, 2017


Ones to Watch in American Architecture, GREC Architects are a team of architects, designers, and planners who value collaboration, innovation, and efficient solutions. We interviewed the firm’s Mia Guajardo, a native Chicagoan, to discover more.

Mia Guajardo went to upstate New York to Skidmore College to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Business and Management. After four years as a department manager for a luxury retailer, Mia joined GREC to pursue her passion in marketing and business development.

She is continuously developing creative content to take our clients and partners behind the scenes of the firm’s design process and working to enhance the firm’s brand. If she isn’t on twitter, you’ll find Mia with her two dogs, one a rescue from the PAWS Chicago shelter where she is also an avid volunteer.

She begins the interview by telling us about the firm’s project with the American Marketing Association, which had an ambitious 12-week construction schedule. The story begins when the American Marketing Association relocated from traditional perimeter office space at 311 South Wacker to open, collaborative space on the 22nd floor of 1 Prudential Plaza.

“The AMA’s vision for a change in company culture inspired a design that promotes employee engagement and creativity. The major objectives of the new design are to provide a welcoming, personal space for both employees and members, to create a connected office
environment with a variety of meeting spaces, and to showcase the AMA’s new culture with a comfortable and playful workplace aesthetic.

“With views of both Lake Michigan and Millennium Park, the open office area features open huddle spaces that foster casual collaboration. Small conference rooms and themed huddle rooms are sprinkled throughout the plan, strategically placed to maximise their convenience. The boardroom is directly adjacent to the reception area and is suited for more formal large meetings. Perfect for impromptu conversations and all-hands gatherings, the lunch room features a cosy fireplace nook, large seating island and bleacher stair.

“In addition to these key social spaces, the use of vibrant and textural materials reinforces the AMA’s new culture. Colourful upholstery and bright tile backsplashes energise collaboration spaces while patterned wall coverings add a touch of playfulness. The imperfect, exposed concrete floors and ceilings create a relaxed, comfortable feel. This combination of materials, careful space planning and overarching cultural vision create an office environment that aims to attract and retain top talent at the AMA.”

Another one of the firm’s successful project concerns the 6 hectares in size Abu Dhabi Art Park, an 80,000m2 structured programme with 400 guestrooms. With the introduction of several worldclass museums and institutions to the cultural landscape of Abu Dhabi (including the Louvre and Guggenheim museums), it was determined that a cultural institution should be established to nurture a local appreciation of the arts, and to foster an arts education among the children of the UAE capitol. Mia tell us the rest of the story in her own words.

“A 6-hectare site on the Grand Canal was selected in the neighbourhood of Bayn Al Jassrayn, near the Grand Mosque, for the new Abu Dhabi Art Park. The project brief includes an art school offering classes in the visual and performing arts; a state ofthe-art performance venue and large exposition hall to feature the work of international artists and festivals; and family-friendly gathering spaces, all situated in a landscaped sculpture park. Restaurants and boutique artsoriented retail shops are located at the canal edge, with water taxi service to and from nearby attractions.

“A four-star hotel to accommodate visiting artists and dignitaries is an integral part of the project, and includes short-term guestrooms as well as serviced apartments for
extended-stay guests. A full complement of hotel amenities includes a conference centre, fitness centre, landscaped pool deck and private beachfront, as well as a signature restaurant.
“Visitor parking and services to the entire facility are configured on a level below grade. The design team was charged with implementing the project programme, designing the master plan, creating design guidelines for phased development, and providing strategies for long-term operations and maintenance.”

Finally, we learn more about the Emme project, in Chicago, Il, which features 199 residential units, 14 storeys and is 233,000 SF. Located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop, this residential tower is designed to be a green sanctuary in a heavily urban neighbourhood. Landscaped open spaces are provided at the building entry, the elevated amenity deck and at the rooftop pool deck. More than 5,000 SF of roof area will be dedicated to urban farming. As the interview ends, Mia provides more details about this project to us.

“At the building entry, a garden plaza serves as the backdrop for a monument commemorating the Haymarket event, which occurred at the site on May 4, 1886. The building lobby ‘living room’ fronts the plaza, providing a calm, Seasoned Architects, Designers & Plannersg
contemplative environment for residents, guests and building staff. The third-floor amenity deck features contoured landscape features with fire pits and grilling stations scattered throughout. The rooftop ‘nest’ includes a fitness centre, yoga studio and lounge surrounding an intimatelyscaled pool deck with stunning views of Chicago’s Loop.

“Other resident amenities include a party room with demonstration kitchen, library, co-working space and conference rooms, an indoor-outdoor dog play area, and secure on-site parking.

“The project is designed for LEED Gold certification and includes high-efficiency building systems, lighting and plumbing fixtures; storm water harvesting and reuse for landscape irrigation, sustainably produced building products and materials, and extensive green roofs and landscaping palettes of native plant materials. Interior finishes include materials harvested from the heavy timber warehouse demolished for the project. Resident-oriented programmes to promote sustainable urban living include bicycle storage and maintenance, ride-sharing, and interpretive demonstrations of building systems and energy usage.”

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