Steel scrims – Plays on transparency

Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Designer: Florian Architects, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Project: The Mod-u-lator Scrim at the Hyde Park Bank Banking Hall
Client: Hyde Park Bank, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Year of Completion: 2009
Photographs: Florian Architects, Chicago, Illinois, USA
The renovation of the interiors of the Hyde Park Bank in Chicago has restored the historic character of the bank.

A new system of partitions, semitransparent screens and canopies, as well as workstations and waiting areas create a contemporary landscape within the monumental hall.
The bank, which was one of the largest office buildings in Chicago in 1929, was originally designed by Karl Vitzthum in Classical Revival style with Art Deco influence in the decorations. It was a model for architects of that time and a source of inspiration to be drawn on for ideas in design and research into detail.
Florian Architects have completed the overall renovation over recent years, including the interiors.
The firm was awarded the “National Honor Award for design excellence for the renovation” by the AIA – American Institute of Architects, for this highly prestigious project.
The large banking hall on the second floor is reached by a grand staircase adjacent to an entry lobby on the ground floor, which was typical of many public buildings in the USA at that time.
Before the renovation the original spaciousness, size and details of the hall could not be fully appreciated because the solid partitions and scattered workstations all created a visual barrier which blocked the view of the large hall’s beauty and completeness, the decorated ceilings and series of vaults and the monumental stairway.
The aim of the project was to create a working environment that was lighter and transparent, which blended in perfectly with the historic building. However at the same time the functional needs of the bank had to be taken into account, while protecting and enhancing the historic building and its distinctive features.
“Mod-u-lator Scrim” is a multifunction screen of metal and glass: it modulates daylight, creates private spaces that encourage better concentration, work and dialogue within a large open space, adjusting the transparencies and filtering the view from the outside. This system fully protects the more private areas.
The screen is formed of a narrow stainless steel frame which holds the metal mesh and glass modules, like fine curtains that have been overlapped.
These partitions ensure the privacy between the different offices, while giving a view of the common parts from everywhere inside.
There is no obstacle to air circulation inside the building by the layout of the partitions, which however act as sound barriers between the workstations and dampen the bothersome background noise from the common parts.
The delicate nature of this very sensitive and balanced project ensures that the beauty and harmony of the original space are fully enhanced and protected.

Marina Cescon
Acciaio Arte Architettura 53