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In 1985, three young architects sat on a porch, wondering what it would be like to have their own practice. With recent developments in computer technology, they all knew that the practice of architecture would be very different in the future and they were determined to figure it out before anyone else.

In setting out on their own, the partners had all dreamed of officing in an old skyscraper with tower space. Learning that the top floor was available and affordable, Eastlake signed its first lease in Tribune Tower on the day the stock market crashed – October 19, 1987. If there’s anything that people who haven’t seen Eastlakers for a while asks, it’s “Is your office still at the top of Tribune Tower?”

 
 

 
 

Regarding the name, Eastlake Terrace is located in the Northeast corner of Chicago, but it’s also a subset of the Victorian architectural style – so it was a good fit for a Chicago architectural practice. One of the partners also insisted on having studio in the name, and that’s how it became Eastlake Studio.

The three partners with interiors backgrounds decided to focus on opportunities in their area of expertise. They soon managed to convince some large corporations to hire them. Eastlake promoted how the process of design could be enhanced with computers, which was something that sparked the interest of facility managers. First National Bank of Chicago and IBM formed the base of Eastlake’s early client list.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
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In the 1990s, Eastlake’s approach to computers was unique, and gained the firm significant publicity, locally and nationally. Articles in Architectural Record helped cement Eastlake’s early reputation for doing smart things with technology. Mac Chicago, a respected local magazine, printed a multi-page cover story showcasing Eastlake’s integration of Mac computers into their architectural practice.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

In 2001, Eastlake won an assignment for Storck Candy, which went on to win an AIA Chicago Honor Award and a national award for carpet design. A couple of years later, Eastlake won another AIA Chicago award for Hudson Highland, and found itself getting published more often.

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When the Great Recession occurred in 2009, the contraction of Eastlake’s business was limited to only six months, while many other firms were down for a couple of years. In 2010, Eastlake’s work for The Cara Program won a national award for socially responsible design, earning a stipend for the client.

 
 

 
 

This decade has seen Eastlake further evolve. With a strong core of staff and clients, Eastlake has realized steady growth. New partners have been added making the current total four. From 10 employees in 2010 to now nearly triple that amount, the challenge has been how to fill the studio with diverse individuals with shared vision and values.

Eastlake’s client base has shifted from a strong focus on tenant work to a balance between property owners and tenants. Base building work has expanded to include the design of lobbies and amenities including tenant lounges, conference centers and fitness centers.

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Recognition has also been significant in the last decade. In 2012, Eastlake’s designs for Pandora and Mike’s Hard Lemonade were featured as a workplace branding cover stories for AIA’s Chicago Architect magazine. In 2016, the design of Equator’s office was featured in Interior Design magazine, and Pandora was recognized as Crain's Chicago Business’ Coolest Office.

Eastlake was also awarded an AIA Interior Design Honor Award for Pandora’s 1980’s-themed office in 2017. Additionally, Eastlake has won eight awards at the annual IIDA Red Awards for projects including Vail Systems, Suite 1600, Cision, Pandora and the Chicago Tribune headquarters.

 
 

 
 

We experienced a bittersweet moment when we learned that Tribune Tower was being converted from office to residential use. Finding new space that provided similar inspiration was not a simple task, but when the partners came upon the former Tavern Club space at 333 North Michigan, they were relieved that they didn’t have to settle for something less than amazing.

Eastlake Studio moved across the river in late 2017. The new studio has a spectacular view straight up the Magnificent Mile and across the Chicago River, and an outdoor deck surrounded by the dramatic cityscape. With more square footage, the studio also provides us with a full resource library, conference and collaboration zones, phone rooms, and a flexible town hall space affectionately knowns as the BAR (Big Ass Room).

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Eastlake Studio has grown to include new positions in finance, marketing, and environmental branding/graphic design, now totaling 30 people. Following the firm’s most successful year to date, we kicked off 2020 with an internal initiative dedicated to wellness, which put us in the right mindset for the pandemic.

We made a smooth transition to working remotely, and though it truly was  an unprecedented moment for our social, collaborative crew, we are happy that distancing helped to keep everyone safe and healthy. We also managed to keep our company culture going strong with virtual events, Zoom calls, and Slack hangs! 

As we return to the studio, we continue our focus on wellness through our design work, creating healthy workplaces for the post-pandemic era. We are also busy figuring out how to do more to help others and realize the benefits of diversity.