CannonDesign Swaps Old for High-Tech for the Cboe Global Markets in Chicago
Like their fellow practitioners around the world, floor traders at the Chicago Board Options Exchange have long communicated vital information via shouts and hand signals, the color and detailing on their jackets identifying their role, employer, and other crucial information. Behind the often raucous scene, however, predictive mathematical formulas—algorithms—play an increasingly important role in electronic trading. That paradigm shift prompted Cboe Global Markets, owners of the options exchange, the largest in the U.S., to replace its longtime home in Chicago’s financial district with a state-of-the-art headquarters. The company tapped CannonDesign to identify a suitable site for the new digs and design them. “Cboe sought a transformational environment,” begins design principal Mark Hirons, who led the commission with Meg Osman, Cannon project principal, “one that reflects its strength, global leadership, and pioneering innovation within the marketplace.”
After carefully evaluating several nearby locations, Hirons pitched the Old Chicago Main Post Office, once the largest in the world. Built in 1921, the facility underwent a massive expansion in 1932 to handle the avalanche of goods shipped by mail-order-catalog companies such as Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. Empty since 1997, the landmarked art deco colossus recently underwent an $800-million renovation by developer 601W Companies and Gensler. Comprising more than 2.5 million square feet of multiuse office and event space, the project, which claims to be the largest historic redevelopment in the nation, is poised to become once again a central hub of the Windy City’s commercial life. “Both the USPS and Cboe were pioneers in different ways, disrupters that had huge impacts on the economy,” Hirons notes. “The context of the old post office served as a rich canvas to tell the future of Cboe’s story with a unique and authentic Chicago icon.”
The 185,000-square-foot headquarters encompasses three connected floors that straddle the original building and the later addition. The interior spaces create a dynamic, undeniable modern milieu that coexists smoothly with protected historical architectural elements, such as a mezzanine that now features a pair of glass-cube meeting rooms cantilevered over the reception area, a nod to the observation boxes above the trading floors of yesteryear. In fact, a trading floor is not part of the new workplace (Hirons and his team are designing a new one for Cboe in the historic Board of Trade building, site of the company’s original trading pit), which, along with the educational Options Institute and amenities for hosting international guests, includes open work areas, private offices, electronic trading support facilities, innumerable meeting rooms, cafés, and flexible lounges.
A sense of verve, along with the algorithmic patterns that underlie today’s financial exchanges, inspired much of the angular design. Most dramatic is the 140-foot-long white stretched ceiling extending from the elevator lobby down the length of reception, a shiny multilevel feature that incorporates LED stock ticker feeds while bringing reflected light and views deep into the office. Beneath it, the angular motif is echoed in a blue-and-white area rug as well as in light fixtures, bronze-painted metal screens, and furnishings throughout the project. “Cboe thrives on intense and volatile energy,” Hirons says. “It was essential that the space created moments within that translated that experience.”
Indeed, a colorful installation of neatly folded traders’ jackets in a conference room speaks to the company’s storied past. The equally colorful cables that enable lightning-fast electronic trading are likewise celebrated in the elevator lobby, where 30,000 linear feet of multihued cords dangle from the soaring ceiling. “It creates a sense of immersive chaos,” Hirons notes, as do the many artworks that enliven the surroundings. “The extensive art and environmental graphics were designed to tell a story: the history of the organization,” Osman adds. “They celebrate, in a modern way, the company’s beginnings, unique place in the industry, and overall trajectory.” A good example is a two-story wall sculpture that animates one of two new staircases linking the floors in the different buildings. Hundreds of highly polished yellow, blue, and green stainless-steel fins create a vortexlike arrangement that changes with the viewing angle. “It’s alive and interesting, almost like a gallery that draws you from one floor to another,” Hirons comments, noting the rhythmic pattern is inspired by the wind on Lake Michigan, the colors of the sky, and the prairie.
While the pandemic has delayed the return of many employees to the office, more appear by the month. Their response, Hirons says, has been universally positive. “This a memorable environment with Instagram moments, but it also reflects their culture and tells their story in a way that feels fresh and engaging,” he explains. “Cboe has an incredible history of having foreign dignitaries and leaders visit and is excited to continue that lineage going forward.” And once the new remote trading floor is completed, an interactive monitor display will livestream the action to the new HQ, furthering a sense of connectivity that links the company’s past, present, and future.
project sources from front
project sources throughout
- Andreu World
- api signs
- banker wire
- Bentley Mills
- berhardt design
- bernhardt design
- Eric Laignel
- national ceilings and partitions
- object carpet
- Old Chicago Main Post Office
- parenti and raffaelli
- patti gilford fine art
- pepper construction
- shaw contract
- sherwin-williams company
- sonneman a way of light
- studio a
- Tate Gunnerson
- the bahr co.
- the rug company
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