The MCCI office was designed by the Detroit-based architectural duo of D MET design. Husband and wife Joel Schmidt and Elizabeth Skrisson sat down with the MCCI team to talk about what inspired them as they went about creating our space in the historical Murphy-Telegraph building.
Q: What inspired you about the space?
A: Our design for the space reflects MCCI’s stature – a classic modern style – balanced with creative, visionary ideas. In the design, we reflected elements of a classic media company with a forward thinking studio culture. We designed an open collaborative work environment suitable for the creative industry. There was a great dialogue with Chris (Heaton, CFO) and Terry (Oprea, President and CEO) which made it really fun. MCCI was really trusting, collaborative and liberating. We always feel that the ideal clients are really passionate about what they do and see the potential for how a space can enhance that work. We saw MCCI as the ideal client to work with.
Q: What were some of the design elements?
A: We looked for elements that reflected the two sides of the company; to reflect it in the space, it was really natural to use modern furniture from Michigan and around the country and combine that with a whited-out super-crisp look, which delivers an otherworldly effect throughout the entire space.
Q: What was unique about the building and its location?
A: Characteristics of the building became integral to the design. The first are the windows – when we were initially looking at the space we knew immediately we would want to create access to the large windows you see on three of the walls. The low buildings to the north and west and parking lot on the south side of the Murphy-Telegraph allow for a lot of daylight. It was also important for MCCI to have the ability to look out at the city – which you can do from almost any location in the space. Another aspect were the structural columns of the Murphy-Telegraph, which are very closely spaced. When we were inserting architecture and planning the office we wanted to be very careful. We attempted to respect and accentuate the columns and keep them legible – we did not attach a lot of new construction to them. The columns connect you back to the structure – they have the original moldings and soft round edges.
Q: How did you reflect MCCI’s Detroit and Michigan roots in the space?
A: Connecting the space to the area is a natural extension of who we are and what we do. D MET strives to support other local organizations – other creative businesses in the city – through our work. Being in Detroit connects us to this fabulous network of collaborators and creative entrepreneurs. These friendships allow us to respond quickly to changes to the design throughout the process. For example, we were able to switch the kitchen countertop near the end of construction with the help of Derek Peters of Concrete Origins. He was able to accommodate a tight schedule, the constraints of the freight elevator and match the budget. Other local vendors include A.K. Services who made the kitchen table, Ali Sandifer who made the custom WALNUT conference table, the reclaimed floors throughout the space are from Reclaim Detroit and the wallpaper is from Detroit Wallpaper Co. We shop locally and build locally; when we see the opportunity to support another Detroit business we take it.
Q: What inspires you about building a space in Detroit?
A: The city is a constant inspiration for us. It is a sort of ever-present, harmonious structure of new and old, openness and density; a place where history, preserved and ignored, is equally present alongside new ideas – new forms. Our chief area of operation is in Detroit. We’re working in and inspired by these conditions a lot. When we work in an admirable existing structure such as the Murphy-Telegraph, we want the old and new to have equal footing. We work with this in mind as we design, and it comes through in how we treat the existing structure. There is an uncovering process when you work with historic buildings, and in Detroit there are a lot of buildings with three generations of materials. Being open to incorporating what you uncover regardless of the state it is in is important. Having design flexibility and appreciation of patina is also crucial. Our approach to historic buildings isn’t necessarily historic preservation; our approach and interests are much more like Whole Foods is to nutrition: We are interested in the natural state of things and spaces that breathe, as opposed to highly preserved spaces that never age.
Q: What is your philosophy/approach to design? What aspects of your process are uniquely you?
A: As designers we’re always trying to figure out what will endure for a particular style, setting or client– what is likely to remain beautiful for a long time. We try to be self-critical and go beyond fashion. We ask what is going to make this timeless, what is going to make it endure? For one, we believe architecture should serve as a stage set for how it’s used and not necessarily the star attraction. Architecture done well sets things in motion. At D MET we try to engage people by identifying possible associations with cultural references the space might induce. In this way the space and the identities users form when in it, live on in a sort of collective memory – an amalgamation of sensory experience and shared imagery. For example, if at MCCI you sense you are on a set of “Mad Men”, in a modern art gallery or visiting someone in their living room, you are not far off. We combined a little of all of these and more at MCCI. We set up a stage set for multiple narratives to occur in one space.
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