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Local law firm's design shows off high-tech, low-tech traits

In today's corporate world, it is important that companies provide flexible environments that can be modified to accommodate the specific high-tech and low-tech requirements of the personalities in each individual department or work area. The proliferation of Web-based technologies and products has made physical location obsolete in relation to the target market and elevated the need for quick responsiveness. Under these economic conditions, designers need to quickly understand their clients' needs and reflect in-depth analysis of organizational identity through built environments. With the emphasis on technology's remote capability, the immediacy of a tangible quality -- essentially a low-tech, personal-touch approach -- is becoming more valuable in today's marketplace.

As electronic, virtually invisible technology becomes more integrated into everyday life, the need for a more tangible experience is required and may be achieved through the basic formal elements of design. This trend to downplay a high-tech aesthetic in favor of "soft" design strategies, or more tangible environments, is most apparent in a variety of new corporate offices designed in San Diego such as the law offices of Morrison & Foerster LLP.

The design for Morrison & Foerster reflects its own high-tech product: A law firm that focuses on high-tech, biotech and patent law.

These services are visibly demonstrated in the firm's lobby, where clients or employees who enter see framed acrylic and cast resin panels depicting DNA strands and patent products created by the firm's clients. Additionally, an interactive flat screen displaying Morrison & Foerster's Web site is suspended to help "connect" the observer to the computerized depiction of its high-tech product and clients.

The incorporation of low-tech strategies for Morrison & Foerster are demonstrated through the application of color and natural light, as well as the patterns and textures of multiple wood and fabric finishes used throughout the office.

There is also no better way to personalize a space than by drawing from the heartstrings of history. Lobby displays include a 1927 article from the California Law review, which profiles Alexander Morrison, the founder of the firm. In addition, a letter paying tribute to Morrison's integrity and inspiration to others is displayed.

Next to this personal tribute rests a brightly colored surfboard -- which is also featured on the firm's Web site -- reminding the firm's employees and clients that Morrison & Foerster lives in the present and understands that work and play are one in today's environment.

Finally, the firm displays duo signs -- one displayed with the traditional law firm name and lettering, the other depicting the Web site address. The signs are another visible message for a firm who respects and represents both the knowledge and depth of the past while understanding the importance and role of technology in the future.

In today's fast-paced environment a symbiotic relationship between high-tech and low-tech design strategies is critical to create a technologically advanced yet inhabitable environment that allows a high level of flexibility and human connection. It is in this coalescence of technologies that the optimal human experience and company performance may flourish.

Elliott, ASID, IIDA, is principal of Carrier Johnson.

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