In a penthouse space in a historic building at the center of Chicago's River North neighborhood, Whirlpool Corporation, one of the world's largest manufacturers of kitchen and laundry appliances, has opened a training center, meeting space, and showroom that embodies its commitment to innovation.
The facility includes buyer showrooms for brand collections targeting several different consumer segments, space for internal and external product feature and sales training, and hospitality venues to welcome potential customers.
Valerio Dewalt Train Associates began the design process by sitting down with Whirlpool Corporation's product designers in Benton Harbor, Michigan, touring research and product testing laboratories and existing showroom spaces, followed by an afternoon of shopping for appliances in retail stores. A day-long work session with the project stakeholders identified the users in detail, the ways each of the types of users should experience the space, and the collective vision for the center.
The new Chicago facility greets its guests in a variety of ways. National sales teams learn about product features during the day, break for lunch in the clock tower conference room, cook on the products they've spent the day learning about, have a glass of wine on the terrace, and eat the meal they have cooked together. A line of major appliances in the space simulates the display of products on their showroom floor. Jenn-Air and KitchenAid brands host receptions for designers, foodies, and kitchen design influencers, as well as charitable events.
The elevator doors open to a sun-filled lobby that looks out onto the outdoor space defined by a large terrace with a linear outdoor fireplace and outdoor demonstration kitchens. Indoor showrooms for each of Whirlpool Corporation's primary brands are placed around the perimeter. The design for each of the brand kitchen display spaces began from a single word that expresses the brand's essence: "precise" for Jenn-Air, "convivial" for KitchenAid, "innovative" for Whirlpool, and "durable" for Maytag. These words guided the different cabinetry forms, materials, details, and furniture for each space. To unify all the display spaces, a white plaster cove extends from the lobby and wraps the perimeter, starting at the floor, bending outward as it nears the ceiling, and becoming a canopy over the spaces containing appliances from each brand.
The rooftop penthouse overlooks the Chicago River on one side and the skyline of the city on the other three sides. The design team wrapped the showroom kitchen spaces around the outer edge, with simply finished shared kitchen, storage, and conference areas in the central supporting space adjacent to the showrooms.
The historic clock tower's three levels house a boardroom, a lounge with leather sofas, and a flexible display venue behind the clock faces.