Creative Chicago Workspaces: Aquamoon makes a splash with its new office loft in the Universal Building

Not many firms need a diverse workspace that can cater to both architects and biologists, but the Universal Building’s newest tenant, Aquamoon, is a unique business that requires creative space which can house everything from design stations to holding tanks for aquatic life.

In 2006, Aquamoon was launched by a team of former museum and aquarium professionals with the goal of creating memorable aquatic and educational displays for commercial, institutional and private residences.

Lurie Elevator at Night

Lurie-Elevator at Night: Aquamoon recently designed a two-story display at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital

The firm’s three partners, Bryan Schuetze, James Torelli and Robert Van Valkenburg, all met at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. After years of working on displays and exhibits at the internationally renowned aquarium, the trio decided to go into business for themselves and bring their skills and talents to the private sector.

It’s a move that paid off, as the firm now has a staff of 12 and works with companies on a national basis, handling large-scale aquarium displays for retailers such as Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

While aquarium displays may be the firm’s largest business, it also does “dry” displays for commercial enterprises and museums, such as a recent exhibit it put together on Chicago architect and visionary Bertrand Goldberg as part of a 2013 renovation of the River City lobby, a prominent residential development in Chicago.

The firm’s latest foray has been in the healthcare arena, where it has applied its expertise in hospitals by creating soothing displays that offer a refuge for patients.

Most recently, the firm designed and built a large, two-story display at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“The project at Lurie Children’s Hospital is a great representation of our work in this area,” said Bryan Schuetze, principal at Aquamoon. “We were asked to create a large healing environment in the first and second floor lobbies.”

Lurie Coral Garden

Lurie Coral Garden: . At Lurie Children’s Hospital, Aquamoon created a coral garden, which includes three 12-foot-high interactive sculptures in front of a large saltwater aquarium.

For the project, Aquamoon created a 40-foot-high kelp forest that includes projections of kelp animals in the hospital’s main lobby. On the second floor, the firm created a coral garden, which includes three 12-foot-high interactive sculptures in front of a large saltwater aquarium.

“It’s very satisfying to know that the work like this is dedicated to making lives better for children and their families,” said Schuetze.

As a company that is dedicated to place making, Schuetze is excited about what Aquamoon can do with its 2,700 square feet at the Universal Building.

“We are taking the idea of transparency and water to inspire the design of the new office space,” said Schuetze. “We have a pretty diverse staff here. Not many firms have a biologist, an architect, an engineer and an experienced designer on staff. We need to create work spaces for everyone.”

The firm, still in the stages of moving in, has plans to create an office that can support all of its practice areas. Because of the nature of its work, Aquamoon will have to house and care for aquatic animals and plant life on site.

“The plan is to divide the office space into two areas,” said Schuetze. “The front half will be our design studio and offices, while the back will hold our lab space for animals.”

The animals that Aquamoon will be caring for onsite range from coral, fish, invertebrate shrimp, crustaceans and fresh and saltwater animals.

Schuetze said the firm chose the Universal Building because they were able to acquire great space with convenient, direct access to a loading dock.

“We wanted a place that would allow us to create an ideal design studio and lab” said Schuetze. “This is a great building that is well maintained and managed. It’s really cool space.”

For more information about office lofts for lease in the Universal Building located near West Town Chicago, please call Catherine Caravette at 773.342.2020.

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