Shearman & Sterling unveils new global headquarters designed by Perkins&Will

Main reception. Image courtesy of Perkins&Will

Leveraging its 150-year legacy, the storied law firm’s newly renovated Manhattan HQ blends intimate moments of heritage with hospitality-rich spaces, setting the stage for a bold new future

When Shearman & Sterling set out to redesign its Manhattan headquarters, it wanted a client-first environment to celebrate the legacy of the firm, while simultaneously establishing a renewed design vision that would set a new standard for all future workplaces across the firm’s global portfolio. With one of the most formidable legal legacies in American history, Shearman & Sterling’s offices had become a time capsule of the firm’s evolution. The challenge was to reimagine a new showcase for their legal experts to adapt to new ways of working, and to engage in more meaningful ways with their colleagues and clients alike.

“Our partnership with Shearman & Sterling began at a pivotal moment in the firm’s evolution. The opportunity was ripe for reinvention; there was a clean slate for innovative ideas that would break the mold of traditional law firm design. At that early stage, we understood our responsibility to balance business pragmatics with cultural aspirations to create a new home that reflected the dynamic workplace of the next generation of leaders,” explains John Sadlon, principal of workplace in Perkins&Will’s New York studio. “The new, collaborative vision for Shearman & Sterling’s Manhattan office is big and bold, highly technical, and full of intimate moments and detailing that ground the space. The result is a seamless balance between future aspirations and heritage.”

A key focus in all client and employee areas was to create a hospitality-rich environment that elevates the user experience. Select functional zones have the look and feel of a high-end gallery space, while still being warm and inviting. The first phase of construction included a two-story client reception and conference center, with a variety of assembly spaces and amenities. A dramatic sculptural staircase connects the bi-level reception and hospitality zone, centrally located within a series of meeting and lounge spaces of various sizes and configurations.

The rotated geometry of the stairs breaks from the orthogonal grid of the office; an intentional design gesture that compels visitors to reorient their physical and mental connections within the built environment. The design team also interspersed break-out zones with curated artwork and furnishings to buffer meeting rooms with cutting-edge audio-visual systems. The intended effect provides moments of respite and inspiration between zones of focused activity, creating a user experience that is rejuvenating and keenly focused on human connections.

Central staircase. Image courtesy of Perkins&Will

Attorney’s areas feature a range of flexible meeting areas, moveable walls, pantries, and lounges that are designed to bolster connectivity amongst employees. The architectural detailing and finishes on the employee floors exude the same warmth and hospitality of the client-facing floors, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

The phased renovation of the 340,000 square foot space included creating visual cues that orient the user and reinforce connectivity with functional areas on other floors. One example is the elevator lobby on each floor, which features floor-to-ceiling travertine slabs accentuated by discrete lighting that emits a soft glow on the legacy stone material. Employee pantries are located immediately adjacent to alternating lobbies, providing natural daylight into a less-formal collaborative zone.

“The design reinforces the one-firm mentality of Shearman & Sterling’s culture; equal priority and attention are given to all areas, with a focus on active design and employee well-being,” adds Sadlon.

The result is an architectural envelope underlined by an inherent refinement that speaks to the firm’s stature without feeling staid. It emphasizes clean lines, natural materials and modern finishes that complement the restored terrestrial limestone.

An expansive art program was developed to feature curated works that relate back to each of Shearman & Sterling’s global locations. Original commissions focused on young, up-and-coming artists as well as established local artisans whose works are prominently located in public spaces throughout the conference center and hospitality areas.

Technical precision was essential to the success of this project. “Extensive coordination with the consultant team of contractors, engineers and specialty experts in lighting, sound, IT and AV systems was key to ensure the right balance of systems to provide an enhanced user experience,” says Sadlon. “That precision guides the ethos of the entire project.”

Other unique features of the firm’s newly renovated headquarters include a multi-function event space with 20-foot ceiling height, the scale of which evokes iconic New York City venues. The dynamic hub of activity radiates from the new European-inspired Café that features a full cooking kitchen, barista bar, cozy seating alcoves with curated artworks, a tech hub, and a variety of seating options that are easily reconfigured to accommodate functions of any scale. The boardroom features a custom table that easily accommodates over 50 people, with full-service dining capabilities.

Café bar and library. Image courtesy of Perkins&Will

Quick facts:
Location: New York
Size: 340,000 SF

About Perkins&Will 

Perkins&Will, an interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm, was founded in 1935 on the belief that design has the power to transform lives. Guided by its core values—design excellence, diversity and inclusion, research, resilience, social purpose, sustainability, and well-being—the firm is committed to designing a better, more beautiful world. Fast Company named Perkins&Will one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in Architecture, and industry rankings consistently place Perkins&Will among the world’s top design practices. With an international team of more than 2,000 professionals, the firm has over 20 studios worldwide, providing integrated services in architecture, interior design, branded environments, urban design, and landscape architecture. Partners include Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen; retail strategy and design consultancy Portland; sustainable transportation planning consultancy Nelson\Nygaard; and luxury hospitality design firm Pierre-Yves Rochon (PYR). For more information, visit

About Shearman & Sterling

Shearman & Sterling is a global law firm that partners with corporations, major financial institutions, emerging growth companies, governments, and state-owned enterprises to provide the legal and industry insight needed to navigate the challenges of today and achieve their ambitions of tomorrow. Our lawyers come from some 60 countries and speak more than 60 languages. For more information, visit