In an era of casual dress, remote work and open, collaborative workplaces, the world of corporate law remains an outlier. From New York to Toronto, London and Sydney, the corporate legal profession remains one of the last bastions of formality in business; still defined by private offices, dark boardrooms, two-piece suits and polished shoes. Even the beleagured necktie finds a refuge within law’s shirt collars. Yet, the “Big Law” stalwarts are gradually evolving. In Helsinki, a new office for multinational powerhouse DLA Piper deftly balances the sensitive, weighty and often delicate demands of the profession with a more comfortable and sociable setting.

Designed by acclaimed local interiors practice Fyra, the global firm’s 1,800-square-metre Helsinki hub introduces a new paradigm within a historic context. Situated in the Alvar Aalto-designed Stora Enso building — popularly known as the “Sugar Cube” — the space within the 1962 heritage building was carefully adapted to honour the original architecture. Working in close collaboration with heritage specialists Ark-Byroo (as well as the Finnish Heritage Agency and the Alvar Aalto Foundation), the team introduced a contemporary design language suited to the quietly expressive mid-century setting.

Throughout the space, polished brass, rich brown leather and blonde wood create a comfortable — and distinctly Scandinavian — ambiance that reflects Alto’s own original details. “The details of the fixed furniture were inspired by the building’s distinctive design language,” note the designers, “for example the long solid wood pulls for the veneered wardrobes, and the use of the brass moulding found in the stairwells in the details of the stone joints of the reception desk.”

Organized around a semi-private lounge that supports work while also welcoming visitors, the workspace also features a webinar room and a library, as well as a recreational area. Throughout, classic mid-century materials are paired with softer lighting and greenery, as well as comfortable furnishings that convey a sense of home within what remains a relatively buttoned-up (though perhaps mostly tie-free) setting.

Serving a DLA Piper team used to working from private offices, the Helsinki designers created a more communal setting while still providing ample meeting rooms, quiet zones, and acoustically insulated “phone booths” to support private work. Of course, the rotary phones are long gone — the space channels the elegance of the 1960s in a new reality.

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