You’d never guess this sleek office is for a dairy co-op

You’d never guess this sleek office is for a dairy co-op

With roots on the farm, Gay Lea Foods has grown to become a leading Canadian dairy co-operative, with more than 1,400 dairy farm members across Ontario and Manitoba, and over 4,300 shareholders within Canada. With a dedication to innovation and the development of high-quality products, Gay Lea continues to respond to consumers’ ever-evolving tastes, as it continues to strengthen the growing market for Canadian milk and dairy products.  

Interior Designer(s): Stella McTernan, ARIDO

Design Firm: McTernan Design Associates

Photographer: A-Frame Inc.

Located in the heart of a dairy processing complex, above a fully operating R&D Pilot plant and laboratory, Gay Lea’s new Innovation Centre provides an opportunity for visitors to glimpse the ever-advancing technology utilized by the Gay Lea Co-operative. With a commitment to inspire collaboration and creativity Gay Lea’s  ‘innovation hub’ serves as a modern, functional, and appealing interface between the co-operative, the outside dairy industry, and the community. 

Presented with an awkward building footprint and limited access to natural daylight, a second-floor addition was conceived to accommodate the ambitious space program. By analyzing the floor plate of both the ground and second floor, the design team established the best location for the stairs and elevator. Wrapping the entry staircase around the elevator shaft enforced ease of access as it allowed for shorter flights and an easier walk up, keeping the elevator and stair footprint on the second floor relatively compact and retaining valuable real estate for the demanding program. 

Maintaining both a small resident staff, including people that work in the Pilot Plant and Lab, and a contingent of visiting staff from other locations, the design team opted for an adaptable and flexible design, that would optimize the building's inherent limitations and facilitate the needs of various users. Since windows were possible on the long side of the building, staff workspace and collaboration areas were given priority access to natural daylight. Situated along the length of the space are a variety of enclave workstations, cleverly interspersed with lounge alcoves that incorporate the jog of the access corridor to create visual interest and a sense of privacy. 

The main function space integrates meeting rooms, flex space, and a test kitchen. Adding expansive bands of LED screens provides a technological window to the world and a dramatic presentation tool. While movable walls allow versatile configurations of open or closed spaces, modular tables within the large meeting room are easily reorganized as tables for four to readily adapt for hosting public events. The test kitchen enables corporate chefs to meet, sample, and taste, or make product presentations within an engaging environment that enlivens the dairy community’s commitment to collaboration. 

With a mandate for no cows or farms motifs, the design aesthetic embraces an uncluttered, durable, and pragmatic sensibility infused with exuberant zips of colour, light, and imagery. Abstractly paying homage to its heritage, the high contrast palette enforces a milky white base, accented by quintessential reverence to the creamery and farming tradition.

Stella McTernan

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Stella McTernan

McTernan Design Associates

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