OCAD’s first satellite campus brings their trademark brand further east
The name CO says a lot in only two letters, describing a facility that works at the intersection of collaboration, community and co-design. OCAD U CO was conceived as an executive training studio where companies can use facilitated processes cultivated from the university’s focus on design thinking and creative problem-solving to drive major change in their organizations. Located at the Daniels City of the Arts building on the Toronto waterfront, the 14,000 square foot raw interior was long and narrow with sixteen-foot-high ceilings, with one of its greatest assets being its uninterrupted views of Lake Ontario.
Interior Designer(s): Caroline Robbie, ARIDO
Design Team: Tor McGlade, Stephanie Wiebe
Design Firm: BDQ Quadrangle
Photographer: Adrien Williams
Since this was to be OCAD’s first satellite project away from its McCaul Street campus, the design team saw the interior as an opportunity to take cues from the University’s iconic Sharp Centre for Design. Early in the research phase of exploring design options for the new campus, the CO design team distributed surveys to elicit what people associated with OCAD. Strong colour blocking and elements of the unexpected, were rapidly identified as the most common significant elements of OCAD’s infamous identity.
The design team decided to run with it, embracing the bold colours that reasserted OCAD’s characteristic identity of creativity and artistic fun. Contrasting the vibrancy of the Sharp inspired design, a black and white pixelated identity, that also informs the University’s trademark brand, was incorporated into the accessible gender-neutral washroom, linking it with the Tabletop’s signature façade. The resultant design creates a stimulating visual and psychological connection between the two campuses, which jumpstarts the creative thinking process with its open, airy spaces, and energizing jolts of colour.
Though typical workplace interiors tend to be muted and generic, the new CO design intentionally embraces shocking colours, to purposefully induce a sense of being slightly unhinged. The interior is organized into clear, distinguishable zones for reception, studios, administration, AV loans, individual workspaces, and meeting areas, as bold colours are further activated within the space to assist with wayfinding and place identity. Connecting the space’s characteristic colour and pixelation at dramatically different scales, from the micro seen on vision strips to medium-scale tiling details, the design emulates the macro scale of the McCaul Street Tabletop.
Each section of CO has is marked by its respective level of public or private exposure and colour. The open kitchenette forms a natural hearth for the relaxed, common area with its bright red cappuccino maker, inviting visitors to linger and get comfortable at the heart of the space. Floating wood ceilings in the Innovation Studios keep voices isolated within each space and discretely integrate AV, mechanical, and lighting, to facilitate a functional and visually appealing design.
The client requested spaces that could be flexible for a variety of activities and to easily evolve over time. Maximizing flexibility, the designers outfitted the largest interconnected studios with operable walls, enabling these rooms to be combined with the open collaboration zone, transforming it into a single 160-foot long event space. Maximizing usable space, the designers were able to carve out two feet from the base building mechanical and electrical rooms to create colour blocked niches with built-in benches and drop-down desks for private or shared study.
The project brings design thinking to life in a bold, yet branded environment. Facilitating interactive workshops, CO blends the professionalism required for successful change management with the playfulness of an arts school, inspiring new and creative approaches to problem-solving.
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