ARIDO Award Winner: Smart City Sandbox

ARIDO Award Winner: Smart City Sandbox

The Sandbox was a result of firm-wide technology pivot that focused on developing new technology platforms to embrace the creation of the Smart City of the Future. This transformation required a rethink from a traditional design services provider into that of a lifecycle partner role (for both urban and built environments). The Sandbox's primary purpose was to provide a community platform for like-minded technology start-ups to inspire disruptive thinking and develop new ideas that would potentially benefit all involved. The concept was to create a transformational environment in which to inspire innovation and create enhanced collaboration between both industry partners and internal users.

Category: WORK

Interior Designer: Jane Juranek, ARIDO
Design Firm: IBI Group Architects (Canada) Inc.
Design Team: Michelle Haber, ARIDO; Mahsa Saeedi, ARIDO; Katie McCann, Intern ARIDO; Shana Davies, Intern ARIDO

Photographer: Ben Rahn - A-Frame Inc.

The "Phygital" shift into an immersive environment initiates with the LED entry portal and then envelops the senses into a unique black box experience. This shift provides an inspirational lens on how the user will view, and ultimately create, tools and experiences of their own. Digital equity is afforded to all participants (whether physical or remote) with the spaces agnostic design sensibility and digital twin capabilities.

The black box effect saturates all surfaces throughout by creating a dramatic backdrop for both the occupant and technology, contrasted by colour saturated “little boxes” (floating rooms), that provide both individual and group work settings. Implied courtyards between these boxes form virtual rooms out of negative space to demonstrate and test new technologies along with exploring new AR/VR environments under development throughout the space.

The Sandbox was inspired by a start-up philosophy, with goals to provide flexibility and scalability for a full-service destination unlike any other. The space consists of 3 different zones; a central communal hub, a visualization production area, and a bespoke meeting zone.

The communal hub is entirely fluid and can be used for events, guest speakers, charettes, presentations, and impromptu staff touch down as well as a co-working touch down for partners to utilize for focus work and collaboration. A variety of settings support multiple postures from respite to teamwork and are all completely technology-enabled with mobile presentation screens. The visualization development area supports AR/VR technology production, demos, and client experiences. Individual “little boxes” link the spaces and provide an inspirational reprieve for meetings or simply acoustic separation. Whether incubating a start-up partner or internal teams, the Sandbox supports all workstyles and needs in a quickly scalable design for as few as 30 core staff or as many as 200 while hosting a Community Event depending on the function.

While the groundwork to cultivate the next generation of smart buildings and infrastructure in cities is still being laid, tangible results are starting to be realized that can be quantified and further built upon. Successful technologies and building life cycle tools are being both launched into the market and incorporated into ongoing Client initiatives. The firm’s Intelligence sector’s growth has greatly benefited through an increase in collaboration with other Practice Sectors and ultimately a significant increase in market share for the Firm. The ultimate goal will be to have the Sandbox support an eco system for urban innovation. Virtual events have continued to be hosted via the Sandboxes digital twin environment successfully throughout the recent pandemic.

Other practical accomplishments also include the spaces ability to function as a Living Test Lab for new technology platforms, for which the Sandbox is developing IoT enabled programs to collect data, leverage its application and ultimately apply these learnings back into tangible value for clients whether it be a real estate decision or a user experience. The Sandbox has also created a Digital Twin of the environment which demonstrates the firm’s extensive toolbox including how we can work to inform and assist in managing the life cycle of a facility from the end-user perspective. Sensors throughout the space assist in a more bespoke behavioural user engagement of the space as well as provide extremely valuable data analytics on issues such as space utilization and effective use of environmental controls.

Another one of the Sandbox's key tenets is to also help support the need for a climate positive approach to our urban environment. Some of the likeminded co-collaborators in this pursuit include Ontario Power Generation, The Weather Network and the Ontario Centre for Excellence all striving for a more sustainable future.

A “build it and they will come” philosophy/strategy was undertaken in terms of developing something unique within the architecture and design industry and having ultimate flexibility in its programmatic execution. The Sandbox looks to transport users into an immersive environment, starting with a shift in one’s mindset as they pass through the LED entry portal. This threshold establishes an entirely different lens on how the user will view, and ultimately create, unique ideas of their own.

The Sandbox was designed to embody the core values of the Corporation – Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.
Diversity as a defining feature includes the firm’s identity, legacy, and future. These three components are key drivers that helped embody the development of new type community space where all would be welcomed and feel like equals.

The creation of an equitable, inclusive and accessible environment were part of the initial guiding principles of design undertaken from the outset of the Project. Hierarchy, formality, and structure were avoided in order to create design equity throughout all spaces.

Another key consideration was to create an inclusive culture based on merit and free of conscious or unconscious bias; a culture where everyone is encouraged to be themselves and achieve a sense of belonging.

Another one of the Sandbox's key tenets/outcomes is to also help support the need for a climate-positive approach to our urban environment. Some of the like-minded co-collaborators in this pursuit include Ontario Power Generation, The Weather Network, and the Ontario Centre for Excellence all striving for a more sustainable future. They all share a common goal in developing a more sustainable future for us to inhabit in the built urban environment.

Project Details:

Project Location: Toronto, ON
Project Completion Date: November 2019
Project Square Footage: 6,482

Jane Juranek

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Jane Juranek

Arcadis Architects Canada Inc

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