ARIDO Award Winner: Niagara College Welland Student Commons

Surrounded by the natural beauty of Ontario’s escarpment, Niagara College is a rural community college focused on applied arts and technology. Our firm was asked to augment the college’s 1970s-era Welland Campus by creating a Student Commons — a 35,000 square foot two-storey hub with enhanced amenities that establishes a welcoming heart for the student community.

Category: LEARN

Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO
Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects

Photographer: Scott Norsworthy

Since its inception in 1967, there have been many iterations in the evolution of the Welland Campus, creating an unnavigable building cluster, connected by dark corridors. The creation of the Student Commons provided an opportunity to create a social hub that rationalizes the building layout, establishes a new, north-facing entrance to campus, enhances branding and wayfinding, and enables natural light and external views to uplift the daily student experience.

We developed numerous iterations of the building addition to offer users the most meaningful connection to other campus facilities (including the Student Services Administration Centre and Library and Learning Commons), transit, and the surrounding landscape.

Retail and lounge space accommodate the majority of the first floor, and have the greatest connection to transit and landscape as the most occupied program components of the Student Commons. The multi-functional event space is connected to the student lounge area, complementing the “buzz” of activity that takes place in the lounge. More focused learning and meeting space is located on the second floor of the Commons, offering users a quieter space for concentrated work.

The double-height addition breathes life into the campus with a new welcome centre, a food court and retail space, new classrooms, a student activity room, and spaces for learning, study, and collaboration. As the Student Commons is only one of two dedicated student spaces on campus, we designed numerous amenities and program areas to encourage varied experiences and social interaction.

The lantern-like addition is carefully sited to provide easy links to transit and student services, while providing the college with an alternative entrance and clear drop-off zone. A tall soffit canopy clad in cedar spills into the building, acting as passive wayfinding – drawing visitors to the main entry. Iron spot brick adds warmth and anchors the entry corridor to the main student space. Curved, perforated metal panels are a welcoming gesture that also hide the campus’ main shipping and receiving zone. The panels read ‘Niagara College Canada’ and provide a bold backdrop for the new exterior plaza, giving all students and visitors a sense of place and point of pride.

The Student Commons brings order and cohesion to a campus that has evolved slowly over time, making connection to three different buildings built over 50 years. The addition branches off the existing campus building, seamlessly connecting to the existing corridor system and coherently linking all adjacent buildings. This was achieved by demolishing some existing corridors, responding to differences in floor elevations, and adding environmental graphics to direct users from nearby spaces. As a centrally located social hub, the Student Commons provides a larger area where students and faculty can dine, socialize and study, creating a sense of hierarchy and order within a formerly fractured building.

Playful details reinvigorate the campus’ visual identity, including custom-designed pendant lights shaped like X’s and O’s, whimsical circular LED lights that break up the ceiling, and large-scale supergraphics that are visible from inside and outside the building. The oversized lettering, chevrons, and dots applied to the Commons’ fully glazed expanse give the college an instantly recognizable brand.

The addition of extensive glazing and a mirrored clerestory opens the Student Commons to natural light and external views of the surrounding Niagara Escarpment. Floor-to-ceiling curtainwall glazing draws daylight inside and creates views to the outdoors, while also giving passerby glimpses of student activity within. High above the food hall, a stream of clerestory mirrors reflect additional daylight into the soaring, spacious corridor, ensuring the space is bright and airy all year round.

One of the most successful and dynamic aspects of the project is the connection of the addition to the existing building. We forged links to the existing building by creating a central corridor that connects to campus amenities, including lecture theatres, student services, and a grab-and-go coffee counter. The corridor extends from the depths of the building, and through the addition to the new, north facing entrance. The creation of this main thoroughfare brings in natural light and unites formerly separate spaces within the existing building cluster.

We incorporated the existing clerestory windows above the food hall into the new design, but optimized the design to generate additional light. We installed mirrors surrounding the clerestory, which reflect the natural light and further brighten the interior space. The mirrors also reflect the strong horizontal banding of the windows for an interesting visual effect. Surrounding the clerestory, we introduced a cedar lined ceiling for additional warmth.

We fashioned perforated screening to hide the existing shipping and receiving dock from view. The screen is used as an opportunity to give additional presence to the new, north-facing entrance to campus. To further mark the entrance and inject the college brand, the perforated screen is engraved with the words “Niagara College Canada.” The branded screen is so successful that students often take photos in front of it to capture their time at the college.

The Student Commons also provides vital links to key services that support an inclusive college community, including the Indigenous Student Centre, Multi-Faith Prayer Room, and Segal International Centre. The Indigenous Student Centre is dedicated to enhancing Indigenous student success by offering space for activities including smudging, cooking traditional meals, water blessing, and drum circles. The Segal International Centre is designed to accommodate Niagara College’s growing international enrolment, with services for admissions, housing, financial aid, and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. We also designed a Multi-Faith Prayer Room for Niagara College to accommodate the religious practices of its staff and students, with a quiet, dedicated space to practice faith on campus.

The renovation and addition supports the Government of Ontario’s commitment to improve the accessibility of buildings and facilities, and work diligently to ensure that our designs meet current standards for barrier free design. We designed barrier-free washrooms to serve people with mobility issues, and gender-neutral washrooms to create an inclusive environment for all genders.

The Student Commons fills a critical need for an accessible and inclusive space to cultivate community and create memorable on-campus experiences.

Project Details:

Project Location: Welland, ON
Project Completion Date: October 2018
Project Square Footage: 35,000 square feet

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

ARIDO Award Winner: Spin Master (Floor 1-6)

In order to create a customized home for Spin Master that is a reflection their brand and culture, our strategy began by chiseling away as much of this corporate office tower interior as possible. The shell of the “Uncorporate Headquarters” was hollowed out to reveal a rough concrete box with all of the patina of years gone by. The ground floor reception draws guests in, leading them up a stack of toy blocks into a five-floor factory of innovation.

Category: WORK

Interior Designer: Anthony Orasi, ARIDO
Design Firm: iN STUDIO
Design Team: Guy Painchaud, ARIDO; Heidi Painchaud, ARIDO; Rosemary Ratkaj, ARIDO; Vince Zhao, Intern, ARIDO

Photographer: Gillian Jackson

We linked all floors through a new central interconnected stair, forging a path of vertical circulation directly adjacent to the workspace. The open work studios are in turn located next to collaborative hubs and meeting rooms. The bright day-lit spaces, ubiquitous biophilia, and playfulness of the brand’s portrayal throughout create an energetic incubator of ideas.

Spin Master’s brand permeates every part of the six-floor space, showcasing their innovation and the fun that they create everyday. It begins with the larger-than-life Block Stack stair leading up from the ground floor into the workshop above. From there, a vibrant ribbon of graphics, interactive signage and installations winds its way through the floors.

The guest journey begins by climbing the Block Stack, to a landing where a giant 3-dimensional interactive installation tells the story of Spin Master’s past and hints at their future. Guests can engage with the exhibit and follow the timeline that showcases their successes, as well as the many lessons learned along the way. The tour continues past the innovation labs and through the expansive town hall space and on to various touchpoints throughout the five upper levels. A hall of awards and cinema-quality screening room rounds out the tour on the sixth floor.

As Spin Master’s focus is as much about tactile toys as it is digital entertainment, technology is front and centre in their new space. The twenty foot high interactive video wall that greets guests upon entry celebrates the company’s status as a digital entertainment leader. While the various digital showpieces showcase the future-forward embodiment of children’s entertainment, the much quieter, but cutting-edge AV infrastructure inject Spin Master’s home with a much needed way to connect with their hubs and partners around the world.

As much as technology was to have a large, visible part in the new environment, the look and feel of Spin Master’s space was to be distinctly tied to their “Start-Up” and Maker roots. This led to the idea of creating a more industrial backdrop with rough textured concrete, industrial light fixtures and less polished finishes giving the feeling of a garage or warehouse. Over top of this rougher texture, we layered the warmth of a Maker’s Workshop through the light wood flooring, wall cladding and furnishings. Ensuring the development labs were front and centre peaks the curiosity of individuals who visit the space, giving a glimpse into the inner-workings of a storied manufacturer and re-enforcing that this is where ideas come to life.

With its interesting patina the concrete shell of the space became a key part of the overall aesthetic. A weathered backdrop for the layers, creating the look and feel of an industrial space meets maker’s workshop.

Both the main and second floors of the building are double height spaces, allowing the design team to think big – as well as to locate specialized spaces that required additional height. On the main floor, the leased space was small, but it provided the perfect highly visible arrival space to attract attention and promote the brand.

Taking advantage of the height, the 2nd floor also houses a large town hall with two-story bleachers, and expansive training room, multiple development labs as well as a photo studio. On the north end of the 2nd floor is where the main interconnecting stair begins – rising through floors 2-6, connecting the work studios and providing a central circulation spine. Elevator Lobbies were transformed into showcases of Spin Master’s Entertainment Products and offer a sneak peek into the unique spaces such as the 4th floor 3D Development Lab.

Floors 3 through 5 are divided into pods or studios of open workstations, all directly adjacent to the exterior glazing. All workspaces feature height adjustable tables and personal whiteboards while the design and product studios also feature expansive layout and storage space to suit their individual needs. Closed meeting space creates a break between the studios while collaborative zones interrupt runs of small leadership office/meeting spaces that run the length of the corridors.

Long corridors that encircle the core of the building are brought to life with “Spin Master Moments”, digital stops, colourful graphics and three dimensional installations. This often overlooked circulation space, devoid of natural light became a showcase of brand. No longer a back hallway, now a fun place to stop and chat, or to perch and take a call. Support spaces are clustered down these corridors, toward the core of the building.

Although similar to floors 3-5, the 6th floor is flanked by Executive offices on the east and west building perimeter and features an Awards Gallery and a Cinema-style Screening Room near the core.

Barrier free access is provided throughout and all built spaces are conducive to the use by individuals of all sizes and abilities. Although connecting staircases are the one exception to this rule, great efforts were made to ensure the elevator experience was in-line with that of the rest of the facility – giving every individual easy and efficient communication between levels.

All spaces, including all telephone rooms allow for barrier-free access. All counters are installed at barrier-free height or include a barrier free section which allows for full functionality. Door operators were installed at all doors within the circulation path including elevator lobbies. Although not every single seat in shared spaces can accommodate every type of individual, there is a consistent assortment of seating types that will accommodate everyone.

An interior that promotes sustainability, heath, and wellness and supports universal design was a project mandate. The space fonforms to LEED guidelines around healthy materials, as well as electrical and mechanical parameters. All interior finishes were low-emitting, recycled, recyclable or both. Interior systems (mechanical, electrical) were all designed with sustainability at the forefront. All lighting is LED and low consumption, coupled with control systems that reduce energy use. All areas are controlled by occupancy sensors.

On the wellness front, extensive biophilia was included in the design, particularly within the workspace, which coupled with direct views to the exterior and an abundance of natural light support a sense of comfort and well being. All closed interior office spaces feature glazed fronts and directly face the exterior glazing. Workspace lighting is indirect and is 90 CRI or greater – reducing strain on the eyes over prolonged periods.

To support a healthy lifestyle, chilled filtered water spigots were installed on every floor – giving all occupants access to the best hydration. Additionally, two “working” treadmill rooms were included, allowing exercise while working.

Project Details:

Project Location: Toronto, ON
Project Completion Date: June 2018
Project Square Footage: 100,000 square feet

ARIDO Award Winner: Uber Canada Headquarters

Inspired by the theme of movement, both literally and figuratively, the interior design for the new corporate headquarters of Uber Canada evokes a sense of forward momentum. The elements of rhythm, repetition, bold lines, and contrasting details converge to reflect both Uber’s global growth and trajectory as a world-leading technology enterprise, and its drive to get people where they want to go.

Category: WORK

Interior Designers: Peter Heys, ARIDO; Leslie Tuttle, ARIDO
Design Firm: B+H
Design Team: David Zhou, ARIDO; Marianna Ng, ARIDO; Inga Kantor, ARIDO; Abi Kim, Intern, ARIDO

Photographer: Doublespace Photography

In 2018, Uber sought to create a cutting-edge workspace for their new Canadian head office, located on the top five floors of a downtown Toronto office tower. Concurrently, the company was in the process of revitalizing their branding guidelines which included the development of a new ‘Playbook’ that outlined Uber’s general workplace requirements, including accessibility standards.

This blank canvas provided the opportunity to envision a new type of workplace for Uber, one that would align with the company’s refreshed brand, vision, and values, facilitate a seamless transition its staff to working in a larger, multi-floor office space, and enhance the elements stipulated in Uber’s playbook.

A key component was a robust environmental graphic design (EGD) strategy. Inspired by Uber’s culture, the interior design team selected five key values as inspiration for the space: connect, explore, surprise, play, and pause. With those values as a jumping-off point, the interior design team assigned associated colours and developed a visual language – with each level of the five floors occupied by Uber uniquely reflecting one of the values.

The majority of the EGD program takes advantage of natural places of connection: common areas, corridors, the library, the cafe, gaming spaces, etc. A key part of our design strategy was to infuse the vibrant culture of the city as an additional layer of conceptual richness. On one floor we installed a custom-illustrated wall covering that celebrates Toronto’s popular Kensington Market neighbourhood. Another celebrates the famed Distillery District.

When connection was not the primary driver, we focused on improving user experience. In dark, narrow corridors we strategically placed a vibrant, textured wall covered with bright, hand-lettered, neon LED typography to transform a dim, transient space into a playful, engaging portal.

Uber’s offices encompass floors 12-17, yet reception is smack in the middle on the 16th floor, which had the potential to confuse first time visitors. When a visitor steps off the elevator on the 16th floor, a motion sensor catches their movement and triggers multi-stage lighting, which guides them to the reception desk. This reassures any new visitor that they are in the right place.

Not only is the lighting an efficient wayfinding tool, this installation can be programmed for special events and observances, which could include Pride Month, Indigenous Heritage Month, Black History Month, etc.

The design also features a multipurpose wellness room, envisioned to be used by Uber employees for a broad range of wellness-oriented activities which may include exercise/yoga classes or individual sessions, meditation, prayer, or simply as an area to rest and recharge. The design also incorporates a mother’s nursing room, providing Uber staff with a private, comfortable, and dignified setting for nursing mothers.

Biophilic strategies and elements are woven throughout the design to imbue the office with a sense of connection to nature and greenery – highlighting the project’s unique proximity to Toronto’s picturesque Don Valley. Various plant species were incorporated throughout the office floors through the custom shelving as well as through terrace plantings which are visible from the office interiors.

Folding partition systems embed flexibility into the space, allowing for specific rooms to be opened to adjacent space for enlarged team meetings and events, or closed for privacy as required. Writeable surfaces within the walls so that natural light and function is present. This wall is also able to incorporate technology including power, sound and display directly into the folding wall, should this be a consideration for Uber in the future.

Project Details:

Project Location: Toronto, ON
Project Completion Date: August 2019
Project Square Footage: 80, 000 square feet

ARIDO Award Winner: Culture Develops Community (First Gulf Head Office)

Quality, confidence and attention to detail is the bedrock of real estate developers and landlords reputation. As builders of communities, conveying a high level of professionalism and stability is critical to ensure partners and investors commit to the vision of their next project.

First Gulf had been working out of dated surroundings, which did not serve their needs as a prominent Canadian developer. It was time for a major change.

Category: WORK

Interior Designers: Suzanne Wilkinson, ARIDO; Tamara Rooks, ARIDO; William Gray, ARIDO
Design Firm: Figure3
Design Team: Nicole Hoppe, ARIDO; Anna-Lisa Frank, ARIDO; Alivia Checchia, Intern ARIDO; Bharhavi Selvanathan, Intern ARIDO

Photographer: Steve Tsai Photography

Having worked with the design team on a variety of successful residential projects, First Gulf decided it was now time to design a new workplace for their staff of 180, located in the celebrated Globe and Mail Centre which they had built.

Through a series of visioning sessions, the interior design team was able to understand the core values and design accordingly so they could be embodied in the new space. Major priorities were employee benefits, increasing visibility among teams and providing access to daylight, while attracting new team members, and aligning the visions of both First Gulf (commercial) and Great Gulf (residential), each with different mandates and leadership, and show their clients their core values as a forward-thinking leader in the development of office, mixed-use, retail, and industrial properties

The new space is a curated experience of the company’s culture, deliberate paths of travel accentuating views, quality design and provocative artwork. Staff and guests of the First Gulf office are invited into a modern office environment with traditional design cues. Natural light flows in and unobstructed panoramic views of the city acting as the backdrop. A balance of work settings for the staff, including open seating, interior offices, and non-bookable privacy rooms allows staff to not only be more visible to each other but also collaborate in more effective ways, leaving behind the former siloed work environment.

With the vision of putting the company culture on display to all who experience the new space, the design team placed their community space and lunchroom – typically hidden behind doors – at the forefront, adjacent to the reception and boardroom facility.

The hospitality lounge is a beautiful space where staff can gather and host clients for events. With a servery tucked away, a cozy built-in dining area, and small studies facing the city for quiet work, it’s a sophisticated space for both socializing and entertaining. It features a double-sided fireplace like that of a hotel lounge, as well as a curated collection of eclectic furniture. The conference rooms and boardroom along the perimeter corridor feature curved glass corners which reflect sleek city views.

The blend of materials speaks to the combined commercial and residential functions of the client with raw textures such as concrete and marble, mixed with natural woods and warm, plush tones.

To meet some of the specific brand messaging goals the design team looked to the art world. An art consultant was hired, and in partnership with the executive teams, very unique and distinctly Canadian pieces were chosen and commissioned to tell a story.

As staff and guests enter, they are greeted by a medallion-like piece by artist Joy Charbonneau who specializes in creating artwork of geological data and bathymetry to highlight features not often appreciated. Created specifically for First Gulf, the Toronto harbour was captured, showcasing what exists below the surface of the water. The piece shows how the city’s waterline has been interrupted by human intervention which also speaks to the work of the developer.

In one of the corridors and seen from inside the boardroom, more custom art can be seen; a sculpture of a life-sized buck by Robert Cram is cast in brass with mechanical air duct coils wrapped around its body, a poignant reminder of the impacts humans have on nature.

The corridor to the coat storage and bathroom is dimly lit and features a beautiful mural of a forest by Tom Fabia, ensuring every pathway is a curated journey. Undoubtedly bold, these progressive works of art start conversations, stir emotions, and help tell First Gulf’s story.

Combining a sophisticated design with provocative works of art, and innovative materials speaks well to who First Gulf is as a company now, and their promising path into the future.

To dig deeper into their true needs, the design team hosted a series of visioning sessions with their executive team, including the presidents of both First Gulf and Great Gulf, to represent the core values of each brand harmoniously in the new space.

First Gulf wanted their people and culture to be at the forefront. Their goal was for their staff to have smiles on their faces upon arrival, and guests to be welcomed right into their culture. In the new office, staff feels more connected to each other, and behave differently in their new space, which truly reflects their impressive industry status and company values.

Open seating allows staff to not only be more visible to each other but also connect in more effective ways. In the more private area of the office, the atmosphere is minimal, bright, and clean. It was important to include a mix of smaller meeting rooms and private telephone rooms to ensure people working in the office have a multitude of options.

Additional ways the firm established wellness principles, employees are offered ergonomic seats and sit-stand desks, which encourage a healthy working postures. Showers are available for staff who bike to work or exercise during their workday. The office is wheelchair accessible, includes hand-motion door openings and unisex wheelchair-accessible washrooms. An outdoor terrace invites employees to take a break from office work and enjoy sun and fresh air.

Sustainable timber construction was also incorporated via innovative new wood technologies. Each modular wall and piece of millwork was fabricated with high precision. The office building is also certified LEED Gold.

Combining a sophisticated design with provocative works of art, and innovative materials speaks to who First Gulf is as a company now, and their path into the future. The staff of 180 which included construction, leasing, administration, and marketing teams felt the difference immediately. The new office has been transformative and the staff felt the difference immediately; feeling more connected to their work and purpose in a new environment they’re proud to call home.

Project Details:

Project Location: Toronto, ON
Project Completion Date: April 2019
Project Square Footage: 25,000

ARIDO Award Winner: The Co-operators Regina

By moving away from the traditional office environment to a nimbler workplace, The Co-operators started their move westward Canadian headquarters in Regina. They endeavoured to create a healthy and human-centric workplace that is deeply connected to their long-standing values of co-operation, folklore stories, and deep-rooted Canadian history. Environmental sustainability is paramount to this organization, so the team looked to best practices from LEED and WELL standards.

Category: WORK

Interior Designer: Pia Green, ARIDO
Design Firm: HOK
Design Team: Caitlin Turner, ARIDO; Rowena AuYeung, ARIDO; Charlene Isaacs, ARIDO

Photographer: Klassen Photography

The Co-operators wanted to ignite creativity, have staff engage with the brand and rich history, and provide an amazing food experience and client facing space. This required the interior design team to re-imagine how the existing aging building might be adapted to meet The Co-operators’ goals. As the first of several office re-designs across Canada, the design strategy needed to balance brand consistency along with moments that celebrate local culture and a sense of place.

The success of this project is heavily attributed to a collaborative approach with all parties at the table. Early and frequent communication with the landlord, contractors, consultants, and furniture suppliers helped to navigate the phased delivery of the building’s nine-storeys.

The design for The Co-operators’ new Regina headquarters was inspired by the co-founder’s description of the company as “an acorn that will grow into one of the greatest oak trees of the co-operative movement” by Albert Savage (LINK). Moved by this sentiment, the team imagined a design that draws influence from the natural world – in particular, the oak tree. It is also draws from three core values: foundation, collective, and enrichment.

The design team worked with the landlord to re-imagine the ineffective lobby area atrium by enlarging the ground floor and filling in the atrium of the second floor to create a large client conference space. With wellness and daylight as key drivers, the design team outlined where the landlord should add additional glazing, letting more daylight in. Building systems were reassessed and updated to increase energy efficiency and provide occupant comfort throughout.

The reception and conference areas are flanked by a curved sculptural wood wall, where ideas feed the organization. Much like the roots of the oak tree, the curved wall represents the “foundation” element. In true a co-operative spirit, the reception is a welcoming space for employees and the community alike. Rich tones, warm woods, local stone, and a fireplace give the space a feel rooted in hospitality. The embossed logo takes a softer approach to typical signage, and work from local artists are featured throughout the space, celebrating the diversity of the Regina landscape and its people.

The employees and visitors’ journey throughout the tower tie back to the oak tree with rich wood walls and a ceramic art installation in the elevator lobbies which mimics the natural growth of moss on the trunk of a tree. Perforated metal panels suspended from the elevator lobby ceilings are reminiscent of sunlight filtering through leafy canopies. The material palette combines natural local materials and textural references that draw from their deep-rooted history within Canada, coupled with contemporary finishes and features that celebrate The Co-operators’ fabled past and progressive future. Custom live-edge wood tables by Canadian furniture makers are used in the common spaces, and potash (a local Regina material) is referenced in the wall textures and graphics.

Stories of how the company was founded were translated into architectural features including: the curved wooden wall at reception and the perforated ceiling that leads from the elevator lobby to the café, which are both reminiscent of the oak tree; the wall paneling pattern suggestive of heavy tractor tires; and accessories, like apples and wheat, throughout the space that refer back to The Co-operators’ agricultural history.

The Co-operators’ folklore and history speaks to the concept of the “collective.” Inspired by the story of The Co-operators’ insurance agent who would meet with farmers on tractor tires, the team referenced this in the textured acoustic wall paneling in the meeting rooms. Wheat and apples that were once used for payment in hard times are displayed in the café. Integrated into the signage are historic and design intent plaques that highlight The Co-operators’ story and offer a curated experience to all.

Employee wellbeing was enhanced through biophilic elements such as natural wood, green walls, and plants that create a visually harmonious space, while also improving indoor air quality. The design also encourages employees to take mental and movement breaks throughout the day to connect with colleagues, as well as nature. All lighting and HVAC were upgraded and follow WELL design principles, and all employee desks are equipped with sit-stand capabilities and are placed around the perimeter of the building to ensure access to natural light.

“Enrichment” was implemented through a focus on sustainability and wellness, as well as community moments that showcase volunteer work done in the community. A ticker board in the café counts the hours that the employees have volunteered locally. The design also encourages employees to take mental and movement breaks throughout the day to connect with colleagues and nature.

The company also boasts a respectable national art collection which was incorporated into the program. Previously it was not properly displayed, and many pieces were kept in storage. The collection was incorporated into the overall program, with key moments that celebrate this incredible collection, while ensuring the pieces work in harmony with the overall design the space.

Several small floorplates required the design team to consider how to encourage staff to utilize movement throughout the building. Our solution was to create unique lobby experiences that open to a nourishment station on each floor to encourage staff to move throughout the space. Nourishment stations are flanked by large meeting rooms and allow for overflow capacity from other floors to access additional rooms with ease.

The interior design team worked to create a more inclusive space and support an increasingly neurodiverse workforce, by providing space for hypersensitive and hyposensitive individuals. Heads-down spaces are both quiet and active, and the plan hosts open and enclosed collaborative spaces. Furthermore, a custom glazing film was created to provide shielding for those within the space, while reinforcing our design concept of growth.

The Co-operators were passionate in going above and beyond local building code and embedding ‘best practices’ wherever possible. This included the addition of strobes where not necessarily required, oversized corridor widths to accommodate mobility devices, and increased use of items such as power door operators to future proof the space, while providing an equitable environment that embeds the principles of universal design. Wellness rooms were placed on each of the floor plates to encourage staff to take a private moment as needed.

To balance the high-tech nature of the employees’ daily activities, we introduced biophilic elements that evoke the feeling of nature and are calming, refreshing, and relaxing. This was addressed by incorporating natural materials, light, vegetation, and views to surrounding nature from the built environment. Natural wood, green walls and plants can be found throughout the space to improve indoor air quality and give employees a chance to connect to nature while indoors.

The finished product recognizes their past but is built with the future in mind by helping to support the health and wellbeing of its occupants. The Co-operators Group is now empowered with a robust design solution that translates their brand story throughout their office. In our client’s words, “It is now a space that we can showcase to our clients on who we truly are as an organization.”

Project Details:

Project Location: Regina, SK
Project Completion Date: August 2020
Project Square Footage: 125, 000 square feet

ARIDO Award Winner: Innovation Hub

The project was a renovation to an existing brick and beam building in downtown Toronto. Sobeys was looking to move their team to a space that would allow employees to collaborate in an agile and mobile work setting.
The objective was to create a highly functional space to support the innovative thinking critical to Sobeys’ future, keep current with today’s trends, and anticipate the future needs of Sobeys customers. The location was specifically chosen to attract the area’s burgeoning tech community that expects all its digital needs to be met to do its best work.

Category: WORK

Interior Designers: Beverly Horii, ARIDO; Angelique Lucas-Witte, ARIDO
Design Firm: IA Interior Architects
Design Team: Vera Gisarov, ARIDO; Suzanne Campbell, ARIDO; Jayme Rideout, ARIDO; Regan Harder, Intern, ARIDO

Photographer: Doublespace Photography (Amanda Large & Younes Bounher)

There are three floors in total that make up the Sobeys’ Innovation Hub. Two floors of the space can combine to create a town hall meeting space with screens for graphic content. The inner portion of the floorplate is dedicated to enclosed collaboration areas that can flex to accommodate larger or smaller groups. This area also is the only space that has a dropped acoustic tile ceiling to mitigate the group acoustic level. The enclosure around the central portion is clear glass with a minimal frame to open the central block to perimeter areas when acoustic privacy is not an issue. By placing enclosed areas towards the centre of the floorplate, natural light and views are enjoyed by all.

Original building materials of brick and wood were mixed with warm textiles and dark metal details to celebrate the existing architecture and create a warm and inviting space. By wrapping the main circulation path around centralized glass enclosed meeting rooms, teams are visible to their peers and enable natural light can permeate the entire floor.

An activity based, free address environment accommodates the different needs of staff and customers. The workspace includes work points, project rooms, quiet and open collaboration zones to support introvert/extrovert behaviours, and a work café.

A big effort was made to connect the open mezzanine level to the main space to offer an “outdoor terrace” type of area to the facility. Views that look back to the brick and beam building as well as overlook the main atrium space make this area truly unique.

In collaboration with Sobeys, a user guide was developed in both a digital and print publication format as a “how to use tip sheet” for staff, visitors, and leadership to communicate the expected behaviours and practical uses of the space. Three stand-alone washrooms were added: one universal and two gender neutral. The space includes a wellness room and a prayer room with mediation pillows and mats where employees can retreat for quiet time, privacy, and respite. Lockers of various sizes priovde space for staff to keep their belongings in the office.

Furniture is adaptable and moveable, including writeable surfaces, to support collaboration and teamwork. The post and beam room system allows for future flexibility and integrates hackable components. Acoustics in collaboration areas are sensitively designed for privacy and audibility.

Sobeys is a proudly Canadian business and the design team leveraged local vendors, artist, and artisans from Toronto’s local downtown scene to add components to the space. Work of local artists, craftspeople, designers, and manufacturers was integrated into the design of the space. Custom built furniture such as a harvest table, live edge benches, a bookshelf for the prayer room, and a television console for the gaming area were designed and produced by OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design) students. Custom graphics were provided by local artists and digital artwork at the front entry was provided by Alex McCloud. Lastly, vintage furniture and light fixtures were provided by Philz 20th Century, a local vintage store in the Junction.

The final design is a true celebration of national and regional talent coming together to create a space that fosters innovation, complements culture, and will inspire talent for years to come.

Project Details:

Project Location: Toronto, ON
Project Completion Date: Fall 2020
Project Square Footage: 19.750 square feet

ARIDO Award Winner: Spin Master (7th Floor)

As a business unit within a large Canadian toy company, the client wanted a space to attract top talent and convey refined talent of the artists, writers, actors, and producers that their business employs. The design strategy consisted of using a co-create process to evolve the design in an iterative manner, ensuring team diversity, input equity, and an inclusive approach to all stakeholders regardless of rank and file.

Category: WORK

Interior Designers: Annie Bergeron, ARIDO; Jessica Baird, ARIDO
Design Firm: Gensler
Design Team: Filo Costa, ARIDO; Nichola Chan, ARIDO; Sarah Taylor, Intern ARIDO

Photographer: Ben Rahn

Weekly brainstorm sessions between the client and design teams let everyone involved have a voice in the process ensuring their brand and work to shine.

The new space unfolds like a story narrative – reflecting the work processes of the end-user. An Art Deco inspired wood trimmed lobby, entry marquee, burgundy “red” carpet, and gold vitrine decal signage hint that creatives live here. Going from dark to light through space, the art studio itself is flooded with daylight and accented with soft finishes: the artwork pops and remains centre stage. X’s and O’s lighting harken back to simple childhood games and offer a reminder of the studio’s target audience.

The design team leveraged our world-class research and data gathering tools (vision session, surveys, and interviews), to identify the right ratio of work settings. A thoughtful mix of meeting spaces – varying sizes, casual to formal, enclosed to semi-private to open, stand-up or sit-down – combined with individual work settings ensure individuals can get down to work. Common areas strategically placed directly off reception and away from focused work allow for uproarious laughter and casual collaboration.

Every part of the office design provides the tools needed to collaborate across disciplines: digital technology, whiteboards, blackboards, pin-up space, inspirational content library (like books, magazines, and toys), blank canvases, gallery walls, brainstorm and audio production studios, and p-board storage.

The production studio for voice talent was a key component that needed to be placed strategically and noisy base building systems were re-routed to ensure sound quality. The design team engaged audio acoustic specialists to deliver this component.

Open ceilings were strategically located to help conceal the Class B building air distribution system revealing a flawless open effect. Exposed columns we kept clear of visually distracting services distribution. Staggered tendering, pre-ordering, and strategic reuse were used to meet the budget and even tighter schedule.

Appropriate separation between heads-down focus work and collaborative work ensures the employees’ productive capital can be maximized, along with their enjoyment of the space. The entry sequence progresses from active zones, transitioning into the quieter design studios where creative concentrated work occurs.

Staff have many options when they want to engage with others, and an on-floor café provides ample opportunity for impromptu conversations. The children’s book library offers creators an area to disconnect from the digital world and get inspired by illustrated adventures. Digital content is also available through the space for visitors to preview new animated shows – and old classics – when the need to be transported away to another world strikes.

The space meets LEED Certified standards wellness was carefully considered, with access to daylight, quiet reflection spaces, and the inclusion of a lush plant program that was the top employee-requested feature. Greenery throughout provides a soft biophilic element.

Project Details:

Project Location: Toronto, ON
Project Completion Date: July 2019
Project Square Footage: 19,605 square feet

ARIDO Award Winner: OPG Workplace Transformation

In 2017 Ontario Power Generation created their new One OPG mandate of refined business practices and a culture more closely connected to their purpose and values. They were committed to redefining the organization and had a bold vision for their future.

Category: WORK

Interior Designers: Michelle Berry, ARIDO; Jillian Warren, ARIDO; Daniel Norwood, ARIDO
Design Firm: Figure3
Design Team: Michela Kochanski, ARIDO

Photographer: Steve Tsai Photography

Having worked out of their existing office since the 1970’s (450 employees across seven floors and approx. 200K square feet), it no longer represented OPG as a progressive organization. Their four different energy sectors worked in silos, and much of the space was inefficient and underutilized. Staff also felt isolated by high partitions restricting sight lines to fellow coworkers.

A workplace transformation was needed to support and align with this culture shift, resulting in the need for a redesign from the ground up. Their physical work environment needed to reflect and support how OPG planned to streamline their business practices and systems.

The new space promotes a greater sense of ownership among staff, allowing the organization to be more performance-oriented, collaborative and demonstrate industry leadership. The new workspace is modern, beautiful and open. Natural light now shines in throughout the space like it couldn’t before, allowing more connection to the outside world.

The design language throughout connects to the progressive values of OPG and the purpose of their business, namely power, science, technology, and natural resources. The reception desk is made of steel tubes to mimic the nuclear calandria cooling tubes, The Boardwalk (an open environment along the window spanning the length of the floor) is fashioned with outdoor furniture as would be seen in a park, a feature wall includes hard hats from their power plants and partnering organizations, display shelving features artifacts and historical pieces from OPG’s history, and artwork by Indigenous artists adorns the walls. Environmental graphics in meeting rooms depict stylized, abstract images of earth elements as well as their other facilities.

With such a major transformation, the design team employed its proprietary intensive research process to peel back the layers and uncover OPG’s needs and wants in order to deliver a strategic approach to support a reimagined workplace.

Over three months of study, the design team completed an extensive strategy report which would serve as the design blueprint for OPG’s new space. Feedback from staff indicated they wanted to experience more empowerment, more connection, more support, and more pride in their workplace. Feedback from the leadership team indicated they wanted their staff to be more stimulated, engaged, nimble, and for the workplace to be unified with a feeling of trust.

A major shift for OPG was the decision to go with unassigned seating. This gave staff more choice about where they work, allowing for more opportunity for their departments to collaborate, individual brand growth, and exposure to more knowledge sharing and leadership. This supported their vision of Facilitated Leadership and growth potential across the organization, and staff now feel like their skills and talent are more recognized and valued.

The strategy report will continue to be a useful tool, serving as a template for all future workplace transformation projects throughout their real estate portfolio.

The model recognizes how energy radiates from certain key spaces, and informed the organization of the primary, secondary and community spaces. This plan protects access to daylight and views from all primary workspaces. Primary spaces are visible and connected, configurable to personal needs, and offer a level of focus and protection. Secondary spaces cater to an array of energy levels and facilitate ease of connection and sharing of information. Community spaces offer a balance between quiet and communal, and are welcoming and flexible, offering the ability to connect with each other and re-energize. Support spaces let staff move between areas and generate and absorb the organization’s buzz.

Imagery, brand, graphics, and natural resources are incorporated into OPG’s new workplace to embody the societal impacts that the organization has on the lives and livelihoods of Ontarians. The decommissioning of OPG’s no longer needed furniture was accomplished in a socially and environmentally meaningful way through a re-use buy-back program. In the process, they recycled more than 380 workstations, 500 chairs, 28 meeting tables, and 350 file cabinets. These assets (the equivalent of 133.40 metric tonnes) were donated, recycled, or diverted from landfill with an aim to result in a Zero Carbon Impact.

OPG shifted from 7 floors to 2, from 246 private offices to 0, while doubling community space from 14% to 28%. They sacrificed much space with the new design, but the resulting space was designed much more effectively, to influence employee behaviours much more positively, and to finally align with their goals.

OPG is working to dismantle the ingrained hierarchy by creating a sense of community and environment where connections and information can be freely shared between employees. This facilitated leadership approach is humanized and unified. OPG’s leadership transitioned from siloed and process oriented, to a human-centric, result driven organization.

It has been a true workplace transformation and the impact was felt immediately, with first impressions from their returning staff including exclamations such as, “I feel like I’m working at a different company.” “This transformation also supports their larger initiative to reduce their real estate footprint and reduce the use of commercial leased space, thus reducing costs that will benefit the Ontario ratepayers. It’s a new era for OPG, and they are thrilled with their new workplace which is now finally aligned with their values and vision for the future.

Project Details:

Project Location: Toronto, ON
Project Completion Date: 2019
Project Square Footage: 110,000 square feet

ARIDO Award Winner: Richardson Wealth

We were approached by Richardson Wealth to help with the fit-up of their new space during a business and cultural shift within their organization. The wealth management firm sought a space that could support employees while being a sophisticated milieu for hosting clients.

Category: WORK

Interior Designer: Jessica Gozdzierski, ARIDO
Design Firm: IBI Group Architects (Canada) Inc.
Design Team: Roxanne Van Dam, Intern, ARIDO; Daniel Brandley, Intern, ARIDO

Photographer: Ema Peter Photography

The new space is efficient and adaptable, and suit the ever-changing needs of technology and the business. Overall, the project achieved the client’s vision of a space that would allow collaboration amongst teams, address the evolving advisor-client relationship and provide an enhanced employee experience.

The need for a designated client meeting space became a high priority item for the team. We recognized that if designed properly it would launch Richardson Wealth into the forefront of their industry by providing a unique experience for clients and employees alike.

We set out to incorporate a client centre that would encompass Richardson Wealth’s brand along with the ideal number of varying types of meeting spaces, with technology seamlessly integrated.

With the client relationship and experience in mind, it also became important to us to provide an entertainment space within the Client Centre. To achieve this, we incorporated a multi-purpose meeting room that opens up to the reception space to allow for larger client events and employee town halls. The incorporation of different types of multi-purpose areas was pivotal in achieving the most efficient use of space throughout.

The client centre is welcoming, easily navigated, and provides all fundamental amenities including a designated client coffee bar, client washroom, and a catering kitchen to aid large events.

The open space also boasts several seating vignettes to ensure visitors immediately feel welcome and can meet with their financial advisor in the open area or within one of multiple meeting rooms. The largest boardroom is adjacent to the open waiting area so the moveable glass partition which separates these spaces can be raised to create an even larger event space.

With employee wellness being a top priority for Richardson Wealth, we were sure to implement various design strategies throughout the office space to capture this need. We made certain that the employee lounge/servery was placed in a very desirable spot of the floor plate. It offers employees the best views of the cityscape while also offering them various collaborative settings within to ensure communication and team building remain ongoing.

A member of the leadership team at Richardson Wealth praised the new space, saying, “We now have a modern, functional office space that is the envy of our industry in Vancouver. Staff are thrilled with our new space even though we’ve had limit capacity during the pandemic. Can’t wait to be full time in the office again.“

Project Details:

Project Location: Vancouver, BC
Project Completion Date: September 2019
Project Square Footage: 20,000 square feet