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

Inspiration was locally-sourced for this luxurious downtown Toronto condominium

Situated at the intersection of Toronto’s landmark financial and heritage St. Lawrence Market districts, 88 Scott was an opportunity to create a standout, luxury downtown residence. 

Interior Designer: Kelly Cray, ARIDO

Design Team: Neil Jonsohn, ARIDO; Christianne Barbuto, Intern, ARIDO

Design Firm: U31

Photographer: Jac Jacobson

Standing proud at 58-storeys, this condominium is anything but meek. The towering neoclassical-style structure demanded an interior as impressive as its presence at the corner of Scott and Wellington. The design was largely guided by our client’s directive to take a ‘Canadian Moderne’ approach which involved looking to Canada’s natural landscape for inspiration. The result is an urban oasis that’s rooted in references to nature. 

The experience begins in the 1,500 square foot hotel-style lobby where dark and light coexist to create a dramatic statement. We established a warm and engaging entrance by combining textured and polished stone backgrounds with walnut-paneled walls and screens. Guests are welcomed by Euro-inspired seating that encourages lounging and a double-sided “Ocean Black” slate fireplace that provides a cozy spot for escaping the cold. The fireplace serves as the focal point of the space and overall, contributes to the grand, sophisticated flavour of the lobby.

With the executive demographic target purchaser in mind, we designed a 1,800 square foot business area adjacent to the lobby. This zone contains private workstations, a boardroom, and a lounge for the convenience of residents.

An extensive amenity program was the key to cultivating a luxury lifestyle for 88 Scott’s residents. The amenities are located across the building’s sixth and 46th and 47th split levels (spanning 10,400 square feet total) and include everything from wellness-oriented offerings to entertainment-geared experiences. The sixth floor consists of a fitness centre and a social area featuring a sophisticated party room complete with a kitchen and bar. Unique art pieces animate key areas of the party room: a geometric wood ‘stack’ installation emphasizes the grand fireplace while hand-crafted coffee tables complement lounge seating arrangements.

In the 46th and 47th split level ‘Sky Lounge’ and private dining room, we created a vibrant urban atmosphere by incorporating large windows that frame views of Toronto. By day, the space is bright and airy, while by night, a moodier atmosphere emerges as skyscrapers and Lake Ontario glimmer in the distance. The ‘Sky Lounge’ interior features a combination of raw textures (seen in the wood floors and stone fireplace surround) against more glamorous, fabricated finishes (seen in the mirrored ceiling and lush upholstery fabrics). 

One of the main challenges of designing 88 Scott was delivering a high-end yet cost-effective result. For instance, the lobby chandelier, which was originally quoted from a European manufacturer, had to be substituted by a local supplier to accommodate budgetary constraints. Fortunately, the final result achieved the sumptuousness we had envisioned. 

Challenges continued as the building’s heritage designation required us to leave architectural elements, like windows, untouched. Since we couldn’t alter the imperfect window openings and sill heights, we added white sheer drapery throughout the lobby to disguise the irregularities. 

Since the project’s completion, residents have been taking full advantage of the condominium’s many offerings. The building’s lobby is much more than a spot to wait for an Uber: residents regularly spend time in this space catching up on emails and meeting up with friends before they head out on the town.

This project was awarded an ARIDO Award of Merit in 2019.

Bringing Home to Hotel Design at the Kimpton Saint George Hotel

188 guest rooms, fourteen stories, and one common goal: to integrate elements of Toronto’s culture and personality and provide guests with a distinct sense of place. Our team responded to this vision with a design that communicated a narrative of local pride, diverse heritage, and contemporary culture to create the Kimpton Saint George Hotel.  The boutique hotel brand, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is renowned for individually designed boutique hotels positioned to reflect the cities they inhabit. Completed in 2018, the Saint George Hotel, Kimpton’s only hotel operating in Canada, is situated in the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. 

Interior Designer: Stanley Sun, ARIDO; Ashley Rumsey, ARIDO
Design Firm: Mason Studio
Design Team: Marti Hawkins, Intern, ARIDO

Project Photographer: Naomi Finlay

Its design celebrates Toronto’s layered history and sensibilities. An investigative approach was taken to dissect and analyze the city’s vernacular to better understand key materials,  patterns, and nuances that would resonate as indicators of local culture and significance. The diversity of the city’s heritage and culture with its distinct neighbourhoods is explored through locally designed furniture, original artwork, natural materials, and strong interior architectural forms that pay homage to Toronto’s varied architectural style and eras. The design concept is expressed in every facet of the hotel, beginning at the street level with an exterior black wood awning punctuated with small pin-like lights, spelling “Kimpton” in Braille lettering. This lighting feature is a subtle nod to the iconic marquee signs that once occupied the neighbourhood.

Upon entry, the reception area features a marble desk framed with wooden arches, backdropped by a hand-painted mural of a misty Toronto-inspired scene. Adjacent to reception is a guest lounge, designed to feel like a living room. The space is occupied by a collection of bespoke furniture, artwork, lighting, and objects, many crafted by local makers that continue to tell the story of local culture and design. A 400-square foot lounge situated on the main floor is realized in darker, more saturated tones to convey a feeling of warmth and intimacy. The adjacent 1,100-square-foot meeting space, named the Peregrine Room, is, by contrast, bright and spacious. The change in mood between the lounge and the meeting room reinforces the concept of distinct neighbourhoods within the city. 

The guestrooms, suites, and generous presidential suite are a continuation of the nostalgic nod to the layered heritage of the neighbourhood. The rooms were designed with a residential approach including a collection of art, custom-designed furniture and lighting, seemingly collected over time. Every element in the suites is carefully designed to provide guests with an experience parallel to a well-appointed apartment in the neighbourhood, offering guests a warm alternative to more traditional hotel accommodations.

This project was also awarded an ARIDO Award of Excellence in 2019.

Three different moods for three distinct spaces at Victor Restaurant

Interior Designer: Allen Chan

Design Firm: DesignAgency

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Hotel Le Germain Mercer Street in Toronto invited the design team to transform its on-site restaurant, Victor. With the multitude of surrounding condos, this district is quickly becoming a neighbourhood in its own right – within five years, almost 40,000 people will live within a two-block radius- and Le Germain wanted Victor to become a destination for morning coffee, business lunches, and late-night dining.

Before, the space had no connections with the street, and the only entrance to the restaurant was through the lobby. The design was dark, uninviting, and lacked flexibility, and the venue only functioned as a nighttime establishment.

With the redesign, Victor has a distinct and cohesive brand identity. Now, a highly fluid space comprises a dining area with leather banquettes, a chef’s table in a side alcove and open counter beyond, an intimate bar-lounge, and a cafe with communal harvest table – all of which meld and transition seamlessly into the hotel’s lobby, which the hotel also redesigned to complement the new hospitality space.

Custom-designed specialty lighting was central to setting a new ambiance – one that is approachable, universal, and versatile enough to attract both hotel guests, daytime business visitors, corporate event attendees, and special occasion groups taking part in the city’s adjacent entertainment district for concerts, theatre, screenings, and more.

To impart a sense of vitality and character to the restaurant, the design team hung a custom-designed chandelier of brass tubing, strung with white globes, layered and rotating at different angles. The eye-catching fixture swoops above diners and is visible from the street, drawing interest from passersby. It glows in contrast to the gravel-grey ceiling, and visually drops the ceiling height to a more intimate level.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Entering the intimate lounge, hanging wall lights made from brass tubing and white globes maintain a connection to the feature chandelier in the dining room. LED-lit shelves are artfully decorated with crystal, silverware, and bronze and gilt chargers, and deco lamps line the bar to give extra lighting for guests. Even the inevitable television monitors disappear into smoky mirrors when not in use.

In the cafe, a bright palette creates an airy, daytime feeling. White marble counters and a fluted barista station with a glass display case heighten luminosity. Discreet rows of pendant lights hang over the harvest table and add to the guest experience.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Throughout, fabrics and materials were chosen for their ability to absorb and reflect light, including bronze accents, natural stone, warm wood shelving and millwork, plus playful patterned concrete tiling in the cafe floor, soft sage green tabletops, and serpentine banquettes upholstered in tufted, peacock-blue waxed leather.

Designing healthcare spaces for kids: Introducing a sense of exploration and curiosity

What’s it like to design a healthcare space for children? Is it possible to infuse that space with imagination and whimsy, while simultaneously following the practical rules of a healthcare setting, such as infection control, times of operation, and safety?

Interior Designer: Laurena Clark, ARIDO

Design Firm: Stantec Architecture Ltd.

Photographer: Richard Johnson

These are the questions that inspired Stantec’s designers to take a unique approach to the redesign of the Women’s Auxiliary Volunteers (WAV) PlayPark at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. The PlayPark is a volunteer-run space for the siblings of young patients who are at the hospital for treatment. Over the years, the much-loved PlayPark had become outdated. Stantec’s designers were tasked with not only updating the look but upgrading the space to be more functional and accessible.

Two of members of the PlayPark design team — interior designer Laurena Clark, ARIDO and architect Olivera Sipka — sat down to discuss their approach and provide advice for others designing similar spaces.

What was different about the SickKids PlayPark, compared to other projects that you’ve worked on?

Laurena: As designers, we always empathize with, and put ourselves in the position of, the people who will use the spaces we design. But with this project, we realized we needed to get to an even deeper level of emotion. SickKids provided us with touching information—like quotes from kids that have loved the space over the years—that made us more emotionally attached. One young man, who is now in his 20s, wrote about how he was so young when his brother began a stay at SickKids, and this young man felt so lost. Both of his parents were busy with his brother’s care, and the young man never got to see his friends. But he had the PlayPark. He wrote about what a joy it was to visit the PlayPark at such a gloomy time in his life. So, redesigning a space that makes such an impact on the lives of young people is a tremendous responsibility. And my kids are the same age as typical PlayPark visitors, between the ages of 4 and 9. So, on an emotional level, that also impacted my design approach.

Reception desk and entry at SickKids PlayPark with coloured circles in random organic patterns.

Can you talk more about your specific design approach for this project?

Laurena: We were doing so much more than designing a “space.” We were creating an experience for those kids and families. We added zones inspired by nature—like a lake, canyon, and hills—so we could bring a park setting to kids that are inside for long periods of time. Also, the PlayPark isn’t just a space that has a certain function. Most of the spaces we design—such as waiting rooms, for example—have specific functions in mind. And, while a waiting room might have some toys and games, those are isolated activities. As soon as you walk into PlayPark, you’re intrigued to explore. We also had to include so much more depth in the design and the activities available because many kids come to the PlayPark for extended periods of time—days, months, even years. We had to pack a lot more in than you might find in a typical waiting room where a child may only visit for a few hours at a time.

Can you tell us more about the zones inspired by nature? What does that look like?

Laurena: We created a forest landscape in the central open space, which features trees made of thick resin panels to create a “leafy” canopy. The tree trunks are a perfect place to wind through on a tricycle. We added a quiet “cave nook,” with fiber-optic twinkling lights in the ceiling, to create the sense of sitting beneath the stars. This is a space where kids can sit quietly when they might not want to engage. It was important to us that kids have choices as they go through a difficult time. The art studio area features a meadow theme with a giant LED panel of tall grasses with lights overhead that look like fluffy clouds. The performance space is designed with curves to suggest hills, with an organic-shaped seating nook and original illustrations.

What’s your advice for others designing a space for children?

Laurena: Open communication. Create an environment of trust and respect so team members feel comfortable throwing ideas out, even if they’re not perfect.

Olivera: It’s about listening. Make sure you listen to kids’ experiences. While working on this project, we listened to children, parents, and even teenagers who used to visit the space when they were younger.

How did you get into the child-like mindset necessary for PlayPark’s redesign?

Laurena: I just had to shut everything off. For healthcare projects, we’re so used to working within the confines of budget, time, and cleanability. So, I had to stop thinking about all the practical things that block ideas from coming freely.

Can you think of something from your own childhood that you brought to this project?

Laurena: I have lots of memories of exploring freely as a child, such as exploring outside, or looking through my mom’s closet and playing dress-up. So, I wanted to bring a feeling of exploration, as well as surprise. During a visit to PlayPark, my kids loved looking through the cupboards and finding the toys that were in there.

Every surface has storage behind it. That alone is an element of exploration. This contrasts with a lot of other pediatric spaces, where you see toys everywhere. It feels busy, and it’s almost overstimulation. Whereas at PlayPark, you have a clean, bright, airy space, and you can interact with surfaces in different ways. All the clutter is hidden. And there’s that element of surprise, as kids discover what’s behind each door.

Do you have any final pieces of advice to offer someone approaching a project like this?

Olivera: Don’t just focus on technology. When designing for kids, we often tend to look at new technologies, such as interactive screens. But with this project, the focus was on play. It turned out to be more of a whimsical place, where kids have opportunities to be themselves.

Laurena: It’s possible to create a fun space while simultaneously working within the confines of a hospital. We designed PlayPark to hospital standards, in terms of infection control. We used all the same materials that other healthcare spaces use—like rubber floors and solid surfaces—and we considered cleaning, like you would in any other area of the hospital. Everything was wipeable. You can utilize those materials in a way that creates an environment that doesn’t look institutional.

This post originally appeared on’s Ideas Blog. The PlayPark project also recieved an Award of Merit in the 2018 ARIDO Awards.

Connectivity, evolution of radio and employee engagement informed the design of this radio floor

With radio and communications innovation being a foundational characteristic of their company, the client continued to think outside the box when relocating their radio studios to the second floor of their Bloor Street location. The space bridges the gap between two campus buildings and combines three functions: radio studios, workspace and an employee cafe.

Open employee cafeteria space with pale wood floors and a accent wall with company history.

Interior Designer: Laura Jones, ARIDO
Design Team: Adriana Pietropaolo, ARIDO; Sharon Turner, ARIDO
Design Firm: HOK
Project Photographer: Tom Arban, Karl Hiplolito

The design team created an isolated raised floor system that protects against vibrations from the TTC route located below, and exterior wall and window treatments mute day-to-day sounds of the surrounding urban environment. Two high-tech radio studios are positioned as focal points in the space, inspiring interaction while still providing necessary privacy for radio talent with tinted windows. The adjacent agile workspace is designed to support a 24-hour work day for employees.

The cafe space is designed as a connecting boulevard with the café on one side, and the studios on the other, continuously inviting and engaging its users. With an acoustic operable wall, the centre performance lounge lends itself to performances that can be broadcast via the studios or opened to the cafe for a public performance. Neutral, fresh and contemporary architectural finishes were selected to accentuate the public-facing radio studios and additional acoustic elements were incorporated into this vibrant space.

The new staircase connects the ground floor to the second floor, something the client requested specifically, enhancing and facilitating the user experience through the space while engaging them with a display of the company’s radio artifacts. The three spaces are tied together by repeating angular elements inspired by radio waves and the use of copper accents that recall radio batteries.

The space is used throughout the day for planned and spontaneous meetings and the renovation of the studios has provided one of the most technologically advanced radio spaces in Canada. In fulfilling the client’s needs, the designers created a lively, dynamic space that has quickly become the most popular spot on campus.