Interior Designers sequenced someone’s DNA for this vibrant lobby design

Toronto’s Michener Institute of Education is the only institute in Canada devoted exclusively to applied health science education. The transformation of the Michener Institute lobby was necessary to provide a vibrant, welcoming entryway for students, staff, and medical professionals that would reflect the core values and history of the Institute.

Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO

Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects

Photographer: Tom Arban

The new design solutions for this interior needed to be bright, fresh, and modern to contrast the heavier outdated base building elements which needed to remain. The design strategy included transforming the space into a vibrant gateway, while incorporating the institution’s values into the design in creative, yet meaningful ways. The end result features a multi-coloured polycarbonate panel DNA sequence “ribbon” that extends down from the ceiling and runs around the perimeter of the space.

Cafe/kiosk area with the colorful ribbon stretching above it in the bright institute lobby.

This key design feature modernizes an outdated lobby and establishes a new brand for the Institute. The vibrant “ribbon” was crafted by graphically extracting the DNA of Dr. Diana Schatz, founder of The Michener Institute. The DNA sample was analyzed at Michener genetics lab and turned into a digital image.

To create a welcoming, energizing locale for healthcare education, the lobby interior was refreshed with modern design features including new lighting and a clean, white reception desk emblazoned with the Michener crest. These creative solutions have reinvigorated The Michener Institute, positioning it as a lively entryway to healthcare innovation and education.

Close up of the new white front desk with the Institute crest.

The design team ensured that this lobby design met current standards for barrier-free design. The reception desk has an accessible counter which was not present in the original design, and this was also carried through to the new kiosk desk.

The interior design team was asked to design a new Kiosk/Cafe to liven up the lobby. The Café and lounge area were situated to allow for the efficient high traffic flow throughout the space. 

Lounge and waiting area by the window

A comfortable and collaborative lounge area was incorporated into the space, positioned in front of bright double-height windows allowing maximum daylight in, and beautiful views outside, making this a perfect spot to wait, study or converse with a colleague or classmate.

Flexible and adaptable furniture, including soft lounge seating and a wide meeting table provide space for waiting, study, and informal gathering. The furniture can be easily reconfigured or cleared out for special events with the flexibility to respond to future changes in use.

A city within a city design concept in this forward thinking digital marketing company

Having outgrown their four separate work spaces in the downtown core, Dentsu Aegis Network, a large international digital marketing communications company seized the opportunity to consolidate 16 independent advertising agencies into one central location. With this update they could also house their Canadian headquarters on five consecutive floors, over a total of 80,000 square feet of creative work space.

Interior Designer: Isabelle Talbot, ARIDO

Design Firm: Ray Inc. 

Photographer: Vincent Lions

Reception desk made of horizontal wooden slats and mirror panels behind and above the desk drawing light and attention to the desk

The design team was tasked with developing new standards that met the needs of mixed cultures and generations and had to think outside of the box to provide a variety of work styles to enhance flexibility, optimize space efficiency, and encourage socialization and collaboration between groups previously separated by proximity. So, they created a “city within a city” concept with a hospitality focus, essential in recruiting and retaining the best talent in the marketplace. 

Open concept kitchen, dining and lounging area in neutral color scheme with some accents in teal color

Open office neighbourhood inspired spaces such as ‘apartments’, ‘cafes’ and ‘green space’ are carried throughout all floors, allowing brands to move and expand with little disruption to the office. Individual work settings consist of focus rooms, phone booths, height –adjustable workstations, window high tops, and high back lounge chairs with views of the lake. A variety of large and small meeting rooms are both open and closed with sliding glass partitions, metal framed ‘cabanas’, and acoustically sound booths.

A casual meeting area surrounded by city views all around. A desk with a curved sofa on one side and chairs on the other.

This office space provides choice with curated spaces for each individual. Employees log on to the booking system to select their work space all while supporting their tech-savvy culture. The design of this space encourages opportunities for working away from a traditional desk and increased collaboration. 

Open concept, well lit and bright office space with modern work stations and colorful slats running along the ceiling above.

WELL initiatives of mindfulness and movement throughout the day are supported with an internal connecting staircase, nap pod, suspended tent cocoon alongside green mossy walls bringing biophilia into the workplace. Wellness rooms for nursing or meditation on all floors, energy efficient lighting, access to natural daylight and gender neutral washrooms further promote health, wellbeing, and inclusivity. Utilizing 50% of the floor plan for soft seating mimics the comforts of home and helps to drive a work-life balance for employees while offsetting long work hours.

Curved multi coloured seating across from a large wooden wall housing a large screen and some vertical biophilic design elements on the wall

This is a unique office space that focuses on the individual while serving collective goals, and promotes health and wellbeing for increased productivity and collaboration. 

This contemporary office space pays homage to Canada at every corner

When Canada Lands Company, the self-financing, federal Crown corporation focusing on federally owned real estate, moved their offices to a smaller floor of Toronto’s One University office tower, they wanted their new workspace to reflect the company’s approachable and community-minded culture and to foster greater collaboration between colleagues.

Interior Designer: Deanna Hayko, ARIDO

Design Team: Anthony Orasi, ARIDO; Katie Ferrier, ARIDO; Rosemary Ratkaj, ARIDO; Nawleen Kaur, ARIDO; Roxann Brown, ARIDO

Design Firm: iN STUDIO

Photographer: Steve Tsai

Contemporary reception area with warm accents wood finishes, red tones, a modern reception desk and waiting area with a large felt map of Canada across the entire wall

Meeting room sizes, technology, acoustics, and access to natural light, were all areas of concern that limited and sometimes prevented user engagement. 

With the new work environment, they wanted to encourage more positive and forward thinking change, and to include new spaces such as team huddle zones, meeting rooms, and monthly townhalls.

A modern work station area and next to it a meeting room entrance featuring illustrated map of Canada on the glass walls surrounding the meeting room

An office relocation, particularly to a smaller floor, always provides challenges, and these had to be dealt with to ensure CLC’s design needs were met. Prior to the move, every employee had a private office circling  the perimeter of the floorplate.

Moving from closed to partially open concept was of great concern for the company’s senior leadership. Through a more open, flowing layout, they also hoped to address past employee frustration due to closed-off office spaces and lack of communication.

Light filled corner of large meeting room featuring a large landscape painting in yellows and blues above a dark blue built in cabinet.

Our design team chose to embrace the reduction in rentable area for CLC and created more multi-functional spaces. Offices double as meeting rooms and are made  available for employees to reserve in advance for the day, instead of being assigned to one specific workstation, which allows for flexibility and freedom to work wherever they wish. Locating the café/townhall at a prime corner of the floor adjacent to reception, a spot which  is often dedicated to executive function in a traditional approach, was dedicated to the staff.

Contemporary and inviting cafe with contrasting finishes in whites, black and dark blues

A reduction in private office spaces in the new location enabled greater access to natural light, an important aspect to the new layout, with the entire south side of the floor plate remaining open for direct daylight views for all users.

Custom elements throughout the office continuously call back to CLC’s commitment to Canada and nature, epitomized by a unique felt map of the country which greets visitors at reception and is an instant talking point. Enclosed meeting rooms were given their own spin, with a customized graphic privacy film bringing the outline of Canada to life. 

A hallway leading to a communal lounge with offices on both sides featuring illustrated maps of Canada on their glass walls

Contemporary features such as a wood screen behind reception are integrated to give the workspace a modern, energetic feel. A natural color palette of grays and whites, with dark blue and crimson accents surrounded by warm nutmeg woods provides a homey feel to staff and guests alike.

Sophistication and drama are at play in the OVO Athletic Facility

The Raptors organization wanted their 3,400 square foot office space to exude a level of sophistication and class to reflect their steady rise of the team’s profile in the NBA. High end finishes and details were desired to transform the space from a common office into an impressive and polished environment that would allow for expansion.

Interior Designer: Sabrina Giacometti, ARIDO

Design Team: Katelynn Marshall, Intern, ARIDO

Design Firm:  Straticom Planning Associates Inc. 

Photographer: Tom Arban

Custom ceiling framework of long slats running along the ceiling in this open concept office space

The footprint of the space was small and therefore the original boardroom and office layouts had to remain, creating a challenge for our designers of how to inject a sense of intrigue in an otherwise uninspiring floor plan. Sound transmission posed an issue between the compact offices and open workstation area which meant acoustics became a main concern of the client.

Black feature wall with a discrete 3D Raptors logo outlined in red
Open concept office space with long white curved desks on either side of the room. Custom ceiling framework in a form of slats leading the eye to the black feature wall branded with a discreet 3D raptors logo outline on the far end of the space.

The design concept needed to respond to the client’s aesthetic and functional goals, while exemplifying a creative approach to the aforementioned challenges. The footprint of the interior was limited, and needed to generate the sense of volume and grandeur to impart a dramatic “wow” while playing on the concept of athletic movement.

This was achieved by removing the existing grid ceiling and installing a ceiling feature that would become a motif throughout the space. A custom engineered framework of wooden ribs cascades across the ceiling, creating a sense of movement and flow throughout the open office area. Acoustical panels and lighting were integrated and concealed within the ceiling framework to make the installation look stylish and seamless.

Views of the Toronto skyline through a wall of windows in this open concept work space in a black and white color scheme.

The aim of the materials palette was to introduce  an understated, timeless backdrop to a modern cityscape, complemented by classic materials. Selections of walnut, black marquina marble, venetian plaster, and leather finishes were used in conjunction with stark white Corian and epoxy to create an elegant atmosphere. 

Custom ceiling framework in a form of slats leading the eye to the black feature wall branded with a discreet 3D raptors logo outline on the other end of the space.

Custom workstations were engineered with organic curved lines, while offering multiple functional stations for the staff. Subtle branded elements were strategically designed to be a subtle reminder of their identity without becoming a gimmick in the space.

A modern look for a well-established pension firm

As a private pension firm, the client approached the design team to pioneer a new way of working, one that would empower innovation and strengthen the organization’s commitment to excellence. The client wanted to pilot an activity-based work environment that reflected their formal corporate culture and business groups. The wanted to introduce unassigned seating, solutions for collaboration, consistent integration of technology and expressions of its brand.

Interior Designer: Caitlin Turner, ARIDO

Design Team: Danielle Leon, ARIDO; Sharon Turner, ARIDO; Lori Urwin, ARIDO; Meagan Hackney, ARIDO

Design Firm: HOK

Project Photographer: Ben Rahn

To incorporate these expressions the design team turned to the client’s logo, an apple, which resonates with their members, and symbolizes energy and innovation. Copper, critical for apple growth, also fuelled the design team’s inspiration.

In the new space, the enhanced experience begins when employees enter the floor via the work cafe. Natural light filters through the cafe highlighting the variety of seating: booths, harvest tables, high-top tables and traditional cafe tables. Bronze cabinets, brass accents and an antique mirror are material manifestations of copper. The energized space is used all day for meetings, eating and spontaneous collaboration.

To elevate the adjacent locker room, the team designed custom walnut personal cabinets for securing belongings, ensured views to the exterior were preserved and included feature lighting. This positively impacts how employees start and finish their day. A new integrated ceiling, LED lighting, and HVAC system promote sustainability and user comfort.

The team designed a kit of parts which include twenty varieties of spaces with the same plug and play technology. The plan encourages employees to move around the floor throughout the day, selecting the setting that suits their needs. Furniture selections and accent carpets throughout the space soften the atmosphere, while darker tones and natural materials elevate the overall aesthetic.

The success of the pilot is highlighted by the firm’s decision to implement the kit of parts in other areas of their office.

Rambunctious audacity exemplifies new Vice offices

A rambunctious, audacious and youthful energy is the spirit of the Vice brand, and they sought an office space that reflected these qualities. Attuned to the needs of its client, the design team infused a decommissioned factory with the informal, relaxed vibe of a classic cigar lounge, then stealthily layered technology, lighting, and sound equipment throughout.

Interior Designer: Allen Chan, ARIDO
Design Firm: DesignAgency
Photographer: Adrien Williams

Upon entry, you are immersed in the vivid world of the Vice brand. The industrial lobby captures, through giant panes of steel-framed glass, the hive of activity throughout. Unexpected touches, like the neon sign, give a taste of Vice’s sense of quirky irreverence. That irreverence intensifies immediately beyond the lobby, where visitors step into a fully stocked saloon.

Adjacent to the bar, the Bear Room is both a meeting area and the signature interview space, where sound equipment and lighting can be optimized for filming. The room is elevated a foot from the rest of the office for both poetic and practical reasons. The podium makes visitors feel important; the added lift helps with on-camera sightlines.

Most of the office is open concept, with employees at reconfigurable desks with optional privacy screens. Lighting, augmented by giant east facing windows, can be adjusted for filming. Walnut-and-glass-clad cubes float down one side of the office, separating the kitchen from the main space. The separation instills a sense of intimacy for the eating area, useful because it doubles as a set for on-camera cooking demos.

Other intimate break-out areas include boardrooms lit with custom lighting that carries the theme of stealthily integrated tech: the cable channels are cast into the concrete floor and discretely run into the tables. Editing suites are completely sealed from the office bustle, while a screening room provides a space for unwinding and watching the results of the office’s frenetic creativity.

This vibrant co-working space inspires openness and flexibility

As the destination for emerging startups and established down-sizers located along the QEW in Oakville, Alternawork breaks the mold to what we characterize the typical cooperative workplace should look and feel like. This renovation and addition emphasizes how a diverse group of users, across various disciplines, can harmoniously make use of one location.

Interior Designer: Taylor Roth, ARIDO

Design Firm: RAW Design

Photographer: Carel Maeda 

The aim of the overall design was to create a vibrant space that promotes creativity and innovation for the tech driven community Alternawork seeks to attract. Another consideration during the design process was creating a balance between flexibility and structure as well as the health and wellness of the occupants.

The design team also had to use a non-conventional floor assembly to add a 2,500 square-foot addition to the second floor. Lastly, it was crucial to incorporate Alternawork’s branding methodology and have the space uphold the brand’s identity.

The design had to create interest for those not familiar with the co-working model. This office space had to offer more than just a series of offices, its design needed to permit presentation, events, and the preparation of food and coffee. It had to be flexible enough that the “work” aspect of the Alternawork business could still function seamlessly with social initiatives.

A view of one of the meeting rooms behind a glass wall and next to it an office behind closed glass doors. Connecting them is steel beam X shaped structure in bright yellow color.

The conversion from warehouse to office meant that hard surfaces dominated the existing space. In the effort to warm up and soften the expanse of steel, concrete, and glass finishes, a large multi-story preserved living wall was added to connect all work and communal spaces.

The large feature wall can be seen from all corners of the office, providing office occupants a connection with nature through biophilic design and promoting health and wellness, something that  should be at the forefront of all interior design thinking.

Living wall and communal seating are on the right side and offices behind glass walls on the left

Much of the existing finishes and materials from the building’s previous life were preserved and given a modern refresh. The specification of new materials were minimal and limited to products that embodied sustainable design qualities and features. From selecting carpet tile made of recycled fish nets and fully recycled backings, to specifying WaterSense efficient plumbing fixtures, this project’s life-cycle costs and environmental impacts were at the forefront of the specification process.

Close up of the yellow stair case to the second floor with the living wall edge peeking through on the left side.

Creating an environment that allows tenants to use the space the way they want is ultimately what makes this design special. The organization of spaces and use of materials with strong visual identity expresses the client’s values and shared office culture.

After all, what drives tenants to invest in the collaborative model of cooperative work space is the community and social aspect of this environment. When the space can foster these values too, everyone wins.

A colorful multi-level work space that links human senses, nature, and technology

The new design of Capital One corporate headquarters in downtown Toronto aligns with the company’s goals to inject ingenuity, simplicity, and humanity into an industry ripe for change. By linking the five levels of the 103,000 square foot office space with corridors bisecting the floors, the design team created a unique experience that gave employees flexibility and choice in their work space to foster a creative process for all work styles. 

Interior Designer: Jane Juranek, ARIDO 

Design Firm: IBI Group Architects (Canada) 

Design Team: Mahsa Saeedi, ARIDO 

Project Photographer: Ben Rahn, A Frame Studio

A communal work/lounge area with desks and colorful benches in the foreground and offices and meeting rooms in the background

The scope of work included programming and pre-design, schematic design, design development, bidding and negotiation, construction administration, post construction, construction documents and specifications

A communal lounge/cafeteria area with modern colorful seating and stunning views of the city spanning around the entire space through full length windows.

Inspiration began with the office’s dramatic city views of the underdeveloped adjacent rail lands and the potential re-animation with the rail deck park project in the heart of the city. The design team applied the same approach by reintroducing linking corridors bisecting the floors and thus reclaiming underutilized space.

Modern colorful orange sitting booths for lounging or working, found along the long white corridors.

In order to create a unique, immersive experience for each of the five levels, an internal zone, typically used for storage/back of house, was transformed into links that act as the connective tissue within the premises. 

Another corridor featuring modern colorful benches in blue found along the long white corridors.

These links were defined by the following terms: In-Stinct, In-Line, In-Time In-Focus and In-Sight.

“In-Stinct”, the emotional response, features a blue floating, fluid structure that supports interaction that frames, navigates and separates activities.

“In-Line”, inspired by discussions surrounding rail deck based green spaces, forms an urban parkette, bringing the outside in.

“In-Focus”, is the interaction of technology and scale through light, colour, and geometry.

“In-Sight”, derives from fractal geometric patterns, as seen in nature.

Alternative team space meant for tech huddles and creative thinking, with large bar height surface and writable walls all around.

Each link uses saturated colour to define the space and contrast with the white envelope. The punches of colour throughout the space connect each link and evoke an emotional response.  Alternative team spaces were designed to support tech huddles/scrums for creative thinking. These spaces include writable walls with embedded technology and branding.

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

Rego Realty was sold on this innovative design

As the region’s most diverse and robust brokerage, it was only natural for Rego Realty to lead the way in business concept with their headquarters in midtown Kitchener/Waterloo. Guiding the vision of the venture was the unique convergence of services provided by Rego, and the challenge to take a 1970’s old block and concrete building and turn it into an 8725 square-foot  multi-use facility. 

Interior Designer: Adah Noelting, ARIDO

Design Firm: Dfy Studio

Photographer: Brandon Scott Photography

The project’s inspiration came from a strong reaction to the new wave of investors and property owners in the up-and-coming region. The goal of the facility was to streamline the buyers experience and lead them through an educational experience rather than a fast-paced destination. Crucial to the design was a space to house a café, event space, presentation area, coworking, and real estate team workspace. 

We wanted the space to attract people from various backgrounds, cultures, and ways of life. The addition of a locally loved coffee shop within the common space contributed a sense of connection and support to the community. Bringing direction, balance, and harmony to a multi-use space became the biggest design challenge. Fortunately, it was easy for our team to find motivation to work through the demanding criteria because of our client. 

The space spans four floors; the uppermost two floors were designated for the staff workspace and private meeting rooms; the main floor was developed into a public facing space with a fully functioning  café and lounge. The lower level was utilized as a space where condo developers could showcase their materials and finishes to help the process of new buyers in a cozy presentation area. 

Open ceilings and block walls throughout created obstacles in regard to acoustics. Our solution to this was to create custom trellis-like features as well as incorporating acoustic baffles and wall panels to balance the space and define working zones. With the limited amount of natural light, adding an element of biophilia to the design by incorporating moss into the darkest corner of the space, enhanced the atmosphere and added to the overall “wellness” of the office.

This project was about defying the normal process of real estate and bringing innovation, ease, and inclusion. The solution was very clear that this space needed to be an intentional and unique fusion of both residential and commercial elements.

Tailored soft seating, bespoke millwork design, localized reclaimed material, integrated technology, and refined branding are the key ingredients that make this space complete. 

TextNow! A workspace that embodies its vibrant culture

TextNow is a young, creative, and collaborative company undergoing rapid growth. They moved to Waterloo’s Idea Quarter and sought to create a workplace that embodied its vibrant culture. The new headquarters is situated within the highly sustainable David Johnston Research & Technology Park, on the University of Waterloo’s North Campus. 

Interior Designer: Jessica Baird, ARIDO

Design Team: Annie Bergeron, ARIDO; Willem Berends, ARIDO; Filo Costa, ARIDO; 

Design Firm: Gensler

Photographer: Tom Arban

TextNow approached our team with three specific goals:

  1. Support a tech-savvy culture
  2. Integrate health, wellness and sustainability into the design
  3. Stay on budget and schedule. 

Our design solutions employed the following strategies: the first included an office ecosystem that offered a design concept centered around choice, balance and focus. Individual work settings consisted of focus rooms and pods, phone rooms, height-adjustable workstations, window high tops, and booths.

Group work settings included small and large enclosed meeting rooms and collaborative areas. Community spaces comprised a communal café, a pub, a central stadium, and a gym. The technology interface is universal throughout the project.

From individual workstations to large meeting rooms, the plug-and-play style is simple and consistent, and employed at every work setting. This strategy remained consistent throughout the design and supported the client’s goal of a tech-savvy culture. 

The second strategy focused on movement. Movement throughout the day is encouraged with different work settings and enhanced vertical circulation down to the gym and yoga studio. Daylight and optimal views were provided to all occupied spaces, as well as ample fresh air. Healthy food and mindfulness space further round out the applied wellness criteria. This would have the project well on track for LEED Certification. 

The final strategy had the design team successfully deliver a beautiful space on time and on a shoe-string budget thanks to the clever use of wall and floor graphics to create impact at minimal cost.

TextNow’s exclusive design features included complementing existing base building elements. Such as a large green wall and bright yellow staircase. This specific colour palette evokes their youthful culture with deep blue, purple, and bright yellow. Concrete and wood floors balanced a raw, inviting feel.

TextNow’s communal pub found adjacent to reception, demonstrates to visitors that this company works hard but plays hard too! Anchored with a deep blue wall, the pub contains a warm space with lounge and bar seating, book shelves, and bespoke chandeliers.

The café, essential to TextNow’s culture, serves lunch daily for the entire staff. This required diverse seating options, geometric floor graphics, and wood accents.

100% of employees benefit from daylighting throughout the space, even meeting spaces, which comprise 50% of the work areas. Lounges with noise reducing felt fixtures and moveable, writable walls are situated throughout.

The central stadium-seating is a casual and open setting. TextNow’s custom graphics are showcased, allowing for self-expression. A small fitness center was created on the level below, supporting TextNow’s work/life balance initiatives.

TextNow’s budget-conscious LEED-pending design fosters identity, connection, and creativity to support its lively workforce and attract top talent. All of these design features contain elements that our team worked to include to provide the client with the strongest possible design solution.

The results speak for themselves. Attraction and retention metrics are at historic highs, and employees report being more fully engaged with the company’s mission. We successfully produced a design that satisfied the clients specific goals and embodied their company’s vibrant culture.