Global thinking was central to this architectural design firm’s new Toronto office

Designed for wellness, flexibility, and inclusion, IA Interior Architects’ new Toronto office is an urban hub with a global outlook.

The new office space is located in the Royal Bank of Canada’s original headquarters on King Street. As our design team began the remodel, we uncovered the historic building’s many unique architectural elements, most notably including cast-iron columns and a mosaic floor. We were immediately captivated by the rich history of these features so we worked them into our design as a nod to the building’s heritage. We stripped the drywall off of the exterior walls to expose the original brick and painted the brick white for a fresh take on the 100-year-old walls. The view out the boardroom’s original windows was blocked by a neighbouring building so we applied a historical graphic of the view east on King Street to the glass for another apt reference to the building’s roots. 

Interior Designer(s): Beverly Horii, ARIDO
Design Team: Jayme Rideout, ARIDO
Design Firm: IA Interior Architects
Photographer: Ben Rahn, A-Frame

With locations around the world, it was important to us to bring a global mentality to our Toronto headquarters. We infused the space with allusions to location as a way to express our firm’s identity in visual terms. Since we are often collaborating with our fellow studios, we had five custom clocks made for the space, which we set to the time zones of other IA offices. We even had the clocks constructed so when viewed from the side, the hour notches display the names of cities we are in. For a more local reference, we had a map of Toronto printed on acoustic felt panels in one of our meeting rooms. The feature wall doubles in purpose: it acts as a cool backdrop for teleconferencing and is used to located current project sites across the city.

With climbing lease rates in Toronto, our space planning solution had to be thoughtful and efficient. We relied on the principles of feng shui, arguably the oldest systematic approach to evidence-based design, to achieve the optimum flow of nature’s energy within the skyscraper-surrounded space. Through the use of colour, shape, and materials we employed feng shui in our design solution with the goal of enhancing the relationship between occupants and the natural environment.

Flexible use was also at the core of our design so we included a variety of workstations to accommodate different employee preferences and work scenarios. The office contains everything from enclosed meeting rooms to open-concept desking; it even has in-between zones like semi-enclosed hubs for quick collaboration. All workstations are sit/stand for maximum adaptability and have been paired with sleek ergonomic chairs for employee comfort. We took the user experience into account at every point of the design which ultimately prompted us to install black-out drapes in a phone room for an employee who suffers from migraines.

With a new office that reflects our identity as a practice, we are thrilled to have clients experience the space and discover who we are as IA Interior Architects.

You’d never guess this sleek office is for a dairy co-op

With roots on the farm, Gay Lea Foods has grown to become a leading Canadian dairy co-operative, with more than 1,400 dairy farm members across Ontario and Manitoba, and over 4,300 shareholders within Canada. With a dedication to innovation and the development of high-quality products, Gay Lea continues to respond to consumers’ ever-evolving tastes, as it continues to strengthen the growing market for Canadian milk and dairy products.  

Interior Designer(s): Stella McTernan, ARIDO

Design Firm: McTernan Design Associates

Photographer: A-Frame Inc.

Located in the heart of a dairy processing complex, above a fully operating R&D Pilot plant and laboratory, Gay Lea’s new Innovation Centre provides an opportunity for visitors to glimpse the ever-advancing technology utilized by the Gay Lea Co-operative. With a commitment to inspire collaboration and creativity Gay Lea’s  ‘innovation hub’ serves as a modern, functional, and appealing interface between the co-operative, the outside dairy industry, and the community. 

Presented with an awkward building footprint and limited access to natural daylight, a second-floor addition was conceived to accommodate the ambitious space program. By analyzing the floor plate of both the ground and second floor, the design team established the best location for the stairs and elevator. Wrapping the entry staircase around the elevator shaft enforced ease of access as it allowed for shorter flights and an easier walk up, keeping the elevator and stair footprint on the second floor relatively compact and retaining valuable real estate for the demanding program. 

Maintaining both a small resident staff, including people that work in the Pilot Plant and Lab, and a contingent of visiting staff from other locations, the design team opted for an adaptable and flexible design, that would optimize the building’s inherent limitations and facilitate the needs of various users. Since windows were possible on the long side of the building, staff workspace and collaboration areas were given priority access to natural daylight. Situated along the length of the space are a variety of enclave workstations, cleverly interspersed with lounge alcoves that incorporate the jog of the access corridor to create visual interest and a sense of privacy. 

The main function space integrates meeting rooms, flex space, and a test kitchen. Adding expansive bands of LED screens provides a technological window to the world and a dramatic presentation tool. While movable walls allow versatile configurations of open or closed spaces, modular tables within the large meeting room are easily reorganized as tables for four to readily adapt for hosting public events. The test kitchen enables corporate chefs to meet, sample, and taste, or make product presentations within an engaging environment that enlivens the dairy community’s commitment to collaboration. 

With a mandate for no cows or farms motifs, the design aesthetic embraces an uncluttered, durable, and pragmatic sensibility infused with exuberant zips of colour, light, and imagery. Abstractly paying homage to its heritage, the high contrast palette enforces a milky white base, accented by quintessential reverence to the creamery and farming tradition.

Maintaining the design integrity of a Canadian institution

The Bank of Canada wanted to create seamless, collaborative and flexible spaces for their 1,400 employees at their existing head office, originally designed in 1970 by renowned architect Arthur Erickson.

Interior Designer: Janine Grossman, ARIDO

Design Team: Joanne D’Silva, ARIDO

Design Firm: Perkins + Will

Photographer: Double Space Photography­­

The vision was to transform the building into a series of agile and contemporary work spaces that supported organizational efficiencies and provided technology-enabled spaces. To meet this vision, the project team created a design that was based on the guiding principles of openness, transparency and workplace effectiveness and embedded flexibility and resiliency into their design interventions.

The design team maintained the integrity of the original 1970’s design by finding opportunities in the 835,000 square foot space to re-frame the original elements of the building within a modern context.

The central atrium was transformed into vibrant amenity and workspace that included collaborative lounges, food and beverage services, and multi-purpose conference facilities. By allowing people to work in the atrium, organizational silos and spatial hierarchies were broken in favour of a more integrated workplace which transformed the Bank’s culture.

Within the twin glass towers, the design team developed a modular office design, sympathetic to the existing concrete pillars, a character-defining element of the 1970’s towers. The design team worked closely with key internal and external stakeholders to ensure that the character-defining elements of the original project were preserved and enhanced. The result was a bright and interconnected workplace that enhanced the culture of an iconic Canadian institution.

Modern design for this forward-thinking law firm

As a law firm focused on intellectual property and technology law, Smart & Biggar wished to host their clients in a modern, open environment.

Interior Designer: Joanne Chan, ARIDO

Design Team: Glenn Cheng, ARIDO; Bruce Freeman, ARIDO No?

Design Firm: SDI Interior Design

Photographer: Steve Tsai

The “front of house” area was designed to flow into a generous reception area seamlessly integrating with a cafe space that is shared by both staff and visitors. This design invites clients into a space that is far less formal than a traditional law firm boardroom and lets natural light well into the reception area. Several spacious meeting spaces are also accessed from reception and the waiting area can accommodate multiple groups, in a casual, lounge-like atmosphere.

As a law firm, Smart & Biggar is immersed in developing social issues and the anticipation of future trends. Their current work rests upon a century of history and demands innovation coupled with a historical perspective. This emphasis on past and future, informs the design of their Toronto space.

When Smart & Biggar was founded, Canada was largely untouched by the development of the industrial revolution. The trees, rocks, and landscapes of the country became markers that inspired the design for this project. A repeated birch tree motif on glass wall panels adds texture and an element of nature, which continues with recurring wood elements throughout the space in flooring, wall panels, tables, and lighting.

A data-driven approach provides a fresh path for this design studio

Developed for an interdisciplinary design studio that leads the industry in sustainability and healthy environments, this project was conceived as a transformation not only of a workplace, but of a design environment and culture.

Interior Designer: Janine Grossmann, ARIDO

Design Firm: Perkins and Will

Design Team: Martha Del Junco, ARIDO; Joanne D’Silva, ARIDO; Preethi Sreedhara, Intern, ARIDO; Tsvetelina Rabashki, ARIDO; Diana Smiciklas, ARIDO

Project Photographer: Scott Norsworthy

The client’s move from a previous midtown location was driven by three goals: to improve access and opportunities for active transport for employees, prospective employees, and clients; to strengthen the studio’s connection to the design culture of the city; and to ‘walk the talk’ within a physical environment that embodied sustainable, forward-thinking design excellence.

While occupying a generous footprint, the firm’s existing studio was compromised in form and function. One-size-fits-all workstations didn’t support the full range of behaviours required for an interdisciplinary and creative team, a lack of break-out and meeting spaces limited collaboration, and the character of the space didn’t reflect the brand and culture of the growing firm.

A data-driven approach allowed us to re-imagine the vision, program, and design of the studio while also increasing efficiency. A comprehensive usage analysis of the existing studio showed that less than 60% of workstations were occupied at peak times, more than 80% of meetings involved four people or fewer, and the most common size of meeting was two people. This data, in conjunction with visioning sessions, staff interviews, pilot programs, and prototyping, allowed our design team to guide the client to a radical new program that reduced floor area by almost 25% while dramatically expanding the range of spaces and program offerings.

A small black and white dog sits on a maple leather bench seat inset into the wall. The wall behind the seat has a window into an architectural model shop.

The design leverages the raw qualities of the base building to create an inspiring new environment. The existing space was stripped back to celebrate its robust concrete structure and distinctive waffle slab ceilings, connecting the studio to the city’s modern architectural heritage. Within this shell, a finely-crafted millwork chassis defines three flexible spaces, organizes cellular programming, and provides a refined contrast to the underlying architecture. Integrating glazing, display, storage and pin-up space, the chassis acts as both spatial threshold and showcase for the firm’s process and work.

The open studio is a “ME” space of 54 free-address workstations supported by focus rooms and collaborative space. The Salon is a reconfigurable “WE” space for charrettes, design reviews, and events. The Lounge is the office’s “US” space: a welcoming entry and the social heart of the office. Overall, while the studio’s footprint decreased, the number of seats increased by almost 50% – providing a greater range of supportive environments that allow staff to choose where, when, and how they work.

A timeless and natural material palette reflects the client’s commitment to sustainability and material health: every material used was screened for ingredients with known health impacts, and the project is certified LEED® v4 Gold and Fitwel 2 Star rated. Lush plants and abundant daylight bring nature into a dense downtown location.

The resulting studio is a living laboratory that fuels design innovation and excellence while prioritizing wellness, inclusivity, and sustainability – meeting the client’s programmatic needs while embodying their most important ideas and values.

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

This government office stands out, instead of blending in

Gone are the days of formulaic government offices, with uninspired gray surroundings for employees, and thank goodness for that!

Using an activity-based design methodology, the LWG design team developed four floors of light-filled space designed within the auspices of the Government of Canada Workplace Guidelines. Using affordable materials in innovative ways allowed us to deliver an economical space that is not short on design details.

Baltic birch plywood figures prominently throughout the space, along with key pops of colour. This space provides a menu of options to support the work that takes place throughout a typical day, including areas for heads-down tasks to spaces for active, boisterous collaboration.

The LWG Design Team for this project included Marc Letellier, ARIDO; Rachel Burdick, ARIDO and Ashley Lepine, Intern, ARIDO.

This office has multiple neighbourhoods, each with its own personality

Tandia Financial moved from three cramped floors to a single daylight-flooded level featuring 18 foot ceilings. With the entire organization now on one floor we had to come up with a way of structuring the space to provide simple wayfinding and an intuitive sense of order.

Interior Designer: Joanne Chan, ARIDO
Design Firm: SDI Design Inc
Project Photographer: Scott Norsworthy Photography

Meeting and work space is adjacent to a special meeting area built to look like a cabin in the office space.

By clustering hard-walled spaces at the centre we divided the space into four neighbourhood quadrants. Each neighbourhood has a central common space break-out area with a unique visual identity. And each of these “squares” is further differentiated by having an individual ambience based on one of the four seasons. The public facing facilities are organized around the town’s “Piazza”, and flanked by community spaces such a training rooms, café, reception, boardroom and visitor meeting rooms, etc.

Team members:
Interior Design: SDI Design: Joanne Chan, Glenn Cheng, Bruce Freeman, Rubia Fossari
Project Manager: Cresa Toronto_ May Chaaya
Mechanical & Electrical Engineers: Iannuziello & Associates
Structural Engineers: Dorlan Engineering
Architect: Paradigm Architects
Constructor: Flat Iron Building Group

How Quebec City’s topography inspired Deloitte’s downtown offices

In 2016, Deloitte Canada unveiled their new workplace strategy in their redeveloped tower in Toronto’s financial district.

Interior Designer: Julie Chan, ARIDO
Interior Design Team: Melissa Beresford, ARIDO
Design Firm: Deloitte
Joint Venture: Lemay Michaud Architect
Photography: Adrien Williams

Their new approach, called Orbis, has touched each of their office spaces in the country, and in January 2018, their Quebec City location received its refresh. The goal of the project was to implement Deloitte’s national Orbis workplace strategy while creating a strong identity that reflects the geographical history and vitality of la vieille capitale.

The topography of Quebec City informed the design, mainly the hills and stairways that connect neighbourhoods together. These iconic heritage elements were used as inspiration in the office design, linking the upper town and lower town, a passage between historically wealthy and working-class neighbourhoods.

The palette of finishes for the main floor is inspired by the color of the upper town: green of oxidized copper roofs, gray of stone buildings, and blue of the river. The lower town inspired the lower floor palette: ochre and earth tones of painted buildings, and orange of the stone from the battlements.

The layout had to address Deloitte’s request that the reception area have ample room to host events. In the work areas, furnishings adaptable for individual and collaborative work were developed in accordance to Deloitte’s established standards. The cafes, located on each of the two floors, display custom murals that reflect the duality of the city. The upper level graphic evokes the history and built heritage of Quebec City while the lower level mural incorporates the youthful energy of summer concerts held on the Plains of Abraham.

Opening up room for collaboration

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce approached LWG Principal Marc Letellier with a challenge. In redesigning their office space, they wanted him to create a space that would remove the silos within their organization and create a variety of settings to encourage interaction and collaboration. The former space was intensely enclosed, with a high degree of private offices.

Interior Designer: Marc Letellier, ARIDO
Design Firm: LWG Architectural Interiors
Photographer: Kevin Bélanger

Rebalancing the distribution of space was a key to the success for this client. Space has been opened up to create an interactive work environment, both in the open office area (unified by a single linear LED light fixture) to a large reception zone and adjacent lounge used for hospitality functions. These are balanced with updated meeting rooms and privacy rooms.

LWG Interior Designer Gabrielle Leamaire, ARIDO was a key design team member for this project, developing conceptual elements, working drawings and assisting throughout the construction period.

Stone, water, and sky bring calm to a bustling Yorkville office

Interior Designer: Theo West-Parks, ARIDO
Design Team: Shannon Todd
Design Firm: Westparks + Associates
Photographer: Steve Tsai

The design team was faced with re-visioning a well-established international executive search firm. The client wanted to downsize and rebrand in their newly purchased space, with a raw, collaborative aesthetic, and provide a calm ambience to a business working in a frenetic field. With a desire to move beyond the traditional private office environment, planning came down to millimetres to accommodate the twenty-eight staff and partner functional requirements.

The design intent was to provide a flexible, and user friendly environment to address the brand and future business trends, with materials chosen in a simple palette of natural colours to bring stone, water and sky into the enclosed space.

The reception desk and elevator walls are panelled in natural ash ribbing, with drywall ceilings and polished concrete floors for light and material simplicity. Enclosed interview rooms are defined with movable frosted glass walls, carpet tile, and flannel acoustic panels. The frosted glass wall system gives long term flexibility to the space and allows the ambient light to spill into the small interview enclosures.

The ceiling was left open in the staff areas to let natural light flood the space and maintain and a feeling of openness in a tight collaborative layout. Simple, sculptural and playful lighting was chosen, visually integrating with the exposed beams and fireproofed deck. Installed carpet tile within the general office areas blend with the concrete and create a sense of warmth.

Ergonomic office furniture was chosen to fit multiple users and lessen the impact of the visual occupancy footprint. The coffee bar, kitchen and lounge spaces were designed to provide a respite from office areas, and connectivity for ongoing informal meetings and town hall gatherings. All lighting was a dimmable LED and material choices were selected for environmental and energy efficiencies.