Raw and industrial vibe gets this startup accelerator in top form

DMZ, or Digital Media Zone is a start-up accelerator at Ryerson University, where founders can get support for the next steps with their burgeoning businesses. 

Interior Designer: Siavash Mahdieh, ARIDO

Design Firm: PULSINELLI

Photographer: Steve Tsai 

Designed to engage the vibrant, young community of founders, who also need a formal space to host potential customers, investors, and experts, the space balances these two needs in the design. 

The gray wall panelling and minimal aesthetic captures the raw spirit of the start-up culture but is attractive and comfortable for business-minded guests. There are several intimate seating options for guests in the high-traffic reception area which can serve the start-ups in the building. 

A special visual emblem welcomes guests to the DMZ, and also becomes an area where guests can take photos and turn them into shareable moments for social media.

Across from the elevators, we created a large dark wood canopy with an open woven pattern to define the reception and seating area. Dark wood vinyl on the floor under the canopy, contrasts the soft white floor in the rest of the space, and demarcates this cozy nook. 

On the left side of the reception, the waiting area is furnished with colourful seatbelt chairs and concrete coffee tables to further convey the playful and raw nature of the space. 

The space lacks a window, or other natural light source, so the design team added diffused halo lighting around the gray wood wall panelling that wraps the walls. It provides a sense of lightness and visually connects the different areas. 

Movement is added with the reflections created by the oversized, mirrored 3D DMZ signage that is positioned in the main seating area.

An interactive digital bulletin board welcomes guests off the elevators, and is housed in a sculptural wood wall. The natural oak, cut in geometric stripes, also wraps the reception desk, which links the two elements together. 

A secondary lounge area was created beside the corridor that accesses the cafeteria. The wall in the area is cladd with custom upholstered panels to improve the acoustic quality in the space.

To encourage guests to take selfies to share on social media, we introduced the “Toronto Gallery”, a series of white painted 3D letters mounted on the wall panels. The letters spelling Toronto are sliced in half and positioned to be read from the reception area.

The vibrant space reflects the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the start-ups and creates a strong identity for DMZ.

Making doing good, doable

The WE Global Learning Centre is a welcoming space designed to foster exploration and learning among youth, designed to embody the organization’s mantra, “WE makes doing good, doable”.

Interior Designer: Karin Karak

Design Firm: k2 designworks inc.

Photographer: Philip Castleton Photography Inc.

The new design of the WE Global Learning Centre incorporates collaborative and inspirational working spaces, cutting-edge technology to sustain an internationally active charity, and provides a venue to shape next-generation leaders in an ecologically sustainable way.

Teams that had previously been isolated from one another were now offered combinations of enclosed offices, open work areas, various meeting and collaborative spaces which encourage greater synergy. Employee wellness is met through design features of ample natural light, calming and neutral palettes, catering to a young employee demographic that thrives on fluid engagement and changing tasks.

Due to the regular need for connectivity with external teams and stakeholders – cutting-edge technology was critical. Staff can now access video conferencing instantly, connecting them locally and abroad. Custom monitors stream original content, a donor wall is fitted with touch-screen navigation, an incubation hub supports entrepreneurs, Skype-supported classrooms offer global outreach, a 200-person amphitheatre can divide into two digital classrooms, and a multimedia control room and recording studio supporting instant content creation.

Throughout the restoration of the historic building’s envelope, the design team took care to return the brick finish and window sizes back to their original state. Inside, exposed brick was accentuated as a design feature, and recycled bricks were used wherever a wall was moved or expanded. The beams, posts, joists, and roof are all original materials and retrofitted in order to maintain the structure’s historic character and reuse the existing resources available.

The building’s automation system represents the latest technology that provides several environmentally respectful initiatives. Throughout all four levels, 39 micro-climates are heated and cooled independently and equipped with motion-sensor controlled lighting and systems that utilize daylight harvesting to reduce energy use.

Design inspiration was also drawn from some of the charity’s social objectives. Carpets sourced were sourced from an organization that partners with fishermen in the Philippines who use discarded nets that larger ships leave on the ocean floor and sell them to carpet manufactures who recycle the material into sustainable carpet flooring.

The building is designed with accessible water refill stations that reduce the need for bottled water. Water conservation facts are listed at each station as an enviro-design feature that tracks the number of plastic bottles saved. After six months of use, the refill stations have saved more than 32,000 plastic bottles.