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: Culture Develops Community (First Gulf Head Office)

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

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

Category: WORK

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

Photographer: Steve Tsai Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project Details:

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

ARIDO Award Winner: Spin Master (7th Floor)

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

Category: WORK

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

Photographer: Ben Rahn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project Details:

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

ARIDO Award Winner: OPG Workplace Transformation

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

Category: WORK

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

Photographer: Steve Tsai Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project Details:

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

OCAD’s first satellite campus brings their trademark brand further east

The name CO says a lot in only two letters, describing a facility that works at the intersection of collaboration, community and co-design. OCAD U CO was conceived as an executive training studio where companies can use facilitated processes cultivated from the university’s focus on design thinking and creative problem-solving to drive major change in their organizations. Located at the Daniels City of the Arts building on the Toronto waterfront, the 14,000 square foot raw interior was long and narrow with sixteen-foot-high ceilings, with one of its greatest assets being its uninterrupted views of Lake Ontario. 

Interior Designer(s): Caroline Robbie, ARIDO

Design Team: Tor McGlade, Stephanie Wiebe

Design Firm: BDQ Quadrangle

Photographer: Adrien Williams

Since this was to be OCAD’s first satellite project away from its McCaul Street campus, the design team saw the interior as an opportunity to take cues from the University’s iconic Sharp Centre for Design. Early in the research phase of exploring design options for the new campus, the CO design team distributed surveys to elicit what people associated with OCAD. Strong colour blocking and elements of the unexpected, were rapidly identified as the most common significant elements of OCAD’s infamous identity. 

The design team decided to run with it, embracing the bold colours that reasserted OCAD’s characteristic identity of creativity and artistic fun. Contrasting the vibrancy of the Sharp inspired design, a black and white pixelated identity, that also informs the University’s trademark brand, was incorporated into the accessible gender-neutral washroom, linking it with the Tabletop’s signature façade. The resultant design creates a stimulating visual and psychological connection between the two campuses, which jumpstarts the creative thinking process with its open, airy spaces, and energizing jolts of colour. 

Though typical workplace interiors tend to be muted and generic, the new CO design intentionally embraces shocking colours, to purposefully induce a sense of being slightly unhinged. The interior is organized into clear, distinguishable zones for reception, studios,  administration, AV loans, individual workspaces, and meeting areas, as bold colours are further activated within the space to assist with wayfinding and place identity. Connecting the space’s characteristic colour and pixelation at dramatically different scales, from the micro seen on vision strips to medium-scale tiling details, the design emulates the macro scale of the McCaul Street Tabletop. 

Each section of CO has is marked by its respective level of public or private exposure and colour. The open kitchenette forms a natural hearth for the relaxed, common area with its bright red cappuccino maker, inviting visitors to linger and get comfortable at the heart of the space. Floating wood ceilings in the Innovation Studios keep voices isolated within each space and discretely integrate AV, mechanical, and lighting, to facilitate a functional and visually appealing design. 

The client requested spaces that could be flexible for a variety of activities and to easily evolve over time. Maximizing flexibility, the designers outfitted the largest interconnected studios with operable walls, enabling these rooms to be combined with the open collaboration zone, transforming it into a single 160-foot long event space. Maximizing usable space, the designers were able to carve out two feet from the base building mechanical and electrical rooms to create colour blocked niches with built-in benches and drop-down desks for private or shared study.

The project brings design thinking to life in a bold, yet branded environment. Facilitating interactive workshops, CO blends the professionalism required for successful change management with the playfulness of an arts school, inspiring new and creative approaches to problem-solving.

This office space is “Always Fresh”

Relocating from Oakville to their new headquarters in downtown Toronto, Tim Hortons’ new workplace design successfully rejuvenates their iconically Canadian cultural identity. Aligning with contemporary sensibilities, the fresh design works to retain and attract new talent by creating engaging and compelling experiences within an innovative environment where employees thrive. The design celebrates Tim Hortons’ community-focused mission, their humble culture yet ambitious goals, and their authentically Canadian spirit.

Interior Designer(s): Filo Costa
Design Firm: Gensler
Design Team: Willem Berends, Nichola Chan, Kathy Winfield, Steven Burgos, Norma Galella
Photographer: Ben Rahn, A-Frame

Upon entry, visitors and employees are introduced to the Tim Hortons brand, as the classic Tim Hortons neon signage illuminates a brick wall at the reception desk and area.  The dramatic entry sequence immediately welcomes staff and guests into a convivial environment that embodies the brand identity. High-top tables, a lounge area, and archival brand moments make the journey as meaningful as the destination itself. Herringbone wood floors, wood slat walls, wool upholstery, and plaid carpets evoke a warm yet elevated environment. A central stair with a bench seating area is accented by exposed bulb pendant lighting which connects the office’s two floors. Centralizing the design as a core element to the office, the innovation lab serves at the heart of research and development, and product training, maintaining Tim Horton’s ever-fresh and bold brand.

A planning approach inspired by the hockey rink puts the innovation lab at ‘center ice’, the literal and metaphorical heart of the workplace, the space acts as a bold signifier of the importance of innovation to Tim Hortons. A variety of meeting rooms, lounge spaces, and cafes provide opportunities to experience the brand’s dynamic and iconic culture. The designer’s intentional application of the same dining furniture allows the main dining area to act as an extension of the Tim Hortons restaurants. Accented by custom signage filled with coffee beans and framed in red reads  “Brewing Something Bold” and “Always Fresh”. 

Entirely open plan, the workplace design introduces neighborhood layouts, strategic adjacencies, and sensible flexibility to improve collaboration and efficiency. A variety of workspaces, including independent focus rooms, small group huddle rooms, and team rooms create balance and choice as they facilitate collaboration. These distributed collaborative spaces supplement the larger meeting areas provided by the central café and a seasonal patio. While adaptable training rooms can accommodate up to 120 trainees, allowing the organization to better cultivate its culture and programs on site. Within the open and private meeting spaces, the design integrates technology and audiovisual systems that align with the demands of a digital age. 

Providing employees with an engaging and compelling experience, the new design has created an environment to attract top talent. Tim Hortons’ new headquarters rejuvenates and strengthens its brand through a forward-thinking and inspiring workplace that is emblematic of the company’s iconic brand. 

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.