In this issue, we shine the light on four remarkable projects: an office, a showroom, a funeral home and a dental office. Each succeeds by going confidently against the grain.

Sid Lee, the sassy Montreal ad agency, wouldn’t have it any other way. As befits an organization that prefers to think of itself as a “commercial creativity firm” -with a 220-member staff that runs the gamut from photographers and copywriters to architects and artists -Sid Lee’s new space (“Sid sells,” page 38) is more playground than office. Designed in house, with the help of Jean-Francois Dubreuil of Workshop Architects, it is deliriously non-hierarchical -with a communal bistro opening onto a small park; a common creative area dominated by a folded landscape of surfaces and seating; and, throughout, multiple blackboards that act as ever-changing canvases and mini galleries featuring employee art.

Ensuring their Toronto showroom would be something special, U. S.-based office-furniture manufacturers Allsteel and Gunlocke chose a can’t-miss space in Liberty Village: a magnificent 1899 boiler house that once powered the looms of a vast carpet factory (“Back on the boil,” page 46). Christopher Wright, partner in the interior design studio figure3, wisely preserved its best features, including imposing red and glazed brick walls, oversized original windows and soaring ceiling heights. His main intervention is a humdinger: a glass-walled conference room suspended dizzyingly high above the floor in the sunniest part of the plant.

Natural light seldom makes an appearance at your typical funeral home. But then, nothing about Montreal’s latest Alfred Dallaire Memoria, designed by Jacques Bilodeau, is typical (“Rest in peace,” page 53). Where “the mortuary business generally embraces comforting tradition, as if reproduction colonial or mock-Tudor decor can best soothe the pain of grieving,” as writer Rhys Phillips puts it, Bilodeau’s forward-looking client hired him for his edgy, modern aesthetic. The result -from the light-filled entranceway and linear reception area to two unfussy salons -is powerfully simple and serene. And not cold: Bilodeau expertly balances the chill of stone and steel with the warmth of rosewood and a palette of cream, beige and pale grey.

Finally, dentist Bobby Chagger and Ian Graham of Oomph have collaborated to create a crowd-pleasing dental office in Oakville, Ont. (“Crowning achievement,” page 63). Chagger Dental features a soothing, sensuous waiting room (where one may actually not mind waiting); a state-of the-art surgical operatory inside a cube of watery blue and green glass (meant to mimic the hues of the Mediterranean sea); and hygiene operatories graced with colourful abstracts. This is a dental office that’s worth a smile.

Michael Totzke [email protected]