Quod Erat Demonstrandum

The view is amazing – the breadth of office systems that meets the eye in Teknion’s new 10,750-square-foot showroom in downtown Toronto. Oh yeah, and the three-quarters vista of the city’s Financial District from the Bremner Tower’s 20th floor is pretty spectacular as well.

Created for the Canadian contract furniture manufacturer by San Francisco-based Vanderbyl Design, the space comes across not so much showroom as showcase, a live-action display of 21st century work environments. For instance, there’s no lobby per se off the high-tech elevator banks but rather the Hub, a large common area complete with a centrally placed, new-age harvest table suitable for everything from staff luncheons to client meetings. (That is not to mention the occasional wine tastings hosted by company president and CEO, David Feldberg, who also happens to be a principal of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Stratus Wines.) Built-in library shelves with cushioned banquettes bookend the entryway, while on either side of the communal table, grouped lounge chairs and side tables scatter across a warm expanse of white-oak flooring. Bracketing but not completely enclosing the Hub, two freestanding walls house a large video screen and a coffee/wine bar, respectively.

“We wanted,” says Candace Samuel, Teknion’s design services manager, “something that reflects our company culture and our corporate brand. The harvest table, the comfortable armchairs, the soft colours all feel like we’re welcoming you into our home.”

A well-published corporate researcher into the future of working life, Teknion takes its outcomes literally. Staff have no assigned desks, which leaves them open to shifting fluidly through the Hub to slightly more formal workstations on the north side (signalled by a conventional layout, acoustically hushed meeting rooms and dark walnut veneers) to the more relaxed sales area to the south (an open plan filled with blond maplewood veneers and modular office systems with punches of primary colours). Here, a wall of textile samples and finishes blends into the workspace, allowing clients to consult effortlessly with employees. Each workstation is flexible enough to allow tailored adjustments to an individual’s needs, while personal items and files repose in digital lockers concealed behind huge closet doors.

These doors, painted in washable white so they can double as a writing surface for collaborative notation, are like the rest of the space’s datum line. They stand a full nine feet tall, lending expansive-but-still-human dimensions to the office’s 12-foot ceiling height with its faux-warehouse finish (the actual building mechanicals run beneath the floor). But they are also an anomaly, being among the few solid obstructions to the gaze that passes through a column-free interior filled with open workstation features and glass-walled meeting rooms to a floor-to-ceiling skyscape beyond.

Even the staff kitchen and photocopier room have laminated, electrified glass walls that can turn from opaque to clear at the flick of a switch. Teknion must be aware of studies that demonstrate how access to natural light tends to produce healthier, more creative workplaces. Certainly, its aim of maintaining “a sense of transparency and accessibility that is consonant with the Teknion brand” has been skillfully achieved.

This collegial office, built for creativity and common-ground interaction, assuredly fits in with modern-day management mantras. Yet one must not forget that this is, at the core, a showcase for office systems. With its three annually scheduled product launches, Teknion’s initial offerings – Upstage, Interpret, Teknion Studio and Expansion Desking in its southern section; District, Leverage, Journal and Cluster to the north – may well make way as many times a year for fresh-off-the-line contemporary design.