Office, Sweet Office: Bruce Mau Design

Bruce Mau Design, Toronto

Design: WilliamsonWilliamson / Lead designers: Betsy Williamson and Shane Williamson

Upon arrival at the reception desk from the elevator foyer, the space is divided into east and west components, with the reception desk itself forming a critical node, visually distinct through its oak-sheathed rhomboid form, behind which BMD-designed books and artifacts are conspicuously displayed in sculpturally articulated shelving units.

With its move to a new global head office in Toronto’s historic Corktown district, Bruce Mau Design (BMD) draws on the past to move its staff forward, at least when it comes to where and how they devise branding strategies for their clients. Laid out over a triangular footprint in a former factory building, the space reveals its past: rough-hewn exposed beams, brick walls and sturdy steel columns. WilliamsonWilliamson, the architecture firm in charge of the agency’s office design, kept these existing parts largely as is, as reminders of the past but also as a way to strip back the concept for the space to the barest of elements, underscoring BMD’s research-driven approach. “There’s a high degree of restraint,” says Tom Keough, the agency’s managing director. “The space is meant to be animated by the character and energy of the people who work for us, and the in-progress work for our clients that’s all around the studio.”

The eastern end of the office emphasizes the importance of the collaborative relationship, with three variably sized meeting rooms surrounding a kitchen and lounge.

Still, materials and textures added to the volume’s existing palette include curved glass walls etched with graphic patterns that offer a hint of privacy for closed meetings but also lend a sense of movement to the dominating lines. A central reception desk in finely crafted oak divides the space in east and west neighbourhoods, which in turn house workstations and gathering nooks. Extending from this node, millwork planes like large, angled fins make up the shelves of a sculptural bookcase. The legacy of the past is, apparently, on equal footing with new ways of doing things.

Photography by Scott Norsworth