The Stage is Set: Zeidler Toronto Studio

Zeidler Architecture moved their Toronto studio into the historic Auto BLDG at 158 Sterling Rd. in January 2020. Barely settled, the firm transitioned to remote working shortly after. With pandemic concerns waning, the energy of the office is building and Zeidler is keen to utilize their self-designed space to its fullest.

“While we’re still operating as hybrid model with the ability to flexibly work from home, 97 per cent of our staff are coming into the office every day. I think that says a lot about the environment that we’ve created and the culture of collaboration that we have,” says senior partner Vaidila Banelis.

The 10,000 square foot open concept space occupies the 6th floor directly above the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). “We’re enjoying our location within the growing Lower Junction community. Being within the same building as a number of diverse creatives is a nice homage to Eb Zeidler’s legacy and his connection to the art world.”

The studio centres around a communal kitchen and library area, serving as a collision space. The flexible space accommodates a variety of needs including pin-up discussions, team huddles, town halls, game nights, and social events. The kitchen island is equipped with a built-in beer tap with rotating kegs from the neighbouring Henderson Brewing.

The minimal design complements the rawness of the heritage industrial space. Exposed round ducts and elegant linear light fixtures leave the heavily patinated concrete ceiling as a unifying visual element. Glass enclosed functions such as the main conference room, smaller breakout rooms and model shop are carefully inserted within the existing structural columns highlighting the sculptural mushroom capitals. Workspaces with custom oak shelving line the east and west facing windows while art from Zeidler’s collection decorates the space with colour. A group of various size meeting rooms and a touchdown space with pool table bookend the studio.

A continuous picture rail is routed into the exterior walls facilitating display of art, drawings, and models. Large Forbo pin-up walls in the open studio and magnetic backed glass walls in meeting rooms allow multiple collaborative opportunities for sharing material and brainstorming.

Perforated acoustic drywall in the main boardroom and suspended acoustic baffles in meeting rooms enhance voice clarity in these heavily used spaces. All meeting rooms are equipped with large screens and video conferencing capabilities, a feature that has proven invaluable through the past two years of the pandemic.

Beyond the base building common washroom areas, a new shared shower facility was incorporated to support the multiple bicycle commuters on the staff. Plentiful bicycle parking is provided both outside at grade and in secure storage in the basement level. The nearby West Toronto Railpath connection will eventually link the site to the downtown at Union Station along the main rail corridor.

Choosing a location within an existing building was deliberate to support offsetting the firm’s carbon emissions. The location within an existing brownfield area is also well connected to mass transit. The Bloor Subway line (Lansdowne and Dundas West Stations), the College and Dundas streetcar lines, and Bloor Street UpExpress and GO Stations are all located within a 500m radius.

Sustainability design features include operable windows for cross-ventilation, occupancy sensors on lighting, a filtered drinking water faucet to eliminate plastic water bottle use, multiple recycling stations, and low VOC carpeting from recycled materials. A Bipolar ionization air filter unit was installed to improve indoor air quality and reduce any strong odours.

Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth