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Five offices that let the world know, "This is who we are"


OFFICE 1: “LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO”

Dialog Edmonton / By Dialog

“Doing great work. Enjoying the journey. Always making a difference.” Such are the core values of Dialog, one of Canada’s largest fully integrated architectural, engineering, interior design, urban planning and landscape architecture firms, with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. Its new Edmonton studio – open, airy, flexible, collaborative and bright – reflects these values.

Originally designed by architect James McDiarmid in 1912, the Revillon Building served as the northern Canadian HQ for Revillon Frères, a fur-trading and wholesale company based in Paris. The Dialog studio is located in the attached Revillon Annex, a former fur warehouse that had sat abandoned for years. The designers stripped it back to its original architecture, exposing a board-form concrete ceiling, original brick walls and cast-in-place concrete columns. 

The design concept is anchored by a double-volume space located in the centre of the studio flanking the public street. A raised floor was removed, allowing the main reception and meeting space to be at street level, with the studio and amenity spaces on the surrounding upper level. Extensive new exterior windows engage the neighbourhood.

A generous central gathering space – which encourages collaboration across project teams – connects the north and south studios. Adjacent to this space are glass-fronted team rooms, which open to the studios and provided quiet areas for collaboration or independent work. 

“Our new space brings everyone together on one floor,” says Dialog intern architect Michael Rivest. “The open plan fosters creativity and embodies our culture of integrated design.”

OFFICE 2: “WE’RE A LITTLE MAD MEN

Park Property Management / By Quadrangle Architects Limited

Park Property Management manages rental accommodations across southern Ontario. It’s a family-owned business, whose core values are long-standing relationships, quality, craftsmanship and family. Says Quadrangle Architects principal Caroline Robbie of the client, “This a company with a large portfolio that behaves like your friendly local shopkeeper rather than a faceless corporation.”

The firm’s Toronto office reclaims a 2,000-square-foot storage penthouse in one of its ’60s-era rental buildings – with panoramic views only the superintendent was lucky enough to enjoy. Says Robbie, “The space and its architecture harken back to the Mad Men era for its mix of work and life. We aimed to capture the romance of that era in a modern workplace.” The client was more than game; the programming requirements were simple: a few private offices, open workstations for staff, and document storage for 12 buildings managed from the location.

The whole was designed on an open plan, with two private offices that maximize light from both the south and north faces. Entering the office area through the elevator, the visitor encounters a cozy lobby space with a low ceiling; the walls are papered with a black-and-gold micro-print custom developed by Quadrangle from Park Property’s logo. A few steps in is a light-filled, high-ceilinged “living room” populated with lounge chairs, compact sofa and coffee table.

Colours and patterns reminiscent of the era complement the original terrazzo flooring and integrate with custom walnut millwork and carpet tiles used to mimic area rugs. Contemporary workstations hobnob with classic pieces by Herman Miller. Beyond the workstations is an open meeting area with bright-orange shell chairs and smaller lounge area.

As Don Draper once said (Season one, “The Wheel”), “Nostalgia: it’s delicate, but potent… In Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart more potent than memory alone.”

OFFICE 3: “IT’S ALL A GAME TO US”

Ludia / By For. Design Planning

Based in Montreal, Ludia is a fast-growing video-game developer and publisher specializing in interactive entertainment based on board games and game shows (among its portfolio: Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Family Feud, Jurassic Park and Who Wants to be a Millionaire). When the company took over the floor above its existing studios in Old Montreal, nearly doubling in size, it challenged For. Design Planning to develop – in a space of 9,600 square feet – a workshop for 24 artists, IT lab, server room and multi-purpose lounge. At the heart of the new office is an existing gateway with staircase, which links the two levels; bathed in a scintillating saturated orange, it also serves as a transition zone between the upper floor’s two areas: artist production lab and recreational lounge.

Architectural screens with tackboard surfaces subdivide the open studio space. The lighting allows for different scenarios influenced by seasonal sun cycles and specific team tasks. Adjoining the workshop are multiple formal and informal collaborative spaces with full access to various technologies. 

The heart of the office is the lounge, an expansive space for relaxation, exchange, events, conferences, parties, projection of Ludia sports games – and just plain fun. An explosion of colour and textures on a black background, it’s housed in a century-old space the designers stripped of finishes, keeping the original plaster molding, preserved and restored by local artisans. A large wall created by graffiti artists En Masse references video games produced by the company. The pièce de résistance is the “beach,” complete with carpet “lawn,” umbrellas and chaise longues.

Says For. Design Planning principal André Davignon, “We had a dream team: everyone worked in the same direction and the client trusted us. The project relates to them; it is coherent with the culture, the vision and the mission of the company. They really use the space and enjoy it.”

OFFICE 4: “WE LOVE A BLANK CANVAS”

52 Pick-up Inc. / By Andrea Kantelberg Design

Toronto’s 52 Pick-up was founded in 1998 to help clients create brand identities that stand out; while the company was founded with a focus on design, the team has since expanded to include experts in web design, social media and strategic planning. To create a brand-appropriate design for branding experts, Andrea Kantelburg first set out to identify the core qualities of the agency: “Serious but laid back, humorous, creative, dynamic and original.”

The trick was to fit, in an L-shaped space, 22 desks, two boardrooms, communal-table area, reception area, admin office, production room and kitchen. Says Kantelberg, “The beautiful ‘A-ha!’ moment happened when I thought of the desks as a shape, rather than objects, and drew them as 25-foot-rectangular tables times two.” In the main workspace area, these two sets of tables are separated by a high table with stools. “Behind each desk is a two-drawer filing cabinet for paperwork, concealed beneath floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with cubbies,” says Kantelberg. “The bookshelves were designed to enhance the height of the space; the graphic repetition of the square shape creates visual interest.”

Kantelberg designed the furniture herself, in collaboration with local artisans. Ditto the striking wall installation fabricated from scrap pieces of wood, pieced together like a puzzle with natural imperfections intact, enveloping the space with warmth.

Tying everything together are the choice of authentic materials (marble, metal, concrete, glass and wood) and the purity of white (suggesting an immaculate blank canvas).

OFFICE 5: “WE’RE NOT YOUR TYPICAL LAW FIRM” 

Pink Larkin Lawyers / By Design360 Inc.

A leading law firm in Atlantic Canada, with both national and international clients, Pink Larkin is recognized for legal excellence and social justice. Its progressive corporate culture sets it apart from competitors. The firm recently relocated to a new building overlooking the historic Halifax Public Gardens; a single large floor plate provided room to grow and improved staff communication.  

The principals of Pink Larkin invited Design360 to “challenge all preconceived notions of what a law firm should look like.” As legal professionals who represent unionized workers, they asked that the office space not only be environmentally sensitive, but also be built by unionized trades, using as much local wood as  humanly possible. 

The design team created a warm, welcoming space, making use of polished concrete floors, red brick, locally sourced maple and spruce, natural felt fabric and area rug, and exposed plenum ceiling. Design360 commissioned key custom furniture pieces from local artisans and designed lighting to accentuate the firm’s exceptional art collection.

Meeting rooms are consolidated into one large hospitality-driven area, allowing the space to serve as a social gathering space for firm functions and after-hours client events. In this area, a wooden corridor serves as a modern reminder of the Halifax boardwalk that the firm’s previous office overlooked. 

As managing principal and founding partner Ron Pink is quoted as saying in Progress Magazine, “Space makes a lot of difference. People like the freshness and the airiness of this office. I think our ideas are cleaner. Our minds are cleaner.”  cI



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