KPMB Architects’ new Toronto office incorporates motifs and materials often utilized in the firm’s client projects.
The office includes four large open work zones to encourage teamwork and brainstorming, centered around a white oak-lined central pavilion offering more meeting and gathering space, including a staff lounge and town hall.
These join other spaces decked with exposed concrete, glass walls sustainable carpet tile and project pin-up surfaces made from recycled plastic – all materials seen frequently in the firm’s renowned projects. Moreover, the office sits on Toronto’s major thoroughfare, King Street, and on the 12th floor of the Globe and Mail Centre, with panoramic views of Lake Ontario and the city’s latest developments.
When was the project completed?
How much space (SF)?
24,950 square feet
Was this new or renovated space?
New space in a brand new high rise office tower (opened in 2017)
How many employees?
What is the average daily population?
80 to 110 employees
Describe workspace types.
The office incorporates a mixture of both large, open work zones with communal spaces for meeting and gathering, as well as 158 individual work stations in an open-format space for employees to use.
What kind of meeting spaces are provided?
A variety of meeting spaces from 2 to 100 are provided, with informal, open tables along the perimeter, and glass enclosed located off the core. All meetings spaces are visually accessible to reinforce an open, connected and transparent culture.
What other kinds of support space or amenity spaces are provided?
A staff kitchen/lounge wood oak ‘pavilion’ functions as a social convener for employees to relax, eat together. The wall facing the kitchen counter features wall to wall shelving to inspire curiosity and knowledge sharing with books and magazines, old and new, on a range of subjects – architecture, business, fashion, climate change, and indigenous wisdom. A large, customized curvilinear light fixture adds a bold, playful spirit.
What are the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?
The office sits on Toronto’s major thoroughfare, King Street, and on the 12th floor of the Globe and Mail Centre, with panoramic views of Lake Ontario and the city’s latest developments. Employees have quick access to the city’s light rail and are less than 20 minutes’ walk from the Toronto subway line.
What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?
Rapid programming and visioning – we found out we had a year to move from our offices where we’d been for more than 30 years!
Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?
We had to find a new space in less than 12 months: in the process of the search, there were many meetings and site visits by the key leadership team and heads of IT, Marketing and Admin. We also had a large team to communicate decisions, progress, and the move itself.
Was there any other kind of employee engagement activities?
It took a while to find a place in Toronto’s hot real estate market where downtown workspace was being gobbled up by tech companies. By the time we secured a space at 351 King Street East, we had 5 months (!). Prior to the work beginning, tours were organized and staff information meeting was held, with beer and chips of course.
Were any change management initiatives employed?
Again, due to time constraints and the unexpected notice to move, formal change management initiatives were limited. However, employees were socialized to the plan, the design, the seating arrangements, etc.
Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.
A key area of focus was to create the same sense of openness we had in our former offices. As this was not predicted, our budget was very limited, and we had to reuse the majority of our furniture (desking system) to keep expenditures down.
Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?
The key requirement was to offer views and access to daylight to everyone, understanding that this is a vital factor for creativity and productivity.
Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?
Construction materials included:
Glass Doors & Walls: Unifor — Italinteriors Contract
Engineered Wood Planks: Stone Tile
Millwork: MCM2001 Inc.
Lighting (supply): d2s inc (office), Artemide (feature), eq3 (pendants)
Appliances: Goemans Appliances
Staff Lounge Wood Wall (install): Einbau Ltd.
ezoBord Acoustic Panels: Ayrsonics
ezoBord & Shelving Installations: McIntyre Group
Hardware for Pocket Doors: Casson Hardware
Porcelain floor tile (supply): Mosa Tile
Porcelain Slab counters (install): World Stone Ltd.
Porcelain Slabs (supply): Ciot
Vinyl Tile Flooring (supply): Torlys
Custom Wood Coatings: Horizon Coatings
Wood meeting, café, collaboration & side tables: Garcia Rep Group Inc.
Vision Strips on Glass: MediaKitchen Imaging Group
Metal Shelving: Spacesaver Corporation
Drapery Fabric (supply): Designtex
Wellness room and material library drapery: Maple Drapery
Collaboration stools: Keilhauer
Lounge chairs & wood collaboration stools: Klaus
Marble Side tables: Elite Market
Table lamps, coffee table, square marble side tables: The Modern Shop
Reception marble side table tops: York Marble Fabrica
Leather restoration on meeting room chairs: Manchee Leather Inc
What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?
The branding elements are discrete and consist of a signage
What is the most unique feature of the new space?
The kitchen lounge pavilion – in our former office we had three very small kitchenettes and we had a culture of people eating at their desks or going out to grab quick lunches in small cliques. People are eating together now, regularly, sharing and getting to know each other at a new level.
Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?
The kitchen/lounge promotes social wellbeing. We are fortunate to have generous amounts of space for people to have exercise breaks – and two private rooms have curtains and lounge chairs for people who need to take a break, meditate, or have a quick nap. We also have fresh fruit brought in daily for staff.
What kinds of technology products were used?
All meeting rooms are fully A/V equipped, including one 9 screen video wall for large meetings and gatherings. Again, since moving, the ability to meet, collaborate has been greatly facilitated and productivity has improved due to the accessible, and abundant technology provided. We also have Surface Studios for collaborating in open areas.
If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?
The nostalgia of moving from a heritage wood/brick loft where the ‘DNA’ of KPMB was forged – one partner, Marianne McKenna, compared it to an old pair of jeans. We had to throw out the jeans as they were, and those jeans carried a lot of great memories and experiences.
If so, what were the most surprising or illuminating or hoped-for results?
In general, given the emotional turmoil, the move caused, the most surprising result was how quickly people embraced the new space and location, and how a simple amenity such as a lounge/kitchen can change a culture.
Tell us more!
Construction Management: Govan Brown
Mechanical: The Mitchell Partnership Inc.
Electrical, IT, AV, Security: Mulvey & Banani International Inc.
Fire Protection & Building Code: LRI Engineering Inc.
Hardware Consultant: Allegion Canada Inc.
Audio Visual & Video Screens: Westbury National
Paulo Rocha – Lead Design Principal
Kevin Bridgman – Lead Design Principal
Brent Wagler – Project Architect, Senior Associate
Goran Milosevic – Project Principal
Carolyn Lee – Senior Associate
Lily Huang – Project Architect
Photography by Maris Mezulis and Tom Arban