Slide away

chair

Quadrangle Architects applies a playful design to a new office building in Toronto

On the edge of Lake Ontario, lies an office building that disproves a common stereotype: not all offices are boring. This thought has been pushed forward by Canadian architecture studio, Quadrangle Architects, whose design for the new Corus Entertainment headquarters will spark envy amidst many offices in the area.

Corus Entertainment had come a long way from a cable company to comprising 70 premium brands in television, radio, publishing and web.

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Operating within a new building commissioned by the City of Toronto, Corus assigned Quadrangle Architects to create a centralised office that boasts technology and sustainability, heightens engagement and creativity, and expresses a confident and unified corporate identity as well as a bold character for each of the brands within the company.

“They wanted a design that celebrated their building’s waterfront location and [that] would be a great space for their staff, clients, visitors and people living in the local community,” explains principal at Quadrangle Architects, Caroline Robbie.

“We created a space that is serious in its breadth, vision and commitment to sustainability, but also fun. The slide through the main atrium has become an important symbol for Corus—a sign that it is a delightful and inspiring place in which to work,” she adds.

According to Robbie, openness and transparency was a major design strategy with open floor-plates, raw ceilings, exposed ducts and cabling giving the offices a loft-like feel.

“There are no closed offices,” she assures. “Staff work from desks divided by brightly coloured partitions in waves referencing the waterfront. A glass roof over a central atrium and floor-to-ceiling glazing on all external walls maximise natural light.

“Moving from a cellular office to an open workstation environment meant that many meetings and conversations needed a private location other than someone’s office. A wide variety of meeting options now support the change in culture while also visually celebrating Corus’ many media brands,” Robbie explains. Transparency is also integrated within the boardrooms, telephone rooms, editing suites and banks of electronics that can be seen through the glazed walls.

“Radio broadcasting booths are exposed to the adjacent Sugar Beach Park, connecting the broadcasters with their public and giving broad views to employees used to working in dark, enclosed spaces,” she says.

As per client requirements, the architecture studio created a signature boardroom for each of the Corus’s 21 brands, outfitted with distinctive lighting features, exciting wall-coverings and unusual furniture that playfully express the essence of each brand in a way that is both abstract and encouraging of exploration and circulation between departments.

The spiraling white slide is the key feature within the office, providing a fun way to descend from the collaboration lounge above the double studio block to the atrium and the space below. Boldly announcing a playful spirit that defines the Corus work culture, the slide also offers a faster alternative to the rear staircase.

“It is one of the most popular features,” Robbie adds. “They particularly like it because it is one of the things that said ‘this is a fun company’ and Corus is about fun.”

Inspired by the natural forms of the waterfront, a white fabric ribbon starts in the entrance and leads the viewer’s eye up the slide through the atrium, which brings the openness of the waterfront into the interior of the office.

And while the interior space does reflect the fast-pace of multi-media culture, the office’s distance from the hustle of downtown and its connections to the lake, beach and sky permeates tranquility into the working space.

Various flooring applications set the path within the office like a modular carpet tile with a linear panel in the open office areas, the cork flooring in the elevator lobbies and Terrazzo flooring throughout the main floor atrium. Teak wooden flooring was also used throughout the 8th floor lounge, while Marmoleum was applied to the kitchens, copy rooms as well as the central hub areas.

Robbie explains that the many materials were selected “to suit the areas’ purpose but also to provide comfort, acoustical treatment, warmth and durability.”

The workstations, by Canadian manufacturer Teknion, are in a neutral palette with custom stained wood veneer drawer fronts. The conference tables came in a variety of finishes, like reclaimed barn boards, vintage teak, glass and back painted glass, and anodised aluminium.

Teknion products were used for the modular walls for meeting rooms which comprised of custom stained veneer panels or solid surfaces with custom film graphics set in an anodised aluminium frame. Robbie adds: “The majority of [the] walls were glazed to maintain light and views to enhance the height of the open areas.”

“Open ceilings are sprayed with an acoustic treatment. Meeting rooms and specialty areas have dropped dry wall or tile ceilings for acoustical performance,” she furthered.

Robbie says the main challenge was to “ensure individual identities were not lost in the move to the open-plan layout,” as there are so many brands under one roof.

“So we picked 21 of Corus’ 50-plus companies and designed special glazed meeting rooms to represent each brand and gave them custom graphics, colour palettes, furnishings and iconic light fixtures drawn from characteristics of the brands.

“One room in particular for me was very important,” she continued. “[It was] the meeting room for the radio station that I had listened to all throughout my teens and twenties when there was a really great punk scene in Toronto. I had collected all of their posters from the late 70s and early 80s and so I put together a wallpaper of these posters, which they loved.”

Another key area in the building is the hundred-seat theatre on the eighth floor that has an adjacent lounge and two rooftop terraces, offering panoramic views of the city, the harbour, Lake Ontario and beyond. The space contains full height windows and retractable screens and drapes. “This allows Corus to host events for key clients in a hospitality-quality environment,” says Robbie.

A popular area with staff is the ‘top of the studio’ lounge. Located on top of two broadcast studios, it has a variety of striking furniture including oversized Luzo lamps and Vitra Alcove sofas.

The lighting throughout the building was not only chosen for its aesthetics but contained an actual technological approach: “Lighting was used strategically throughout to further embody the character of the individual brands and Corus identity.

“Also, Corus’ multiple broadcast media functions are diverse, requiring varying light levels and high levels of control. The DALI (digital addressable lighting interface) system assigns a distinct address to each of the 4,500 dimmable luminaires in the building. The system is incredibly flexible. It is individually user controlled by digital panels, Internet or desktop phones so that each employee can easily customise their personal space,” explains Robbie.

Sustainability was also a major, foundational driver for the design of Corus’ office building. The building itself is located in a LEED ND Neighbourhood, the first of its kind in Canada. It is LEED Gold Certified for Core and Shell and is targeting LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors.

“At the time of the opening of the facility, it was considered the most advanced broadcast facility of its kind in North America,” Robbie says.

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