Workspace of the Week: Inside Architecture Firm BDP Quadrangle’s New Downtown Toronto Studio
In early 2019, U.K.-based architecture firm BDP merged with Toronto’s architecture and interior design practice Quadrangle. The new entity, BDP Quadrangle, needed a larger space for the growing team and decided to take over two floors inside The Well—a downtown Toronto building that boasts office, residential and retail spaces. They were just in the process of designing the new office when Covid hit.
While work-from-home orders were a logistical challenge for many businesses, it gave BDP Quadrangle more time to design their workspace for a post-pandemic reality. “It went from being a place that people would be coming into every day to being one that’s all about hybrid work,” says Caroline Robbie, principal at BDP Quadrangle. In an effort to create a more comfortable and inspiring space for its 230 employees, the firm—which works on various architectural projects across residential, workplace, retail and transit—designed an office with collaboration, flexibility and wellness in mind. “We understood it needed to be a meaningful space that people wanted to come to because it inspires and energizes,” says Andrea McCann, associate and lead interior designer of the new workspace.
The design process for the studio became a collaborative effort. During lockdown, leadership held a company-wide online session where staff shared ideas using Miro boards and other online collaboration tools. Out of that session, they conducted surveys to better understand how people were working together. “One of the biggest learnings was that we weren’t designing for a traditional office; we were designing for behaviour,” says Robbie. “What is it that people need to do? What is the workflow of a typical architectural or interior design project? We had to really look at how we were working and how people are doing certain tasks to think about how we can accommodate that.”
They went from having individual, assigned desks for staff to seven different workstations called “neighbourhoods,” which were designed so employees have the flexibility to choose any space they want to work in—with the exception of IT and HR, who have designated stations so people can easily find them when they need support. Human Space, BDP Quadrangle’s in-house design consultancy, helped integrate accessibility by suggesting additions, such as generous circulation corridors, wide doorways, adjustable workstations and meeting rooms with moveable furniture.
Sustainability was also at the heart of designing the space, so much of the furnishings were repurposed from Quadrangle’s old office, which was located on King Street West in Toronto. “The furniture is a real mix of things that we either sourced locally or brought from our old space and reupholstered,” says Robbie. The firm also applied for a WELLv2 Platinum Certification, which measures the health and well-being of a workspace. “There’s a whole range of measures that we took throughout the design, such as the ongoing monitoring of air quality and making sure that materials we used met sustainability and accessibility standards.”
Located on the 20th and 21st floors of The Well, the 3,715-square-metre studio overlooks the city’s lakefront skyline. It is conveniently located along Front and Spadina Streets in Toronto’s downtown core, making it easy for employees to access different types of public transportation, whether they’re commuting from within the city or outside the GTA. Currently, more than half of the space is occupied daily, but the firm hopes to increase that figure to 80 per cent. Teams are encouraged to come in on the same days to foster mentorship, collaboration and studio culture.