Workspace of the Month: Inside KPMB Architects—the Firm Behind the Revamped Massey Hall

The business occupies a floor of Toronto's Globe and Mail Centre with sweeping views of the city
The kitchen space inside KPMB's Toronto office (photography: Maris Mezulis)

In our Workspace series, CB is featuring interesting, smart-designed and one-of-a-kind spaces across Canada. From innovative home offices to out-of-the-box co-working spaces to unconventional setups—like this beauty company run out of a rural farmhouse and this carbon-bike company located in a former auto body shop—we are looking to showcase the most unique and beautiful spaces from all industries. This month we are profiling the Toronto office of KPMB Architects.

KPMB Architects had been operating out of the same 19th-century industrial brick warehouse in Toronto’s Entertainment District since 1987, occupying about 1,579 square metres over two floors. The firm has worked on high-profile projects across the continent, including the renovation and expansion of Massey Hall in Toronto, and Boston University’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences. But in 2018, the firm received notice that their office building was being redeveloped; they had just under a year to find a new place, renovate it and move in. Two of KPMB Architects’ partners, Paulo Rocha and Kevin Bridgman, were tasked with finding and co-designing a space where their staff of 110, including marketing and business development teams, could work, collaborate and brainstorm together. 

After securing a lease on the entire 12th floor of Toronto’s Globe and Mail Centre, spanning 2,322 square metres, Rocha and Bridgman mapped out a design that echoed the firm’s own ethos for office interiors. Instead of having executive offices hog prime space along external glass walls, KPMB opts for a more equitable layout that puts all employees at rows of open desks next to each other. “There’s nothing more hierarchical than private offices having all the windows,” Bridgman explains. “Everyone else gets very little light if executives decide to leave their blinds closed.” 

White oak hardwood was used for the flooring and walls of the office’s central meeting and gathering spaces, echoing the heritage feel of their previous office. “The warmth from the timber beams and ceilings of our original workplace inspired us to introduce a similar warmth in our new space,” Rocha says.

The firm also benefitted from plenty of upgrades from their previous office. They went from three meeting rooms to 12, including a boardroom with retractable glass walls that can accommodate large team-wide gatherings and events, such as town halls. The old office didn’t have enough space for a lunch room, but the new space has become a natural gathering point for staff to meet over coffee and meals. KPMB’s lunch lounge features black leather and blue lounge chairs from the About A Lounge chair series by HAY, a 14-foot island clad in SapienStone porcelain and oak wood communal tables from Andreu World.

The firm has since grown to 155 people with a hybrid work model where staff work in-person three days a week. Here’s a look inside.

A photo of the entrance hallway at KPMB's office in Toronto
When staff and visitors step off the elevator, they’re greeted by a reception area with clear views of the city on either side of the building. Pathways that start in the reception also serve as central “avenues” for walking from one end of the office to another.
A photo of rows of desks next to windows in KPMB's office
Instead of pushing executive offices up against the glass walls, Rocha and Bridgman keep this space open for foot traffic, making it easy for staff to move around. “Maintaining an open perimeter around the office allowed us to ensure the sweeping views of the surrounding city and Lake Ontario are truly accessible to all,” says Bridgman. 
A photo of the wooden lunch area in KPMB's office
KPMB’s old office didn’t have space for a lunchroom. But here, staff can host lunch talks to share the project they’re working on. It’s also a place to screen major events, like the FIFA World Cup. Shelves display architectural magazines and books for staff to browse during their lunch break.
A photo of a dark private meeting room with a wooden table inside
Most of the office’s 12 meeting rooms are equipped with screens for video calls to collaborate with teammates working from home and with clients across Canada and the United States.
A photo of three workers together hunched over a desk
Wooden tables throughout the office serve as gathering points for team members to meet and collaborate. The tables are also a great place for staff to spread out their materials—especially if they need a change of scenery. “I’m constantly sketching here and coming out to the light,” Rocha says. “It’s important for designers and architects to remain connected to their local context. Our vantage point of the city provides exceptional views of many of KPMB’s past and present projects.”
A photo of a man working on his computer in an office
With more square footage to work with, Bridgman and Rocha designed these central tables in between 37 rows of desks. “We group teams back-to-back, not face-to-face, so that they can turn and talk to one another and share maps and sketches,” Bridgman says.
A photo of people working at a communal table in the centre of an office
The model shop in KPMB’s old office was always a “makeshift space”, according to Rocha. But the new office has a dedicated spot for building small 3D model representations of architectural projects using wood, foam and plastic. The firm’s “materials library,” with countless samples of stone, wood, glass and paint, is located nearby. 
A photo of a board room encased in glass with white chairs
This boardroom seats 24 people, but the glass walls are moveable, opening up a space to accommodate the whole team for company talks and town halls. 
Andrea Yu
Andrea Yu
Andrea Yu is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. She writes about life, culture, real estate, business and health with a focus on human-interest stories.