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Best Offices Ottawa is a celebration of aesthetically beautiful, functional and healthy workspaces across the National Capital Region. This year’s edition is supported by seven architectural, interior design and contracting firms that have shared their stories and top projects, which are profiled on the following pages.





Christopher Simmonds Architect

Tomlinson Group’s new headquarters creates ‘a sense of community’

08 Dredge Leahy Architects

An unconventional fit-up for Keller Williams Integrity Realty

12 HDR Architecture Associates, Inc.

Paying homage to Ottawa’s evolution

16 Marant Construction

SurveyMonkey opens new Canadian headquarters


Robertson Martin Architect


4Té Inc.


FIGURR (Rubin & Rotman)

Art meets science inside You.i TV’s office

GCworkplace challenges the traditional government office Profile: Making way for a new identity






he Tomlinson Group’s new home rises from its surroundings amid sloping berms growing tall grass that seem to lift the building from the ground. Natural rock features call to mind the floor of a quarry – one of Tomlinson’s core business lines – and the slabs of concrete that create the entrance are accented with the heavy construction firm’s name in its signature red. The longstanding family business wanted to consolidate its employees. The result, designed by local firm Christopher Simmonds Architect, keeps Tomlinson’s work and history in mind, explains Samantha Schneider, the project lead for Christopher Simmonds Architect. The combination of concrete, earth, natural landscape features and local stone are meant to call to mind what the company does best, and the firm’s proposal felt a perfect fit to CEO Ron Tomlinson. “It fit into what we are and what we do,”

says Tomlinson. A state-of-the-art testing facility is just a few steps away from the main building. It was important to Tomlinson that the facility was part of the new building, reflecting the importance the firm places on the quality of its asphalt, aggregate and other products. MAKING AN ENTRANCE Unlike a conventional suburban office that sits behind a massive parking lot, Tomlinson’s building features only a few visitor spaces out front. An employee parking lot is discreetly tucked into the rear of the property adjacent to an outdoor patio for staff – complete with a barbecue – and landscaping that includes rocks hauled from Tomlinson’s quarries. The building’s tall glass doors open automatically, since staff are often coming through with their arms full. Staff arriving from worksites have the option of turning

directly into a changeroom on the ground floor, which also features two large rooms where the company hosts classroom-style training on technology, safety, leadership and management. There’s also a full gym facility, with an outdoor basketball court in the works. With employee health in mind, the company also offers wellness and fitness classes. Overall, two-thirds of the ground floor is dedicated to common facilities. “Everyone here works hard and plays hard,” says Tomlinson, adding he wants staff to be happy, and to feel pride in their job, career and company. Just off from the spacious atrium is a catered cafeteria that Tomlinson says works around the needs of their industry, with an emphasis on breakfast and flexible lunch times. “The whole business just functions better,” Tomlinson says of the cafeteria, adding that eating together is an essential part of company culture. The entire space is lit with natural light from the atrium, which stretches up three of the four floors. Schneider says the atrium invokes something vital to the way the space functions: a sense of community. Continues on next page





“Everything that was a challenge made the project better.” – SAMANTHA SCHNEIDER, PROJECT LEAD, CHRISTOPHER SIMMONDS ARCHITECT

Continued from previous page “We wanted to make a dynamic space in the centre of the building,” she says. “You always feel people moving around.” Tomlinson adds that any initial concerns about acoustics were assuaged once everyone moved in. “Nobody can believe how quiet it is,” he says, adding that the water feature cascading down several floors of the atrium helps mask sound. Though there are some workspaces on the first floor, most of the offices, cubicles and board rooms begin on the second floor. Everything is centred around the core of the

building, and each floor differs slightly to reflect how various departments operate. Outside the second floor, the grasses planted in the berms grow up to the glass. With the enclosed offices in the middle of the building, the tall windows ensure light reaches everyone in the building, illuminating features such as the exposed ceiling, a feature the client specifically requested. “There was extra care in the mechanical design … it’s a very clean look, but very exposed,” says Schneider. Tomlinson points out discreet custom diffusers set against the glass and extra sheet metal tucking wires

and pipes away among the round concrete columns placed further than usual from the windows. “We exposed as much concrete as we could,” says Schneider. YOUNGER WORKFORCE There are wood accents, muted browns, and hints of the Tomlinson red wherever possible. Scattered common areas are interspersed with larger meeting rooms, including two large board rooms that overlook the atrium. “There’s an incredibly high importance put on common facilities,” says Schneider,



adding that while tech companies are increasingly known for open-concept, collaborative workplace designs, it’s not a concept frequently embraced in the construction sector. “This is an industry that is not used to working in this kind of space,” she says. Tomlinson says this is, in part, a result of the extensive feedback the company gathered from its increasingly younger employees. By listening to their thoughts on collaborative space and increased connection between departments, he says the company can stay ahead of the curve. “The younger that the workforce gets … the more important some of these items get,” he says. This is exactly the kind of workplace that Christopher Simmonds Architect specializes in: calm, open, community-oriented spaces. A close working relationship with the client means flexibility when it comes to changes, says Schneider. For example, the 170-person office turned into 240 overnight during construction with a couple of acquisitions. “We had designed for growth,” says Schneider. For example, the centre of the top floor was filled in to create more space, and parts of the office were redesigned to accommodate additional employees. “Everything that was a challenge made the project better,” says Schneider. For Tomlinson, the project’s success is evident. “The biggest feedback is the smile on people’s face when they come in or leave the building,” he says. “Everybody can feel it.”






he new home of Keller Williams Integrity Realty was never going to be a typical office. The real estate company needed to fit meeting rooms, training facilities and plenty of individual offices into one large area inside an expansive former retail space on Carling Avenue, across from Carlingwood Mall. Adding to the challenge was the unique nature of their client’s business: Most realtors spend many hours outside the office, showing and visiting properties. But popular hotelling and shared touchdown spaces weren’t an option, since the confidential nature of a realtor’s client

work means they need private workspaces when they’re in the office. It was a puzzle that Dredge Leahy Architects more than solved, turning an unconventional blank slate into a bright, open workplace that’s a testament to the firm’s creativity and design skills. Michele Dredge, the lead architect on the project, concedes that the space wasn’t particularly appealing when she first visited. The high, grey warehouse ceilings – a reflection of the building’s previous retail uses – extended much higher than in most offices. But the architectural firm saw an opportunity in the challenge.



Dredge wanted the space to be comfortable, and knew leaving the ceiling open could be a scary concept for the client. However, she was convinced that the openness of the ceiling would counteract the multitude of offices she had to fit into the space, and Dredge was determined to respond to their needs while also introducing an open-concept feel wherever possible. Through the use of carefully placed lighting and warm interior colours, the expansive overhead space now gives the Keller Williams office an open and quiet feel. “One of the biggest challenges was definitely planning,” she says. “We overcame that challenge by giving them a comfortable workplace setting in what was never designed to be an office.” ENGAGED WORKFORCE Kendra Baines, who works in agent services, says she was won over by the unique concept after experiencing it firsthand. Though the agent offices are separate rooms, support staff work in a largely open-concept area in the middle of the space. Thanks to a special sound masking system, 2018

Baines says the new office feels both secure and open. “It engages the agents more,” she says. “It starts conversations.” One way Dredge added some creativity to

the functional new space was with lighting. The entrance is lit by several circular LED bar lights of different sizes that draw the eye upward. Continues on next page BEST OFFICES 9

“Everyone wants their wow factor.” – MICHELE DREDGE, PARTNER, DREDGE LEAHY ARCHITECTS



Continued from previous page “Everyone wants their wow factor when you walk in,” she says, also noting the skewed lighting in the administration space – “a designer’s whim,” she calls it, but strategically placed to provide consistent light throughout. Along the outer walls of the two halls that run down either side of the space are curved lights that illuminate every angle; there’s no targeted light anywhere in the open space, explains Dredge, and the hallways are designed to make the most of the natural light from the windows at the front of the building, with glass office doors and walls throughout that are mostly glazed to take in the light. The long hallways are striped with Keller Williams’s signature red corporate colour, from the carpet to the walls to the blocks that cross the open top intermittently – a clever way of hiding the necessary electrical components, explains Dredge. The offices range from small spaces for agents who only drop in occasionally to larger offices and some team offices. Space is maximized everywhere; all the offices have sliding doors that save on both space and cost. Equally important was leaving room for Keller Williams to make the space their own. Pictures of Ottawa line the walls, interspersed with some of the company’s messaging, including a full wall of inspirational phrases opposite the training room. The training room and kitchen at the very back of the space are functional and spacious; the volume of training Keller Williams does meant these two rooms were of the utmost importance. Dredge says her firm’s experience in the health-care sector is what makes them so comfortable balancing function with creativity. In health care, there are a lot of technical needs to consider when it comes to design, but she also keeps in mind the people using the space and adds creative touches wherever possible. “I’ve learned a lot doing health care that informs offices,” says Dredge, including intuitive spatial planning. Ultimately, she says it was the relationship between her firm and the client that helped them maximize the space. Dredge took her clients to see some of the furniture and other features in use and utilized 3D modeling to help them understand how her plan would look upon completion. “Keller Williams took the risks too,” she says. “We’re a very practical office, but we also want to be able to be really proud … and give it a little bit of that punch.” 2018







he first thing visitors notice upon entering HDR Architecture Associates, Inc.’s Westboro location is the ceiling – specifically, an overhead wooden carved abstract map of Ottawa that runs the length of the office, drawing one’s eye across the space. Jason-Emery Groën, vice-president and design director at the architectural firm, says he loves to hear the various questions visitors ask about the ceiling piece, as well as listen to people at the office explain it from their point of view. The story told by the installation reflects the importance the firm places on local history and on understanding the context of each new project they take on. “The ability to tell stories is central to our 2018

craft,” says Groën, and the ceiling piece tells a tale that’s important to HDR’s work in the region: the story of our Nation’s Capital. The installation is made of more than 170 computer-numerically-controlled cut pieces carefully arranged in an abstract grid that traces Ottawa’s evolution through a “topography of time,” explains Groën. LTR Industries in Ottawa worked closely with the HDR team to develop the ceiling panel system, innovating at every step of the way. Running lengthwise are the confluence lines, or the key waterways Ottawa was originally founded upon, alongside later transportation corridors such as Baseline Road and the Queensway.

Jason-Emery Groën, HDR’s vice-president and design director, with vice-president Ingrid Felso.

“Where the natural rivers, the man-made concession line, and the heavy influence of the evolution of transportation have fundamentally transformed the Valley” – that’s the narrative Groën and his team wanted to convey when they designed and installed this piece themselves. Continues on next page BEST OFFICES 13

“This space is about working together.” – JASON-EMERY GROËN, VICE-PRESIDENT AND DESIGN DIRECTOR, HDR

Continued from previous page Storytelling is a key element in design, going beyond simply functional solutions to help clients convey their identity, core values and message. The intricate ceiling installment highlights the firm’s ability to interpret a client’s story. LIGHT AND TRANSPARENCY One of the unique features of HDR’s Ottawa space are the windows on both the north and south-facing walls. When one enters and walks past the welcome desk, the office is naturally illuminated from both sides, with an outdoor patio stretching the length of the south wall. “It’s really rare that you can see right

through a commercial building in our North American context,” says Groën. To make the most of all that natural light, the openconcept working areas are separated with low dividers, rather than traditional taller cubicle walls. A few offices and meeting rooms are along the flanking sides of the floor, with glass doors and walls facing inward to make the most of the borrowed light. Groën says the open-concept layout of the working spaces facilitates learning and collaboration, and the lack of sound walls hasn’t made things louder – if anything, he says people are more mindful of each other. The office is quiet but with a productive buzz, and Groën says people with offices end up in the common space for meetings

and conversations; the office was designed with collaboration and learning in mind, a hallmark of HDR’s identity as a firm. “This space is about working together,” he explains. Groën points to a long white cabinet in the centre of the office below the ceiling installation that’s a popular place for meetings and to collaboratively review plans and projects. The open-concept floor plan also fits into one of HDR’s key values: transparency. “Just like the space is meant to be open and honest … our employees are just as open and honest about the work we do,” Groën says. Clients often don’t understand the work of an architect, and this office space is meant to represent HDR’s efforts to remain open and communicative about what they do. When a client walks in, Groën and the HDR team want them to feel included in the architectural process from the start. This openness is represented in the close proximity of the welcome desk to the rest of the office as well as the visibility of HDR’s employees at their desks, which not only lets light travel throughout the space but also lets clients and visitors in on the architectural process in a collaborative way.



Even the exposed ceiling elements, softly uplit by suspended fixtures, add to the effort HDR has put into showcasing the firm’s priorities and processes. “We wanted our clients to be able to understand all manner of typically hidden equipment that goes into a ceiling,” says Groën. This complements the storytelling in the wooden ceiling piece: “If we’re paying as much homage to city building and urban planning … it’s only fair that we would pay homage to our mechanical, electrical and structural engineering peers by exposing the ceiling in the space.” Photos of past projects line the walls, showcasing the firm’s presence in an evergrowing diversity of sectors including healthcare, education, science and technology as well as civic. It was originally health care that brought the firm to Ottawa in 1999: the St. Vincent Hospital, a project led by vice-president Ingrid Felso. “The firm solidified its presence in the nation’s capital by building upon the experience gained working on the St. Vincent Hospital Project,” says Felso, highlighting how joining HDR gave the 2018

firm access to global expertise. “We’re a multinational global firm, but we pride ourselves on being local,” says Groën. Current projects even involve indepth research into the national archives or focused community engagement sessions to best understand both the history and present

context in order to inform the best path forward in their design efforts. “When it comes to design … being mindful of what has come before us, where we are now and what we are trying to achieve moving forward is fundamental,” says Groën. “We go in with an open mind.” BEST OFFICES 15


Ottawa contractor answers the call for SurveyMonkey’s new Canadian HQ MARANT CONSTRUCTION DELIVERS DOWNTOWN OFFICE FOR SILICON VALLEY TECH FIRM


hen a rapidly growing U.S. tech firm wanted to establish a second headquarters in downtown Ottawa, it took an organized and collaborative team to get the ambitious project completed – and thanks to an involved process with construction management firm MARANT Construction, SurveyMonkey’s new space was ready when they needed it. As Matthew DiCintio of MARANT Construction explains, the biggest priority for the client was the move-in date. The new headquarters were modelled after SurveyMonkey’s existing location in San Mateo, Calif., but involved local Ottawa firms to ensure everything went according to plan.

Operating under a tight timeline, the team was tasked with fitting up four floors inside a Laurier Avenue office building to meet the requirements of the expanding Silicon Valley tech firm. The end result was a colourful, open-concept design that includes a variety of collaborative spaces. Lynn Owen of Cresa, the project’s overall manager, says involving MARANT early on as the construction manager was essential to the success of the fit-up. “In an older traditional model, you wouldn’t bring in the construction firm during the design phase,” says Owen, who worked closely with Tim Murphy, principal at TMDA and the lead architect for both the San Mateo and Ottawa

headquarters. “We subscribe to bringing in a construction manager right at the beginning of the project, so that they’re involved in the design development.” By having MARANT join in on the design process, the team was able to offset many surprise costs that would have arisen from changes made after the design was approved. For example, the team identified areas of the design that would jeopardize the project’s budget, and made changes to those plans such as finding alternative finishes to help manage those costs. They could also place tentative orders with suppliers to make sure everything arrived on time. “The constructor can bring so much value up front. They have a different level of knowledge and skill,” says Owen. Continues on next page





Continued from previous page As well, MARANT was able to get a few key tasks out of the way before the tendering process, such as polishing the concrete floors and painting the exposed ceilings, taking at least a month off the construction process, says Owen. Gillean Woods of TRUform Interiors says having MARANT on board made the project flow smoothly. During the design process, she could consult MARANT directly on specific details, mitigating any possible questions during the tendering process. Once construction was underway, she says the site superintendent was collaborative and proactive, always beginning each meeting with an organized list of potential issues. “We just arrived at solutions overnight. They were just diligent and super proactive,” says Woods, adding that MARANT was accommodating when it came to all client requests. “Given the ambitious timeline, they never showed any resistance,” says Woods. A WELCOME CHALLENGE DiCintio says MARANT made sure to begin the construction process with solutions for every foreseeable problem already in place. For example, he knew they couldn’t fit the ninefoot-tall doors or glass panels through the two small elevators in the building. So, MARANT

rented 12 parking stalls outside the building and removed several panes of glass on each level to hoist the materials in through the outside. The periodic reviews that made Woods feel at ease were essential to the process, says DiCintio. “I think it’s something that’s often overlooked, and we made an effort particularly to follow that closely,” he says. DiCintio says the ambitious, playful design SurveyMonkey had in mind, which includes a first-floor cafe and patio, as well as kitchenettes on every floor, a games room and a fitness room, was a welcome challenge for MARANT. “The incorporation of cafes, billiard spaces, fitness areas and dedicated collaboration zones to spark brainstorming and creativity are becoming more frequent in progressive commercial office-type buildouts,” DiCintio says. “But we have constructed these spaces in the past, so supporting these nuances to the build is not something that concerned us at all,” he says. Architect Tim Murphy says those collaborative spaces were key to making the open-concept office approach work. Though the design was based on SurveyMonkey’s San Mateo headquarters, he says having people on the ground in Ottawa made the implementation of the details go smoothly. He adds that MARANT was his first choice to manage the

construction process. Christa Madore, SurveyMonkey’s Ottawa office coordinator, says the transition between the old and new spaces was a welcome change for the quickly-growing company, which now houses more than 150 people in its new headquarters. “I was amazed … it was just home right away,” she says, adding that the fact the space was finished in time was “amazing.” “(MARANT) kept us in the loop,” says Madore, who was responsible for getting feedback from staff on what they hoped to see in the new office. Greg Hitchmough, senior director of engineering at the Ottawa office, says having an office that clearly prioritizes employee happiness is one of the things that attracted him to the position – he’s one of SurveyMonkey’s newest recruits. “It’s a great environment to be creative in,” says Hitchmough. His colleague, software developer Annarosa Paredes, agrees: “It just lifts up our mood.” Owen says that creating a good team at the beginning of the project was what made it such a success, and MARANT’s early involvement made all the difference. “We all have a common goal … it just creates a much better synergy having them on board right from the get-go,” she says.



“It’s not something we were concerned with at all.” – MATTHEW DICINTIO, REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, MARANT CONSTRUCTION









ou.i TV, a growing Kanata tech company looking to prioritize workplace culture and employee happiness, turned to local firm Robertson Martin Architects (RMA) to help the firm create a space to grow in. “Having been involved with You.i’s earlier offices, we watched with admiration as the company flourished,” says Robert Martin, principal architect at RMA. Given the company’s rapid growth and evolving space needs, “working on this project felt like shooting at a moving target.” Continues on next page 2018


Continued from previous page Martin says You.i TV invested significant effort with Meredith Thatcher of Thatcher Workplace Consulting, engaging its employees about their needs and vision for their workspace. They gave RMA a lot of trust to interpret its workplace culture and provide a space that would accommodate growth. An example of that trust is front and centre in You.i TV’s new space: Project architect Todd Headon convinced them to open up the second floor and allow for a large staircase connecting the two levels. It was a big move, he says, but one that connects employees in different departments and keeps the flow of people within You.i TV’s space. Jason Flick, founder and CEO of You.i TV, says he had a particular passion for the staircase. He credits the involved process between RMA and the client for the success of the project, as well as both sides’ willingness to push boundaries. “We did take a risk,” says Flick. “That takes confidence and courage.” FLEXIBILITY The playful, bright and airy space emphasizes view corridors and connectivity, in contrast to the disorienting, bland cubicle arrangement of the previous tenant. The workplace is creatively and purposefully designed, with small elements throughout that serve dual functions, such as the hanging red felt screen that separates the lobby from a ground-level work area. The red accent speaks to You.i TV’s branding,

“Technology, or the science, actually has an aesthetic quality to it. It’s part of the story.” – ROBERT MARTIN, PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT, ROBERTSON MARTIN ARCHITECTS

while the retractable hanging screen serves to muffle sound. There’s an intentionality to the alignment of the exposed ductwork, explains Martin; the spare ceiling exposes some of the technology that goes into a building, representative of You.i TV’s mantra “Art Meets Science.” “The building systems and technology, or the science, actually has an aesthetic quality to it,” says Martin. “It’s part of the story.” You.i TV’s irregular hexagonal logo is subtly reflected throughout the building, from the soft upwards angle on the wood slats separating a meeting space from the office floor, to the bright red lines above the second-floor boardroom. The small meeting rooms sprinkled throughout are intimate and cozy, perfect for the monthly employee check-ins held by You.i TV. Other, larger meetings rooms are tucked away on both floors, and on the second floor a row of private work pods

– similar to those found in business-class airport lounges – face a window overlooking the tech park. Martin explains that a variety of meeting spaces is necessary for a mobile, agile, technology-enabled and highly collaborative workplace. “It’s a lot of coverage for a lot of different teams,” says Deborah Naczynski, design and outreach coordinator for You.i TV. “You need custom. You need thoughtfulness.” Headon says dealing with the multiple entrances of the previous space took careful planning in order to foster the flow of people throughout the office. Soft green and blue folded plane walls stand out among the grey, serving multiple purposes including community posting spaces and dividers. Naczynski says the walls, while seemingly a small detail, make a big difference. “It’s just a little wall, but it does a hundred different things,” she says. One of the most important dual-purpose



elements is the showroom tucked behind the lobby wall. There, high-tech screens mounted on rolling cabinets are used not only for employees’ needs, but also for product demonstrations. Trisha Cooke, vicepresident of marketing, says it was important to You.i TV that the employees benefited from the new space just as much as clients and visitors. “Every time you talk about the customer being satisfied, you can also talk about the employee being satisfied,” she says. Before, setting up for demos was “like a circus,” and now everything they need is in one compact, multi-functional room, saving time and energy. RMA made sure that the entire design concept was based on a thorough consultation process with You.i employees, who described their ideal workspace as both “elegant and comfortable.” The cost-effective design combines high-end design and downto-earth materials such as felt and plywood to create a modern home atmosphere. The cafeteria is next door to high-tech training rooms, shower rooms, bike storage, a meditation room and more. With Ottawa’s ThinkLunch embedded in the bright, modern space, there’s clear emphasis placed 2018

on employee health. Bar lighting above the small, round tables continues the subtle branding, and the room can house almost everyone from the two floors. “This functions as kind of a town hall,” says Martin. Flick adds they have had more than 40 events here since the space opened, not to mention office-wide meetings and presentations. Around the corner on the first floor is another multi-purpose space with

couches and a few musical instruments, perfect for smaller community gatherings and events. For You.i TV, one of the most important aspects of its new space is the flexibility of all the different elements. Robertson Martin Architects has given them a space to grow in, while still prioritizing workplace culture and community involvement. “Things are always going to change,” says Naczynski. “Versatility is key.” BEST OFFICES 23


GCworkplace challenges the traditional government office 4TÉ TURNS PSPC HERITAGE BUILDING INTO MODERN GOVERNMENT WORKPLACE


t 25 Eddy St. in downtown Gatineau, a pilot project designed by leading Ottawa-based interior design firm 4té Inc. is changing the way government employees work. It’s nothing like the government offices of past and present – this new open-concept office, carefully designed using playful lighting and a

variety of collaborative spaces, looks more like a modern tech company. However, this project may well be the future of government working. With more than 30 years of experience designing government workspaces, 4té Inc. was ready for the opportunity to bring this vision to life.

Sonia Powell, the director-general of workplace solutions in Public Services and Procurement Canada’s real property services branch, says this pilot project marks a major departure from previous government offices. The vision for GCworkplace is based on lessons from past accomodation projects,



trends in the private and public sector as well as conversations with public servants. “We’re challenging what it’s like to work in government,” says Powell. One of the central elements of the new workplace is mobility. Powell says the GCworkplace needs to be responsive to the needs of a workforce that is increasingly moving around, transitioning to digital processes and working in various teams. This is addressed using a concept that’s a big change for most government employees: at 25 Eddy, there are no assigned spaces. Workers can make use of a range of workpoints depending on the task of the day. Instead of adapting to the space they’re given, Powell says this new space adapts to them. 2018

As the lead consultants on the design, 4té Inc. worked with an involved team that included Rossmann Architects as the prime consultant, Gatineau-based Boless Inc. as the contractor, and landlord BGIS as the project managers. Together, the team sought to bring the primary values of GCworkplace to the federal government’s project management team. 4té Inc. principal Tzoofit Hammer says the finished space is a reflection of the value an Interior Designer can bring to a project. “It represents the creativity of what 4té does,” says Hammer. 4té Inc. Interior Designer Candice Gertsman agrees, adding that their firm is involved from the very beginning of the

process, starting from client requirements to architectural drawings to furniture selection. “The public doesn’t understand the wide scope of what an Interior Designer does,” says Gertsman, explaining that Interior Designers are able to understand the emotional and physical needs of people and create a space that complements those needs. Hammer says paying homage to the history of 25 Eddy was central to the design. The original brick walls are exposed at every turn, creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere elevated by the exposed ceiling. The previous carpeting was removed and the existing concrete below polished. Continues on next page BEST OFFICES 25

Continued from previous page “We wanted to make sure that we respect some of the elements that were here,” says Hammer. “I think the space echoes a lot of the original building’s characteristics.” Gertsman says balancing modernity with the character of 25 Eddy was a challenge the firm welcomed. “It’s a completely modern take on a heritage space,” says Gertsman. “That required a lot of finesse.” QUIET ZONES AND COLLABORATIVE SPACES A garage door repurposed from the previous space now greets visitors, printed with a photo of the Alexandra Bridge. Past the door, to the left, workpoints become more and more focused and quiet, while to the right they become more collaborative. At either end of the space are carved wooden panels, one with a map of Gatineau and one with a map of downtown Ottawa. The bridge is meant to represent the connection between the two cities of the National Capital Region, explains Hammer. The transitional effect from focused to collaborative is key to making the space work. At the very end of the quiet zone are individual pods, as well as one-on-one meeting rooms and a few single-person focus rooms. Horizontal grey sound baffles stretch the length of the space like waves. Intimate alcoves line the inner wall as the space becomes more collaborative, and the colour schemes reflect the workstyles – the quiet zone is marked by a calming array of blues, which transition to green and finally to bright mustard yellows. Gertsman says 4té Inc. organized the space intentionally to accommodate the varying sound levels created in an unassigned openconcept workspace. Many open-concept offices sprinkle collaborative space throughout their workstations, but when seating isn’t assigned, that approach doesn’t work, she says. Powell adds that the space is designed to give employees a full range of options depending on their daily needs. “It’s about allowing this natural transition from the noisy areas to the quiet areas,” says Powell. Of course, an office without assigned space comes with some specific requirements. One of these is storage – since employees are entirely mobile, they need spaces for their outerwear, documents and other belongings. 4té Inc. incorporated lockers discreetly into the hallways, and also provided each desk area with a low wooden credenza that functions as temporary storage. 26 BEST OFFICES


“It’s a completely modern take on a heritage space.” – CANDICE GERTSMAN, INTERIOR DESIGNER, 4TÉ INC.

Hammer says 4té Inc. put a lot of thought into making the new space intuitive for its users, making the transition to GCworkplace an exciting, transformational experience. “The key is creating space that’s multifunctional,” she says. “We need to make sure it’s a comfortable space to work in.” For Powell, the pilot project has been a success. Though the new way of working was a learning curve, she says employees like having the ability to choose their space each day. “What we’re trying to do is design a space that reflects the way we actually work,” she says. “It feels quite natural once you get used to this idea of moving around.” She says the design choices 4té Inc. made reflect the user group the space is made for, and the people who have been working there can’t imagine returning to their old offices. “What we’re finding pretty much across the board is people who have transitioned to this new way of working … they would never go back again,” she says. “It’s got the vibe of what we do.” 2018








fter six years of building relationships and spearheading forward-thinking projects in Ottawa, Montrealfounded architectural firm Rubin & Rotman is making way for a new identity intended to secure the firm’s legacy for years to come. FIGURR encompasses the history of the firm, founded in 1989 by Rick Rubin and Stephen Rotman. Now, the firm has five partners, including Ottawa’s Roberto Campos, and Rubin says it’s time for their name to reflect the full diversity of their work, their people, and most importantly, their culture.


Firm’s local work includes Tweed visitor centre, Zibi

As Rubin & Rotman, the firm had a number of long-term relationships with clients who were expanding to Ottawa. As these clients set their sights on the nation’s capital, they wanted to keep the firm’s expertise. Rubin says the firm toyed with the idea of opening an office in Ottawa, but were hesitant to do it without the right people. During a joint venture with Ottawa-based architect Douglas Cardinal, they met Roberto Campos, who was working with Cardinal at the time designing the Cree Cultural Institute in northern Quebec. Over the duration of the project, Rubin & Rotman built a respectful and creative working relationship with Campos. When Campos decided it was time for a change in his own career, the partners decided the timing was perfect to embark on their Ottawa expansion. “We immediately said, ‘Let’s hire him,’” says Rubin. Campos was surprised – it would be a challenge, and the position was beyond the scope of what he had expected, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Continues on next page 2018


Continued from previous page “Part of what sold me was that from the very beginning they did not want to chase projects,” says Campos. “We wanted to build relationships.” The Ottawa office officially opened in 2012, and the firm has been building its roots here ever since. COLLABORATION With five people in Ottawa to complement the 40-plus people FIGURR employs in Montreal, Campos says the busy firm stays connected despite the distance. “We’re not two separate offices,” says Campos. “We really act as one firm.” Rubin says that with the expansion to Ottawa, it was of the utmost importance to Figurr that the firm’s values continue to be upheld. The first of these values is relationships – with clients, colleagues, contractors and communities. “We realized that to do good architecture, we had to be great collaborators,” Rubin says, adding that consistency is key to maintaining the relationships Figurr has built. Rubin also stresses the importance of believing in the transformational aspect of the work they do. “We change people’s lives,” he says, adding that FIGURR places just as much importance on design for a limited-budget project as they would on a full renovation. “Our goal is to transform people’s experiences, and we don’t define it in bricks and mortar,” Rubin says.

“Our goal is to transform people’s experience, and we don’t define it in bricks and mortar.” – RICK RUBIN, PARTNER, FIGURR

From left, FIGURR partners Roberto Campos, Stephen Rotman and Rick Rubin.



As well, the firm is committed to reinvesting in their communities, providing continuing education within the company as well as giving back to local food banks and other causes. The firm has been involved in a diverse portfolio of work in Ottawa, including multiunit residential buildings and school fit-ups. However, two high-profile projects in particular have put them on the Ottawa design map, thanks to their innovative approach to design and to the relationships they’ve built. FIGURR was approached by a consulting group working for cannabis producer Tweed’s Smiths Falls facility. Tweed wanted to build a discovery centre for visitors, and FIGURR designed a creative and immersive experience that pays homage to the former Hershey factory’s history as well as providing education on cannabis and its production process. Alongside engineering partners JL Richards, with whom the firm has a longstanding relationship, FIGURR took the story that Tweed’s branding company wanted to tell and 2018

turned it into a space that showcases one of the Canadian cannabis industry’s biggest players. “I think it’s one of Canada’s largest and first public reveals of the history and story as well as the opportunities behind newly legalized cannabis,” says Rubin, adding that the firm’s emphasis on relationships and adaptability were key to the success of the project, which was completed on a short timeline. The firm was also one of the first architects to join the high-profile Zibi project bridging Gatineau and Ottawa. Zibi is the firm’s first big multi-unit residential project in Ottawa, and a particular source of pride for the partners, especially since it’s a sustainable development. “They really appreciated the level of quality and innovation that we proposed,” says

Campos. “They respected what we did at every stage of development.” Campos says that FIGURR prioritizes sustainability whenever possible, not as a marketing point but as a value that influences all of the work they do. For example, the first Zibi building features an overhanging roof that provides shade to several floors, decreasing the need for air conditioning during the hot Ottawa summer. For Rubin, the firm’s new identity represents another kind of sustainability as well: the building of a legacy for the firm, and the nurturing of a culture that will last beyond the founders. “This is not FIGURR. This is all of us,” he says. BEST OFFICES 31

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Best Offices Ottawa 2018  

Best Offices Ottawa is a celebration of aesthetically beautiful, functional and healthy workspaces across the National Capital Region. This...

Best Offices Ottawa 2018  

Best Offices Ottawa is a celebration of aesthetically beautiful, functional and healthy workspaces across the National Capital Region. This...

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