When Steelcase decided to move its Canadian showroom from the suburbs to a downtown location the workplace furnishings company approached Superkül to assist them create a noteworthy environment
Photographs: Ben Rahn/A-Frame
Project: Steelcase WorkLife Showroom, Toronto
Size: 10,000 sq.ft
How were you commissioned?
The client, based in Grand Rapids (Michigan) did an online search of Toronto architecture studios and narrowed it down to three; they met with all three, and based on those interviews, chose us.
What was the brief from the client and how much were they involved?
We worked directly with the Director and the Vice-President of Global Design for Steelcase, an interior designer and an architect. It was a collaborative process, in which we challenged them and they challenged us right back. They have a truly vested and sophisticated interest in design, and a sharp critical eye. The initial brief was short, but it was supported by more developed supplementary documents, and a review of their space in Grand Rapids.
How did this brief affect the materials and design choices made?
From the outset the project was targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold, and the choice of materials reflected both this and a broader definition of sustainability beyond LEED. Our visit to Grand Rapids provided the rest of the information we needed about the project - specifically that the Steelcase team was only interested in an innovative and site-specific design that would communicate the values and ambitions of the company.
How did your previous experience help you with this project?
From the outset we worked closely with a fabricator to realize the design and construction of the fibreboard pods; based on previous projects with them we know them to be great collaborators keen on pushing the envelope.
Can you explain the layout of the project?
The design capitalizes on the unusual proportions of the space; vacant since the building opened thirty years ago, the 10,000 sq. ft. space is long, narrow and high; extensive south-west glazing provides an abundance of natural light. The over-scaled architectural pod elements that form the backbone of the design both mitigate and emphasize the height and width of the space, making for a dynamic, unusual, and memorable environment.
What do you feel are the most unusual design elements in the project?
The pod pieces and how they relate to the existing tower architecture; everyone who steps off the elevator forgets for a moment that they are in a conventional office tower.
How do you think this project is pushing design forward - what makes it special?
Steelcase's research into the workplace and the culture of the mobile worker is manifested in this project. The regular rules of the desk and its relationship to the office tower just don't apply here. In questioning what makes us happy, productive and collaborative at work, Steelcase confirmed that it had a lot to do with design - and this project expresses that.
- Furniture: Steelcase
- Lighting: Xacara by Beta Calco; Neo-Ray 23XR Straight & Narrow GEN II Series by Cooper Lighting
- Flooring: Interface