June 1, 2011
Quadrangle Architects build a work environment designed to keep the creative juices flowing.
25 Dockside Drive
When the City of Toronto commissioned the office building Corus Quay, it was supposed to be a showpiece. Headquarters for a media company, this site is one of the first buildings in the city’s waterfront redevelopment—a projected 25-year build-out that will involve such renowned urban thinkers as James Corner, Michael Van Valkenburgh, Moshe Safdie, and Cesar Pelli. Accordingly, many locals were unimpressed by Diamond Schmitt’s plans for a competent but quiet glass box. Where was the innovation? Where were the brio and flash?
Inside the building, as it turns out. The 500,000-square-foot interior, by Quadrangle Architects, features boardrooms decorated with graffiti murals, bright-orange cubicles, a spirited penthouse lounge, and a three-story slide in its glassy atrium.
According to the Quadrangle principal Brian Curtner, all this fits the corporate culture of Corus, a company that began in basic cable but now encompasses 70 brands in TV, radio, book publishing, and the Web. “They were consolidating from 11 different offices in the area,” Curtner says, as a wall of screens blasts video into the lobby. “And these people are hip. The last thing they wanted was to move into an office building.”
Instead, the design team worked to emulate the anything-goes vibe of a loft. “It’s a new building, but we were striving to make it as rough as possible,” Curtner says. Exposed services line the ceilings. The U-shaped floor plates have very few partitions and no private offices. (The CEO and top executives have cubicles with prime views over Lake Ontario.) Most employees work on Teknion desks with divider panels of hot-colored acrylic and use meeting rooms that reflect the brands they work for. In its conference room, the Toronto radio station the Edge has a graffiti mural and Konstantin Grcic chairs. Dusk, a mystery channel, gets a black Hot Kroon chandelier, black-and-silver wallpaper, and a heavy wood table. On the top floor is a 100-seat screening room with killer skyline views and a teak-paneled lounge with Warren Platner furniture and glam chandeliers.
Gathering spaces get pride of place. In the atrium at the heart of the building is an official “Collaboration Zone.” Stressed-out producers can play foosball, hang out under an overscaled Luxo lamp, and then slide three stories down to the ground level for a snack at communal tables.
For all the flash, the interiors are tightly planned, disguising volumes of broadcasting hardware and windowless studios. And the design reflects city-building ambitions. At ground level, three TV studios face the skyline and the adjacent Sugar Beach, a park (by Claude Cormier Landscape Architects) that cushions a sugar-processing plant with a beach of white sand and pink umbrellas. On an otherwise quiet spring weekday, building staffers prepare for a parkside Foo Fighters performance that will fill up and energize the area. It’s a reminder of how architecture can best bring art to a city: not as a sculpture, but through a happening.