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The Globe and Mail

Two firms discover hidden office space in the city

Steelcase Canada moves into extraordinary furniture showroom and office space on what had been a mechanical floor; Park Property's stylish new penthouse replaces building storage and training room

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A sleeping giant: the penthouse floor of 200 King West sat vacant and unfurnished in Toronto’s downtown for 30 years.

Superkul

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At the time the building was constructed, the floor was accessible only by a freight elevator and the space was considered unrentable due to its eight-metre-high ceiling, according to an agent for the landlord.

Superkul

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“When I first saw the space I said, ‘Oh we really want to do this,’ ” says Meg Graham, a principal of Superkul Inc., the architecture firm approached by Steelcase Canada Ltd., an office furniture company, to transform it into office space and a showroom.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Superkul

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“We wanted to create an element of surprise,” Ms. Graham says. Coming off the elevator, a geometric wall focuses visitors’ view to a small opening so they don’t get an immediate impression of a vast room.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Superkul

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Entering another dimension: Superkul designed an entry corridor whose walls are decorated with vertical slats that increase in height as visitors progress up a slanted ramp and turn a corner into the full-height main room.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Steelcase

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“We are a showroom but also a working office, so anyone coming here can not only see our products but how they’re used,” explains Steelcase spokeswoman Gale Moutrey.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Steelcase

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The Steelcase office is open concept but alcoves and video conferencing areas break up the space to give it a more relaxed and human scale.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Superkul

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Superkul created geometric walls with lowered ceilings to create better acoustics for meetings and discussions.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Steelcase

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The geometric shapes also focus more attention on the room and the windows and less on the ceiling.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Superkul

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A series of private work and meeting rooms along an inner wall showcase sliding glass privacy doors made by Steelcase.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Steelcase

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Thinking big: Without the geometric dividers to provide some contrast, the room could have felt overwhelmingly tall for an office space.

Ben Rahn / A-Frame/Steelcase

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The 35 employees in the Steelcase office work on mobile devices and are free to choose where they prefer to work and often shift their locations during the day for a change of pace and a different view.

Wallace Immen/The Globe and Mail

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The dramatic view through the office windows looking west along King Street features Metro Hall, Festival Tower and a new condominium rising alongside the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

Wallace Immen/The Globe and Mail

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Meanwhile, in mid-town Toronto, a former storage area atop a 50-year-old building provided a dramatic location for a new office for Park Property Management Inc.

Bob Gundu

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The company approached Quadrangle Architects Ltd. to update the space, seen here before work began.

Quadrangle

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Dropped panels provided insulation and space to hide electrical connections while preserving the unique vaulted ceiling. Ducts for air conditioning were left exposed in the ceiling and new windows provide more insulation for heating and cooling.

Bob Gundu

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Partitions were added to the open floor to create two private offices, Dyonne Fashina, an interior design specialist for Quadrangle, says. “We’re seeing the trend to open concept offices has gone too far. There are personnel issues and confidential meetings that need privacy.”

Bob Gundu

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There was always a kitchen in the mid-town penthouse that was used occasionally as a classroom. In the updating, the building’s original terrazzo floor was maintained.

Bob Gundu

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The overall design is retro yet modern, in keeping with a building that dates to the Mad Men era of the 1960s. Read more about these projects at the story link below: Hidden gems offer up unique office space.

Bob Gundu

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