Located in the historic Gare Viger building, the project was conceived to maximise space to accommodate more than 640 employees working at the Montreal headquarters of the international company. ACDF’s mandate for Phase three was to transform 10,000 sq ft of storage space, located on the building’s fifth floor, into a functional network of training rooms, meeting facilities, and work zones.
In keeping with the same conceptual approach as the previous phases, enhancement of the heritage character of the space was a core focus. That being said, rehabilitating the attic presented numerous challenges, which undeniably guided each of our design and spatial planning decisions. Whether it be in response to this current pandemic, or preparing for the next one, this new reality must form part of the conversation about every new layout that we approach. But I think that we’ll see some very innovative new ways of incorporating flexibility into post-COVID office design without making it the focus of a project.
In addition to addressing a narrow, cramped, and linear space, ACDF was faced with several constraints inherent in the redesign of heritage buildings, including regulatory issues. To meet emergency exit requirements, the firm constructed a new evacuation corridor for the sixth floor boardroom, crossing through the exposed wood structure of the attic in order to connect to an existing exit. A further challenge involved developing, in collaboration with the base building architects, an exterior roof insulation strategy, allowing the exposed wooden beams of the roof’s interior to remain part of the space’s design. In an innovative fashion, the firm also addressed the issue of limited natural light penetration by devising and implementing an ambient lighting strategy.
Completed in January 2020, ACDF rose to each and every challenge along the way in order to effectively and efficiently transform the space into an architectural journey, rich in contrasts and experiences. Bold contrasts in lighting and colour embody the firm’s approach to creating desired moods and highlighting spatial transitions.
Upon exiting the fifth floor elevators, a dark environment lends itself to a subtle game of transparency and reflection, courtesy of three bronze-tainted boxes delimiting the elevator hall from the adjacent training room. The elevator hall’s black background immediately contrasts with the warmth of the training room’s white oak bleachers, and the rich texture of its exposed brick wall. To the east and west of the elevator hall, the firm’s approach to transitional contrasts emerges in the form of bright white geometrical corridors.
The passages accentuate a transition between the cavernous dark zone and the enveloping, residential ambiance of exposed brick walls and wooden beams that characterise the company’s meeting rooms, services core, and unique workspaces located at each end of the corridors.