Innovation / Business Development Bank of Canada


The best kind of design encapsulates and telegraphs a company’s ethos. The Business Development
Bank of Canada’s (BDC) main purpose is to help dynamic small businesses grow into their potential.
Their raison d’etre is positioning companies for success, so it was only fair that Figure3, a client of BDC,
would reciprocate in kind.

“As a small business, we sought out services from the BDC and they gave back by trusting us to design
their headquarters,” says Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal, Figure3. “BDC is about lifting small businesses
into a position for success. For me, there’s a genuineness about what they do.”

BDC examines a company’s strategy and their sales, and parses the spreadsheets to provide financing
options as required; providing an alternative to a traditional bank. Figure3 set out to give their new
Toronto office, set on the 37th floor of CIBC square, a suitably young, sharp and fresh approach with
a subtle Scandinavian look that hearkens back to BDC’s Montreal head office. The new space offers
stunning views of the CN Tower, a classic symbol of Toronto, at the front of the house, while lake views
abound at the back.

Monique Jahn, Director, Workplace, Figure3, notes BDC wanted to emulate the Montreal office at the
new CIBC Square location, while optimizing the 360-degree panorama of the city. “Because the building
is a landmark building in Toronto, it has its own unique design and presence in the city. What we’ve
developed for them is much more open and welcoming,” says Jahn, “they’re youthful and approachable.
They know what their organization wants to be and how they want their space to represent it.”

Wilkinson concurs: “BDC is modern sharp and forward-thinking. We reflected that with a graphic
black-and-white palette coupled with very deliberate lighting, creating a sense of appreciation for that
laser sharpness.”

BDC liked the authenticity of the polished concrete floor at the new Toronto location, which is a switch
from Montreal, but swapped out the exposed ceilings, opting instead for a more refined ceiling system.
Large format panels depict a cut-out of a stylized maple leaf, integrating the BDC logo in a subtle,
architectural way. BDC wanted to lean heavily on the maple, not only because it’s a Canadian staple,
but the blond wood compliments the fresh, Nordic vibe.

There’s a fluidity that feels like nothing
is off limits
, there’s space for you to do
whatever you want. Moving through the space
feels very easy and natural.”
/ William Gray

Each bank of offices was wrapped in black, with breakout space, and the views are
unobstructed from end to end. Cantilevered forms (such as the reception desk) are recurring;
they interlock and connect to each other to pull visitors and staff into different spaces.

William Gray, Figure3 Team Leader notes the front-of-house space fulfills multiple mandates.
“You have a lounge where clients can work until they meet with someone from BDC, along
with AV integration for when they host events.”

Opposite the reception, a coffee bar allows for social activity after a session in the training
room and it can be a spot to lay out a buffet, or a catered lunch. A servery in the lounge is
tucked away, with a galley kitchen and open gathering space with harvest tables and built-in
benches to create different zones and seating arrangements.

Standard offices and meeting rooms, located in the back-of-room, have flex-offices for hoteling.
“Because they are going to a reduced occupancy, there are lockers, coat storage and a bench in
the back corridors, so it’s a very all-service” says Gray. “There’s a fluidity that feels like nothing
is off limits, moving through the space feels very easy and natural.”

“The design seems very simple, but it is extremely considered in terms of why we picked the
materials, colours, the lighting. And our clients are interior designers as well, so they understood
the language and they challenged us” explains Jahn. “Other clients may not have the same level
of education in design. They respected us and looked for our support when choosing furniture
and finishes, to make sure they aligned and made sense as a holistic design. It was a nice
relationship: they respected what we had to contribute and they appreciated suggestions
outside of their standards. They were also willing to be challenged.”