Inspiration / Choosing a New Workplace


‘If I go, there will be trouble, and if I stay there will be double.’ Although the lead singer of the Clash (Mick Jones) may not have been focused on real estate strategy at the time, the question remains one of the biggest conundrums companies must face as their workplace needs evolve… “should I stay or should I go now?”

As we navigate the turbulence of today’s economic uncertainty, companies struggle more than ever with how their workplace will need to look and function to attract and retain talent. With Hybrid work firmly planted among the corporate set, we are continuously reminded that the world’s workforce has developed a more voracious appetite for choice in how, when, and where they work. Paired with the daunting prospect of endlessly escalating construction costs and never-ending supply chain woes, the decision of whether a company should renew a lease and stay in their existing building, or venture out and secure new space elsewhere, has become much more complex.

Historically when making the decision, executives have often made the leap without a full understanding of the pros and cons of each scenario. In the following article, we explore some key considerations to help inform this decision, along with perspectives from leading experts in the fields of real estate brokerage, project management, interior design, and construction.

“As Interior Designers, we often find these decisions are driven largely by very quantitative measures, and more qualitative considerations such as the impact on corporate culture and brand opportunity are often overlooked.”
/ Eric Yorath, Principal, Figure3

Budget and Timing

In the current market where owners of office real estate are making significant efforts to keep their buildings occupied and protect the perceived asset value, tenants are seeing significant inducements from landlords to encourage their decision to stay.

Financial considerations are crucial in decision-making and each scenario has its pros and cons. Opting to renew a lease and undertake in-place renovations allows for the spreading of modification costs over an extended period, offering increased flexibility.

However, if significant modifications are needed to meet evolving company needs, costs may be substantial, spanning multiple construction phases and staff shuffling. Despite this, the advantage lies in the ability to spread these costs over a longer duration, providing the tenant with a level of choice and flexibility, unlike the quicker realization of construction costs in a typical relocation scenario.

Keen on retaining valued tenants, landlords may sweeten the deal with enticing incentives, ranging from free rent to substantial building upgrades. This includes offerings such as rent-free periods or the flexibility to relinquish space at specific lease intervals. Another emerging strategy involves landlords enhancing the tenant experience through significant building upgrades, introducing new amenities like conference facilities, food services, and outdoor patios. This trend is notably influenced by the introduction of premium office towers in the market.

“In today’s market, we are seeing a higher percentage of firms opting to renew leases and remain in place because their existing landlords have been so aggressive in their efforts to keep tenants in their buildings.”
/ Katya Shabanova, SVP of Office Leasing, Cushman & Wakefield

On the flip side, a pro of relocation includes potential cost absorption by landlords in returning a space to its base building condition to provide tenants a blank slate, or even aligning a new design with tenant needs. Negotiating terms, such as the positioning of building fixtures, becomes a strategic play on behalf of the tenant, in the cost-saving game.

Constructability and Logistical Challenges

From a practical perspective, it’s often the ‘better the devil you know’. In the stay-in-place scenario, a tenant often has the advantage of knowing the building as well as the landlord. The value of these relationships should not be underestimated.

When relocating to another existing building, unless the new landlord is providing the space in restored base building condition, the tenant may find they are inheriting all sorts of hidden surprises (ie: abandoned systems or material in the ceiling space). In contrast, if moving to a brand-new building where the tenant is essentially the first occupant, they may find themselves paying for a number of things not already in place.

The first tenant in on a new build is often bearing the brunt of infrastructure costs like electrical and hvac; this is where a professional can help paint a clear picture on a case-by-case basis.”
/ Nathan Naka, Partner, Director Project Management, mform Construction Group

Another consideration for moving to a new building, especially a new building under construction, is access to the space during construction. Nothing will slow down the efficiency and timing of construction like restrictions to a loading dock or freight elevator. If a tenant finds themselves starting construction in tandem with other tenants in the building, there may be challenges to gaining access to freight elevators and/or loading docks.

In contrast, during a renovation in place, logistical considerations are needed for staff during the construction period, often emphasizing the need for swing space. Swing space can make the difference between a long and painful renovation and a more time-efficient project; something to be considered early on in lease negotiations.

One key consideration in any scenario is to engage your project team sooner than later. Having input from a general contractor, project manager, and designer on the pros and cons can go a long way in mitigating risks, costs, and headaches later on.

“Hiring a seasoned and professional team is crucial for navigating the complexities of office renovation or relocation. With their expertise, they can swiftly uncover key considerations and potential challenges, mitigating risks and averting potential issues.”
/ Steven Demers, Senior Director, PM, CBRE


Impact on Culture

The human element often takes a back seat in the decision-making process, but the impact of an office renovation or relocation on a company’s staff and corporate culture should be a key consideration. Swing spaces emerge as a vital remedy, improving productivity and morale during the disruptive period, and potentially turning the disruptions into opportunities for piloting new workplace models and boosting staff enthusiasm.

Whether you choose to move to a new location, or stay in place, a revitalized office environment provides a significant opportunity from a branding and culture perspective. Consider a grand reveal to activate your clients and the community and further boost staff morale and pride of place.

“At the end of the day the client is looking for something that is unique to their corporate culture and branding. It’s about creating an ownable design, one that the client can say is truly authentic to themselves.
/ Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal, Figure3

Navigate the Complexities with Interior Design

When approaching this complex decision, an interior design team emerges as a critical player by offering an experienced perspective and valuable feedback based on your unique programming needs. They possess the ability to uncover cost savings by identifying the benefits and features of each space, ultimately saving money, identifying potential opportunities and otherwise costly risks.

The design team can conduct feasibility plan studies that visually showcase the impact of the various real estate scenarios. This collaboration helps understand the pros, cons, and costs of each option, while providing a non-biased third-party perspective and potential negotiation points with the landlord. In identifying these quantitative measures, and often overlooked qualitative considerations such as the impact on corporate culture and brand
opportunity, interior designers offer a specialized skillset in navigating the complexities and ensuring a balanced perspective for companies facing the dilemma of staying or going.

Key Takeaways and Advice from the Experts:

Katya Shabanova: Time is your ally in this market. If you can avoid rushing decisions, focus on flexibility and what’s best for you.
Steven Demers: Perspective is critical to make the most informed decision. It is important to bring your project team together sooner than later to gain this perspective.
Nathan Naka: Consider the impact a multi-phased renovation-in-place project will have on your corporate culture and productivity.
Suzanne Wilkinson: Every physical space provides a unique opportunity to tell your business’ story. It is critical to have a sound understanding of your vision from the start.

Inspiration / Pride in Design



In 2022, Figure3 initiated a partnership with Friends of Ruby, a Toronto-based organization dedicated to supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ youth. The collaboration gained significant momentum in 2023 when Friends of Ruby was announced as the Charity of Choice for the Toronto’s Pride parade, which features over 250 participating groups and in 2019 attracted over 1.5 million attendees. This honour marked a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on the organization, creating a powerful platform to raise awareness and funds. However, it also posed a challenge that required substantial external support as the organization geared up for the event.

Figure3, leveraging its expertise, stepped in to address the needs for both a parade float and booth. The design and construction of these components demanded a multi-faceted and collaborative approach. Figure3 provided the visual design concepts and design-intent drawings, while Home Depot Canada, Women Who Build Stuff, and Pinewood Studios contributed additional support and materials for the build.

The collaborative vision aimed to craft a booth and float that not only represented Friends of Ruby but also embodied a sense of shelter, security, and tranquility. Being a queer youth organization with a focus on mental health and comprehensive support, the initial theme centered around a Tranquil Garden. Figure3 set out to translate this theme into the design, capturing the essence of the organization’s mission in both form and function.


“We wanted to bring the Friends of Ruby brand visuals to life, and really shine a light on this incredible organization with a float that had a majestic, impactful presence at street level.

/ Mardi Najafi, VP, Retail Strategy and Design

The float, which was built on a 6’x12’ utility trailer, became a mobile ruby-like structure, an important symbol of strength for Friends of Ruby, that housed Pogi the DJ who kept the energy high. In the booth, the atmosphere was undoubtedly more tranquil, with a comfortable inviting lounge area, ample biophilia and warm ambient lighting to replicate a backyard sanctuary. Friends of Ruby staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to provide resources to passersby and invite them to lounge in the booth with friends to connect, craft and recharge. “Pride weekend can be an incredibly busy and potentially overwhelming experience, especially for youth, so the booth was designed to be a reprieve”, states Mardi Najafi, VP, Retail Strategy and Design at Figure3.

Despite the tight timelines, various moving pieces, and multiple contributors having to come together so quickly, the Friends of Ruby float and booth were a huge success from design to reality. “Both the float and booth were well received by all, and it was a true testament to teamwork and collaboration of everyone involved” notes Darryl Balaski, Principal at Figure3. “We look forward to continuing our partnership and support of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community with Friends of Ruby.”

“We are thankful for Figure3’s unique interpretation, so many people commented that we had one of the best booths at the festival and that our float made a positive impression on people watching the parade. Thank you for partnering with us, for your attention to detail, and supporting the 2SLGBTQIA+ youth we serve” stated a representative from Friends of Ruby.

“It was such an honor to be part of this incredible initiative, and to help bring more awareness and celebration to Friends of Ruby, an organization that’s so dear to our hearts.”

/ Darryl Balaski, Principal


Inspiration / Art In The Workplace


Art is powerful. It has the capacity to inform, inspire, influence, motivate, and stimulate. It can evoke a
range of emotional responses, create a feeling of community and connection, and has the potential to
forever alter our lived experiences. When art is the center of attention and attraction, at a gallery or
exhibit, we expect to be impacted, and for the effects to resonate with us long after we have left the
room. However, it is when this impactfulness occurs in unexpected spaces that truly underlines the
significance and importance of art. “Art changes our perception of space. It changes how we understand
and interact within it,” notes Eric Yorath, Principal at Figure3. “Working alongside talented consultants,
Figure3 considers how art can encourage and facilitate different ways of thinking, while shaping the
environment around it.”

As a fundamental pillar of cohesive design, the integration of art in the workplace can be used as a tool
to reflect a company’s ethos, values, and culture; while simultaneously eliciting a multitude of feelings,
including that of focus, enthusiasm, or excitement. Working alongside artists, designers, and clients alike,
Emily McInnes’ goal as an Art Curator is to select pieces that will achieve a cohesive brand story, while
complementing the form and function of the physical space.

Harnessing the power of art is a creative process fuelled equally by design expertise, industry knowledge,
and a little bit of intuitive magic. While workplace designs often favour function over the fanciful, McInnes
sources or commissions artwork that satisfies the requests of both the client, and the office design itself.
By exploring the context of where the artwork will eventually live, McInnis is given clues to piece together
the perfect artist, medium, and final product that will complete and elevate a workspace.

To further cement a company’s core values, the visual representation of brand identity through art can be
applied, while simultaneously igniting spaces with a sense of whimsy. For example, the architecture, design,
and artwork that fill the Figure3 designed 25,000 square feet of space for the Great Gulf & First Gulf
headquarters at the Globe & Mail Centre convey urbanity, creativity, sustainability, and community. “We needed
to tell the story of how they respect nature through sustainability, innovation and construction,” explains
Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal at Figure3. In addition to the artwork created from geological data capturing the
Toronto Harbour by artist Joy Charbonneau, the most notable piece is a sculpture by Robert Cram. Situated
at the end of the boardroom gallery stands a deer cast in brass with mechanical air duct coils wrapped
around its body. This piece purposefully prompts an emotional response, and serves as a conversation
starter reflecting the responsibility of human interaction within nature.

Art is a language and it has
an ability
to connect everyone
on an emotional level”
/ Emily McInnes, Art Curator

“When incorporated harmoniously into a space, art is the soul of the interior design. It is the story
to be told, and the feelings within the shell.” – Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal at Figure3

Besides bolstering brand identity and subconsciously communicating core values, art can be grounded
in historical, architectural, and cultural influences. In consulting with the Menkes team for their newly
renovated and Figure3 designed Toronto Headquarters, the narrative for the artwork was built around
the directive of Toronto itself. “The Menkes family cares about culture and art, and it shows,” shares
McInnes. For what would be a large selection of pieces, the intention was to curate a collection which
would reflect the style of many contemporary, emerging artists, while breathing energy and emotion
into the office. McInnis sourced and commissioned pieces with infusions of colour, so the spaces would
feel uplifted, vibrant, and would feel good overall to connect with and work beside.

Mcinnis considers the artists themselves when pairing pieces with spaces–who they are, where their
inspirations come from, and how that aligns with the work the client is doing. Much like the Menkes
family, emerging artist Jessica Thalmann is deeply inspired by the architecture found in Toronto’s urban
core. As a photographer and sculptor, she carries an innate sensibility for texture, form, and light.
In the site-specific commission for the Menkes art collection, Thalmann captured the white fluid
wave-like balconies designed by Peter Clewes, by imprinting archival pigment prints on folded steel.
Approaching from one angle the piece appears black and white, but as you pass and turn around
you are greeted with a burst of full colour. Similar to how light would be reflected on the actual building
during the changing light through the day, this unique construction encourages interaction, as altering
your physical perspective to the piece in turn alters your visual experience as well. The connections
with building, references to architecture, and the vibrancy all connect back to who Menkes is, and how
they want employees, clients, and guests to feel when navigating their office space.

“Art is 100 per cent reflective of a company’s culture and their attitude towards the people who’ve
chosen to work with them. It’s a really careful process, like hiring. So when you find that person that’s
a good fit, you want to nurture that.” Emily McInnes, Art Curator.

People are passionate and care deeply about the work they do, so when a company chooses to
enhance their space by investing in art, it feels like a show of appreciation, receiving that energy from
staff and distributing it back into the physical space for all to enjoy. For the installation of art in the new
AGF Headquarters, it was important to represent the physical and sentimental transition of moving the
company into a new space; morphing the traditional with the new through innovation. It became clear
to McInnis early on that the best way to represent this passing of the baton would be to commission a
singular artist to create a custom piece, nodding to the past with reverence while looking forward to the
future. The result: an impactful, 30 foot by nine foot landscape-inspired painting by Steve Driscoll, which
sits opposite the impressive view from the office. The physical proximity of this piece makes a call to art
imitating life, generating a feeling of a seamless and all-encompassing art moment. “To be able to
experience, essentially, a mini museum of curated pieces in the workplace can feel very special,”
reflects McInnis. “I’d love to see more companies appreciating how impactful it is to dedicate
thinking towards putting a curated collection into their space.”

Inspiration / Caivan Design Studio


It’s easy to feel swept away by
the captivating space
that is Caivan’s new
presentation centre in Oakville Ontario.”
/ Dominic De Freitas

When looking to reimagine the sales and décor experience, Caivan engaged Figure3 to help streamline
the physical space, and reduce the stresses often associated with purchasing a new home.

As you approach the Caivan Oakville presentation centre, set within a charming condo community in
Oakville, ON., the stunning picture window showcases the inspiration found within. The space, which
houses both Caivan’s sales and décor centres, features smooth linear lines and a calm, gallery
like atmosphere.

Cleverly designed for an easy transition to open event space, the “L” shaped floorplan features zones for
pre-and-post-sale activities, encouraging exploration and discovery and designed to minimize the stress
associated with purchasing a new home. Centered by a welcoming reception area, two distinct zones
extend from the sleek modern white desk; a sales centre to the left, and full size vignettes to the right.
This design evolution provides a seamless and connected experience with natural flow while allowing
for equal attention to be given to each of the spaces.

Visible through the front glass façade and creating intrigue from the street, an opulent kitchen vignette
showcases the incredible level of finishing and detail that buyers can expect from a Caivan home.
Layered in rich woods, with dark veined marble and stunning brushed gold details, the kitchen provides
buyers the opportunity to visualize themselves in the possibilities, and get excited about the journey
to come.

In the sales center, floor-to-ceiling metal frames house oversized graphics to exhibit select Caivan
developments. When the internal panels are removed from the frames, the fixed metal skeletons allow
the space to open-up, leaving unencumbering arc-like structures that add interest without impacting the
flow. This flexibility provides ample space to host buyers, while also facilitating the evolution of marketing
material as new projects become available.

Adjacent the kitchen, a bathroom vignette is set against sliding glass doors that give-way to the design
centre, where buyers will “shop” a retail-like presentation of fixtures and finishes. The visual and tactile
showcase within the space creates a truly inspired journey, where guests are encouraged to discover
and create their dream home.

With nods to residential design, warm materials and finishes are incorporated throughout and
establishes a familiar note with buyers while providing inspiration. “It’s a nice jumping off point and gets
buyers excited because it shows them what their own personal space could look like” states Dominic
De Freitas, Principle, Figure3.

Throughout the design centre, raised and elongated communal worktables are strategically placed to
display the buyer’s individually curated selection of finishes on a velvet a-frame, reminiscent of a vision
board. Hidden drawers contain additional design options that add to the discovery-based journey while
adhering to the streamlined feel of the space and reducing excess visual stimuli. Open jewel-cases
and pull-out panels also help to maintain the clean lines.

“We learned that it often feels overwhelming to make so many design decisions, when it should be fun
and exciting” notes De Freitas. “We drew on these emotional cues when implementing the element of
discovery and removing the excess stimuli in order to reframe the experience into a creative and
exciting one for the buyer.”

Equipped to thrive in today’s hybrid environment, interactive screens at select worktables support the
height and angles required to view materials and digitally interact with buyers in a way that mimics the
experience of an in-person appointment. These same screens allow for easy reference to digital material
as needed to support the design process.

The Caivan Oakville presentation centre is a truly multifunctional space that captures the versatility
and innovation of the communities that they develop. Based on the success of the presentation centre,
Caivan is set to roll out multiple locations in cities across Canada modelled on the Oakville design.
There was pressure to get it right, to ensure it speaks not only to Caivan’s various projects, but the
entire brand. “When you are invited into these clients’ inner circles to help curate and create something
for them, it’s quite an honour. This is exactly the kind of project that we love doing,” says De Freitas.

Inspiration / Bond Brand Loyalty


How does a marketing company that specializes in building loyalty for their customers, incite that same feeling in their corporate headquarters? This was the challenge for Figure3 Workplace Strategy Director Jillian Warren and Jamie Gruenwald, Senior Team Leader, who looked to translate the concept of “loyalty” into a physical space.

Originally based out of Mississauga, Bond Brand Loyalty, a company that focuses on customer centric growth, was looking for a new location that reflects the character and personality of their brand, coupled with the convenience of downtown Toronto. They found it on the 19th and 20th floors of 25 King Street in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, where historic stone gargoyles peer into the office from adjacent buildings and are surrounded by the energy of this urban location.

Designing the Bond Brand office presented various opportunities for innovation, as the space had to address not only the needs of today’s hybrid working environment, but also function as a highly collaborative backdrop to their unique client process. It was through an extensive journey mapping process, an exercise Bond Brand employs with their own clients, that Figure3 was able to determine the functionality of each unique area, and actualize a space that facilitates client connection, prioritizes flexibility, and inspires their own staff to head back into the office after a long period of working from home.

This mapping process also helped to determine the strategic location of meeting rooms, client spaces, and workspaces. There are similar offerings across both floors, which include a combination of flexible rooms and offices that aren’t dedicated to any one employee. Open deck ceilings and recurring slat walls throughout the space reinforce a freedom of mobility and transparency. Lighting is integrated into umbrella-like Arktura sound baffles and the furniture was selected to be as movable as possible to suit whatever function they might require of the space at any given time.

“The office is quite playful” states Warren when describing the design that Figure3 delivered to transform the two floors. “It feels comfortable for everyone and is incredibly flexible and conducive to social connection.”

As you enter the 20th floor, guests are greeted by an open reception desk and a neutral black and white palette with strategically positioned pops of colour providing the perfect inspiration for an engaged client session.

“As you move through the office, it unfolds for you,” says Warren. “Something exciting opens up at the end of the corridor and then you turn a corner and it’s something else entirely.”

The 20th floor social space features a café, with booth seating, mint tiled walls and harvest tables that provide a hospitality feel. The café is equipped with a servery that includes a fridge, sink and dishwasher all tucked behind a slatted wall, as well as audio visual capabilities to provide that multifunctional use.

This suits a post-Covid world completely
and it’s what our clients are asking for now.

The idea of bringing people back together
and collaborate in a much more flexible
environment: this ticks all the boxes.
/ Jillian Warren, Workplace Strategy Director

On the 19th floor, visitors encounter a collaborative space equipped with multimedia, soft seating and refreshments, perfect for entertaining clients.

“It’s a manifestation of the user experience for their clients” notes Warren. “This isn’t a traditional front and back of house design; as trust is built and the client relationship grows, they’ll move from being greeted at reception to walking through the corridors to the main engagement spaces.”

The idea of collaboration, and how loyalty evolves through this process was key to the design. Understanding how client relationships strengthen through Bond Brand’s process, Figure3 delivered a space that could unfold to support that progression.

“It’s building loyalty by relationship building. This office supports that and it’s a comfortable progression. Loyalty is in their name, but the user experience of their clients is foremost. That is what they’re always thinking about, and they couldn’t do this in their Mississauga building,” Warren explains. “To me, this suits a post-Covid world completely. It’s what our clients are asking for now. The idea of bringing people back to be together and collaborate in a much more flexible environment: this ticks all the boxes.”

Inspiration / South Forest Hill Residences


Nestled into one of Toronto’s most exclusive residential enclaves, the South Forest Hill Residences
places at host of upscale amenities at your fingertips; giving residents room to indulge in these luxurious
experiences from the comfort of home.

There is a grand sense of arrival as you pull through the porte-cochère – a term to describe a gateway for
horse-drawn carriages – inspired by some of the world’s most exclusive hotels. Inviting and functional, the
elevated enclosure features evening illumination for a warm welcome home. Beyond the porte-cochère,
a stunning glass façade showcases the seamless connection between the interior and exterior of the
project, expressing this lyrical feature of the design to perfection.

“We wanted to create a sense of casual elegance, upscale but approachable. We worked closely with the architect to create a strong sense
of arrival and seamless integration
with the interior and exterior.”
/ Domenic De Freitas, Principal Figure3.

As you enter the lobby, the gallery-like space unfolds into an exploration of opposites, where smooth and
textured sit alongside dark and light to compliment the air of sophistication. Double height ceilings and
strong structural elements like the bronzed ribbon staircase and warm wood fins that hang majestically
above reception, add volume, depth and dimension to the space, while the subtle layering of
monochromatic tones elevate the pallet and provide the perfect backdrop.

Marble, fumed wood, and gold and bronze accents bring a glamorous visual consistency, while curved
elements found in the fireplace and columns create a sense of softness; a detail that’s carried throughout.

“There’s a modern feel with these bold sculptural elements set against a monochromatic pallet that
allows the bronze details in the fireplace and the staircase to really take center stage” says De Freitas.

Belonging, connection, inspiration – these are the new hallmarks of an elevated lifestyle and every space
at the South Forest Hill Residences has been designed with wellness in mind, each with its own unique
feel. The nearly 20,000 square feet of modern indoor and outdoor amenities on the second floor provide
a true extension of living space beyond the residences, and mirror the luxuries and conveniences found
at the finest hotels, including a high-end spa, spaces to work and entertain as well as the ability connect
with the outdoors.

There’s a modern feel with these bold sculptural
elements set against a monochromatic pallet

that allows the bronze details in the fireplace and
the staircase to really take center stage”
/ Domenic De Freitas

In the Residents’ Lounge the atmosphere is beautifully appointed with a double-sided fireplace encased
in rich finishes, alongside a sleek marble bar and cool metal accents, all opening to a stunning view and
direct access to the outdoor terrace. The private dining room is tucked in behind the lounge while
nearby, there are screening rooms and a games room, outfitted with pocket doors that allow the space
to be opened for larger gatherings. The co-working lounge provides the perfect space for work or
socializing, and features alcoves with plush banquette seating in a deep emerald green along with
channeled walls for a more focused environment.

Across the amenities level, a unique floorplate and varied ceiling heights proved to be a challenge as
additional residential suites we’re added along one side of the main corridor. As a result, certain
amenities had no direct access to natural light – including the spa and treatment rooms.

“Typically, amenities run the perimeter with full access to windows and light, but because a row of suites
were added to the second floor, we had to ensure these centrally located spaces still felt grand. It was
a challenge because it’s out of the norm, but we were able to turn it into something special” explains
De Freitas.

Inspired by the city’s most sophisticated spas, and despite the lack of windows and natural light, the
wellness spa at South Forest Hill incorporates elements of stone, water, and greenery along with soft
lighting to create a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. Treatment rooms, including a sauna, plunge pool,
steam room, rain showers, and thermal water feature, also feel luxuriously exclusive and Zen-like.

Figure3 worked closely with the landscape architects on indoor-outdoor connectivity, including two
striking landscaped Zen gardens, set on the podium roof with lounge seating and meditation zones.
Designed like a series of distinct garden rooms with hedges and metal screens for privacy, the areas are
joined by intuitive gravel paths. At the heart of the garden is a spectacular flowering tree perched above
a soothing water feature. The professionally designed landscaped gardens combine lush greenery with
comfortable lounge seating and tables in secluded niches tucked among plantings dotted by mature
trees – the perfect space for entertaining or relaxing.

Inspiration / Air Canada



Brainstorming is sometimes dubbed a “blue sky session” (imaginative or visionary thinking that isn’t
constrained by conventional notions of practicality) for good reason. There’s no arguing an expansive
horizon and open air is mentally and spiritually freeing.

When Figure3 was tasked with designing Air Canada’s new office space on Queen Street West, the
goal was to mimic swirling cloud patterns and shifting winds in the name of sparking more innovation for
a company with an impressive history of trailblazing. “What this space is about is creating an environment
that promotes more innovative thinking,” says Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal, Figure3.

The company’s perch on the fourth floor, which houses their growing marketing, product, strategic
business and digital teams, is a nod to the airline’s history of aeronautic milestones. Air Canada was the
first to introduce de-icing and breathing bag oxygen systems in the ’30s. In the early ’60s, the airline’s
engineers changed aviation history by partnering with a British electronics company to invent the black
box flight recorder, and it was the first airline to use the jet engine for civil operation. In 1995 Air Canada
debuted electronic ticketing on its domestic routes across the country.

At the office, the lobby’s maple wall bearing the Air Canada logo is front and centre, sandwiched
between fresh, bright white ceilings and white floors where the brand’s trademark red accents pop on
trim and hardware. In a lounge area near the reception, large screens displaying flight information are
sunk into the millwork, much like those in an airport. “There’s a sense of hospitality where you can relax
and wait for your meeting. So it was really designed around that type of experience,” notes Wilkinson.
“Air Canada wanted a hospitality feel, to convey what upscale flight feels like today.”

“What this space is about is creating
an environment that promotes more
innovative thinking
/ Suzanne Wilkinson

The white porcelain tile floor is reminiscent of slick airplane bodies, with some subtle veining for
movement resembling a sleek departure lounge. Overhead, in the corridor leading down to the
lunchroom, an undulating canopy of white planks are subtly twisted and banked to simulate the feeling
of shifting cloud patterns, or emulate the effect of wind. “We pondered how to represent the idea of
light and movement in the space, without it being literal through an exploration of materiality:
trying to create an environment that suggests flight, says Wilkinson. ” Along the corridor, a coffee
bar is integrated into pared-back, mid-century panelling milled from natural Canadian hardwoods.
This is more minimal than traditional paneling typical to most corporate offices, integrating hints
of an older style in a modern way.”

To demarcate the meeting rooms from the open office, smoked glass is set in black frames creating
a transition between the bright white space. Maple panels pivot form a moveable screen, so some
meeting areas can be closed off for complete privacy, or left angled and open. “This versatility mirrors
the changing wind and weather. Humans as well have the ability to effect change, notes Wilkinson.”

A narrow pinch point near the reception corridor was transformed into a design feature to not only
smooth flow, but mimic an iconic airline symbol. Wilkinson explains that two large columns provided
a great opportunity to create a unique feature, fashioning them to resemble turbines modelled
on the new jet engines.

“It was different, something Air Canada has never seen before. These turbines are experiential and
transform negative space into a great place for conversation, for social connection, where employees
spilling out of meeting rooms can continue the dialogue. An awkward space with sharp corners doesn’t
feel so awkward anymore. It draws you in and lets you move around more freely.”

In an example of out-of-the box thinking, a wood-ceilinged cabin was conjured in the innovation centre
that contrasts the slickness of the white office. Every surface is covered in a stone or wood to create a
tactile and visceral sense of warmth, and traditional furniture is upholstered in tartan, a beloved Canuck
cottagecore staple.

“The cabin is an opportunity for employees to escape the corporate world and brainstorm in a relaxed
environment that spawns creativity and feels totally different.” Dropped into the heart of Canada’s
biggest urban centre, this rugged slice of frontier Canadiana is not only a throwback to Air Canada’s
roots, but a ticket to its future growth.

Inspiration / RioCan’s Strada


RioCan’s first rental project in Little Italy, Strada, is a celebration of family and the power
of community. Live January 2022, Toronto, 95,000 sq. feet, 65 Units.

Strada means street in Italian, a fitting moniker for a new project in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood.
The importance of street culture is a cornerstone of Italian life, where groups of old friends gather around
formica tables on trattorias to drink Chinotto and deconstruct the latest soccer match. Young couples
linger over orecchiette and cannoli, while shoppers pick up fresh produce and the latest happenings.

That Old World feel translates into RioCan’s first rental property, Strada at 555 College Street in Toronto,
It will be a new slate of 61 compact living units over eight storeys affording sweeping views of College Street,
a rich tapestry filled with cafés, boutiques, butchers, and fruit stands, and the throwback Royal Cinema.

Figure3 wanted to celebrate the neighbourhood and conducted extensive research on the target
demographic. “Toronto’s Little Italy has a very unique character, and even though Strada is a new build,
we wanted it to fit in seamlessly with the neighbourhood, like it had history,” says Figure3 Principal
Dominic De Freitas. To mimic the century buildings nearby, the exterior is a classic red brick facade.
“We also felt the neighbourhood has a similar cultural feel to New York’s Little Italy,
so we were inspired by some of that native industrial character.”

“Toronto’s Little Italy has a very
unique character, and even though Strada
is a new build, we wanted it to fit in seamlessly
with the neighbourhood
, like it had history.”
/ Dominic De Freitas

“It was important for us that the lobby was a social space,” says De Freitas. “With such a unique
neighbourhood, we needed to establish an approach that would resonate with the local demographic.
After the research process with the RioCan team, individuality and character stood out as
main attributes we wanted to express.”

The main lobby incorporates a bustling coffee bar and lounge. Concrete-style floors, antique mirrors,
warm, rustic wood, iron chandeliers, and exposed brick walls establish a chic Soho vibe. Antique and
modern lighting, plus Victorian-style diamond tufted furniture amplifies the innate vintage character.

“Functional space planning was important, but we also wanted Strada to feel grand. Carving out
additional space which was originally designated for retail created more of a social atmosphere in
the building’s lobby, which results in a better design solution.” Industrial elements like exposed metal
ceiling are tempered by layering in antique mirrors, weathered marble, carved wood panelling and
crystal chandeliers. To mimic a varied, patchwood streetscape, the suite doors are different colours.

Strada’s suite design is also geared towards cooking and gathering. Materials that mimic those found
in traditional Italian eateries create a stage for socializing and cuisine to play out. Designer features and
finishes include full-size slide-in stainless steel appliances and modern touchscreen technology to add
urban edge. Paneled kitchen cabinets with cup handles and marble herringbone backsplashes are
Old World touches. Rustic-style floors have a reclaimed look, while floating shelves and utility rails
are common to old fashioned Italian kitchens, making it easy to grab a pot or spices when
cooking a big meal for a crowd.

In addition to a small speakeasy-style lounge on the second floor, a rooftop party space is equipped
with a TV, a marble fireplace wall, a party room with a kitchen and big communal tables, plus tufted
seating. A large outdoor landscaped terrace of hexagonal tiles is ideal for big gatherings. At the
rooftop’s elevator, fabric-inspired embossed porcelain tile with deconstructed images of peacocks
and the Italian countryside are an updated take on the grandeur of European palazzos.

“It’s gratifying that a large company such as RioCan cares so much about the people they are
building for, says De Freitas. They really are interested in the customer experience and the longevity
and timelessness of their work, as is Figure3. It’s a great relationship and we’re excited about our
future projects together.”

Inspiration / Empire Livingston


In the ancient world, the formulation and dispensing of remedies was considered an art. Apothecaries also
recall a simpler time, a bygone era when compounds and tinctures were mixed by hand from local herbs
and stored in rows of bottles. That feeling is what Figure3 conjured for visitors to Empire Livingston’s
presentation centre in Hagersville. Creating a meaningful, location-specific experience in a presentation
centre requires that kind of alchemy, one that not only appeals to potential buyers, but embraces the
long-time residents of the area.

Old apothecaries were often small town hubs, a nexus for community connections and care. That era was
something Figure3 Principal Dominic De Freitas wanted to explore when designing the Hagersville
presentation centre. “You wouldn’t want to buy a home in the rural suburbs unless you were eager to tap
into some old-town charm. That was a jumping off point for this presentation centre: we wanted it to feel
homey and very welcoming,” he explains.

Empire frequently builds in rural communities on farmland and locals (often with generational roots)
sometimes resist development. The large developer was acutely aware of how they could be perceived
by this small town and wanted to be sensitive to the neighbourhood. “We thrive on creating beautiful
design solutions to address client challenges,” says De Freitas. “We wanted to be sensitive to those issues,
therefore instead of a slick presentation centre, we took a different approach. We knew we needed to be
very thoughtful in the design, it took some time to come up with a solution that felt right and could help
tell the story.”

“Old apothecaries were often
small town hubs, a nexus for community
and care.”
/ Dominic De Freitas

De Freitas ran with the idea of a small town apothecary, filled with plants traditionally used for healing
that would in turn ameliorate the lives of the residents. “What you want is to throwback to a past when
things seemed friendlier with an emphasis on a close-knit hometown. The space has the feel of holistic,
small-town retailer,” he says. “Empire appreciated the concept was perfectly appropriate for this area
and they liked we’re helping to address some of their thornier issues.”

The presentation centre’s entrance is tiled with old school basketweave mosaic tile, discretely depicting
the Empire logo. A feature wall is created using rows of potted plants which contain herbs and spices
used for elixirs. A branded messaging wall is a common element in all Empire’s presentation centres,
but this one is populated by sepia-toned images. “It’s a little bit of Empire’s history told in a graphic way.
Generally it’s quite modern and we have used that in other presentation centres, but here we had
to make it feel a bit more vintage via the lettering and sepia photographs.”

The logo is also incorporated in a wall of subway tile with black grout, a standard turn-of-the century
treatment. “This presentation centre is unique in that it’s a little unassuming, subtly conveying the idea
that healthy, good things can come from this space, that it’s linked to the community and appealing to
the new demographic of homebuyers coming in.”

Rustic plank flooring in a dark, mellow tone is laid throughout the centre, and repeated in the millwork
of the display units. The reception desk and the island both hearken back to the heavy counters that were
necessary to mix and dispense medicine. Rows of faux drawers with old-fashioned finger-pull hooks
and labels that denote the ingredients is a classic apothecary hallmark. A tufted leather chesterfield,
Windsor bench seating, and thick glass pendants emphasize the modern farmhouse character.

The centre of the space is inset with mosaic tiles to form an ersatz carpet under a large communal farm
table. One of the most evocative elements is the collected displays of local artifacts — such as bottles,
scales, a brass mortar and pestle, carafes and clocks — sourced though nearby antique and vintage
stores which add local authenticity.

The community has several phases, and during the initial launch the presentation centre was used for
appointments with purchasers to host large events. “We needed a kitchen where we could host events
that the caterers can use, so we designed the area to feel like something you would see in an old store.”

The generous farmhouse sink has a large apron, and wide counters can accommodate a spread of food
and beverages. Above the sink, an antiqued mirror mimics the foxing that occurs with age, while rows
of brown bottles (once used to safeguard ingredients from breaking down in sunlight) are accented by
inset lighting.

Figure3 didn’t want to be too literal and was wary of making this presentation centre environment feel
old: after all the developer is selling a brand new product. “There are enough modern elements in here
that it doesn’t feel like an old space,” De Freitas says. “This is something the client has never seen done
in a sales environment, so it was quite exciting for us to tackle. Sourcing those accessories was fun,
that’s what we are trying to achieve by adding in these layers of character.”

Inspiration / Menkes Adagio


Long before Joni Mitchell and Neil Young strummed their guitars on the smoky coffeehouse stages
of the Penny Farthing and The Riverboat, Yorkville was home to another kind of artistry. In the 1930s
Russian emigré and ballet master Boris Volkoff (often considered the father of Canadian ballet) was
adjusting arabesques and choreographing original pieces at his studio at 771 Yonge Street. From 1931
to 1945, the studio was housed in a modest Georgian building with a gabled roof on Asquith Avenue set
at the edge of Yorkville, where it still stands today.

All those historical strands weave together to create a new tapestry that combines theatricality, grace and
movement in the Adagio, a new residence slated to launch soon. In ballet, Adagio refers
to slow, fluid movement and the design of this project is similarly balletic in spirit, full of curvaceous lines
that mimic the overhead sweep of a dancer’s lithe arm.

Dominic De Freitas, Principal at Figure3 passed by the building frequently and knew it was a heritage
building. “I noticed the plaque outside describing it as one of the first ballet studios in Canada. Volkoff felt
inspired to break the mold and get more avante garde with the performances, pushing the boundaries by
starting his own school. The location has a very vibrant past.”

De Freitas explains that it’s not uncommon that developments are attached to historic buildings, but often
they are not celebrated. “It becomes an afterthought, it’s never a part of the marketing story. It would be a
shame if we didn’t leverage that this famous Russian ballet dancer started his own school here. That was
the jumping off point for me and Tamara Rooks.”

“His style of ballet was edgy
and raw
. We loved that idea and
used it for some elements.”
/ Tamara Rooks

A zipper-like treatment of the windows creates an exterior with rhythm and repetition, which De Freitas
likens to the edge of a tutu. Inside, curves are a recurring leitmotif, embedded in brass inlays on the
lobby’s quartz floor, soaring above doorways, and looping over the backs of petal-shaped chairs. To honour
Volkoff’s vision, a vignette depicting a scene from his ballets appears above a bench in the lobby.

“His style of ballet was edgy and raw. We loved that idea and used it for some elements,” notes Tamara
Rooks, Creative Lead, Figure3. “Going to the ballet was quite the event in Volkoff’s day, a luxurious,
sophisticated experience,” she explains. “It was glamorous and theatrical.”

“They really embraced the ballet studio
/ Dominic De Freitas

The performance starts in the lobby with a series of arches that lead to an oversize circular mirror, framed by
drapes. “This is a narrow building and the archways help the sections feel more intimate, and make the space
feel expansive at the same time,” says Rooks. “The goal was to make this thoroughfare intriguing. We wanted
tenants to experience the succession of archways leading to a large, round mirror to reflect Yonge Street, the
city’s longest artery. It turns tenants into participants of the theatre of the city, putting them centre stage.” To
give the narrow lobby more presence, a slim reeded glass fireplace in a brass recessed cove is a warm focal
point. Overhead, ethereal custom lights based on dancers’ tutus are suspended in between the archways and
seem to float down from the ceiling like bits of tulle.

The large round mirror makes appearances on every floor of the Adagio as a spot for last minute checks
before entering the elevators. Generous use of drapery helps soften the linear space and nods to the concept
of the lobby as a stage. “We wanted to play with drapery and whimsical furniture to convey the essence of
a theatrical ballet performance,” says Rooks. The plushness of furniture upholstered in jewel-tone velvet is
reminiscent of auditorium seats.

The amenity floor includes an in-house ballet barre studio, complete with brass barres and plenty of mirrors
and luxuriant drapes, where tenants can host private classes and monitor their position. “They really
embraced the ballet studio concept,” says De Freitas of the client. The 600-square-foot gym is lavished
with rich walnut veneer and brass elements, and bronze glass clad the columns giving the studio and gym a
classical appeal.

In the bar area, the centrepiece is a backsplash crafted from flower petals (a nod to bouquets that were
typically tossed to prima ballerinas by adoring audiences after a performance) encased in pink epoxy by
Toronto artist Stephanie Singh. Over the reeded wood bar, a Vibia Palma light fixture with an inset plant
conveys a high-end lounge vibe.

A double-sided fireplace separates the dining area and co-working space, dressed in silk linen wallpaper, creating
a luxurious spot to flip open a laptop or meet friends on the patio outside. Generous sized windows flood
the lounge with natural light.

And finally, proving every dog has his day, the pet spa is dressed in luxe greyhound motif toile wallpaper and
pastel tile for a show stopping (and playful) moment. Because not every prima donna wears a tutu.