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 / 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.

Inspiration / Thompson Dorfman Sweatman


How does design shape behaviour at work? Especially in the formal confines of a law firm,
home to large libraries swathed in dark woods — and conservative values. The communal
quarters (replete with saggy sofas and vending machines) are small, dark spaces.

The answer for Winnipeg’s Thompson Dorfman Sweatman (TDS) was to literally blow the roof
off when they moved to True North Square. “It’s the first new office building in 20 years in the
city,” says Figure3 founder Allan Guinan. Now occupying the top three floors of the new 17-
storey building, Figure3 suggested the landlord constructed a huge skylight over the central
staircase, creating a column of light to illuminate the centre of the offices for everyone traversing
the three floors. “Most ceilings in law offices are flat, at TDS you don’t feel like you’re in an
office tower which features open ceiling exposed to the structure,” Guinan says.

This project represented a full-circle moment for Guinan. Growing up in Manitoba, he knew one
of the selling features in the prairie city was the horizon, with an abundance of seemingly
limitless blue skies. One side of the building is curved, exposing a 60’ wide vista of Winnipeg’s
skyline. The access to natural light and views for everyone was a conduit to convey a new
corporate culture of openness, interconnectedness and yes, transparency..

Native materials like white oak wall slats and large-scale ceramic flooring references the city’s
history of modernist architecture and affinity for Scandinavian design. The wall behind the
reception desk is made of Tyndall limestone, a swirling sandwich of burrowing marine fossils
unique to Manitoba, acting as a cross section of the region’s architectural history. “Everyone
responds to natural materials that are simple and honest. They didn’t want it to feel overly
opulent, the luxury comes from the abundant space, light and materials.”

“We wanted to be nimble and future
and I really feel like they designed
for that and it worked.”
/ Alan Fineblit

Guinan wanted to play up that transparency with glass partitions but there was some initial
pushback. “The staff asked for frosted glass since they were concerned about being on display.
The offices are a compact 150-square-feet and could feel very enclosed so I suggested a 90-day
trial. Afterwards they said: we love it, leave them open. All transparent glass offices is almost
unheard of in a law firm.”

The previous office was very dark, and everyone worked behind closed doors. TDS requested a
dynamic space that moved them forward with integrated technology. In a nod to modernization,
each office is equipped with standing desks. Features like pivot doors further contribute to the
sense of openness. TDS was looking to break with tradition and make a transition, integrating
technology into a light, bright space that encourages collaboration and movement.

The firm’s previous library (complete with Corinthian columns and spiral staircase) occupied
two floors and Guinan shrunk it down to one wall, while the communal space was increased ten
fold. The Manitoba Room, a large lounge/lunch room area on 17th floor, has spots to plug in as
well as WiFi, mirroring the trend for more portable technology. “Lawyers work long hours often
in isolation, so amenities like a coffee bar off the informal reception area encourage people to
step away from their desks and go somewhere.”

Suzanne Wilkinson, principal at Figure3 adds: “TDS didn’t say they wanted a social space, it was a
pleasant byproduct that inspired them to do more. Law firms need to attract talent fresh out of school
or other cities, this new space does that, it’s another welcome outcome.”

“TDS didn’t say they wanted a social space,
it was a pleasant byproduct that
inspired them to do more.”
/ Suzanne Wilkinson

Alan Fineblit, former COO of TDS observes “Lawyers don’t do change well. We are taught to be
risk averse and to follow precedent,” he observes. “Yet as soon as we moved into our space the
culture changed, we became more collaborative, more collegial and we embraced all the opportunities
our new design and new technology presented. It’s transformed our culture, design is the means.”

And there was a strong desire to not only connect employees but the community. To further bolster
the city’s arts scene, works by local and indigeneous artists, such as the portrait of Louis Riel by Franco-Métis
artist Candace Lipischak, are prominently displayed throughout the offices.

Subsequently the TDS office has become a site for arts fundraisers, with hundreds of people gathering in
the public reception spaces. “We are looking forward to when we’re able to resume our events in the Northern
Lights Lounge, hold meetings in our spacious meeting rooms, and enjoy spending time with peers in the
gathering areas throughout the office,” says Keith LaBossiere, CEO and Managing Partner of TDS. The inherent
beauty of the office easily segues into a glamorous setting after hours when the sky is navy velvet, the city
lights are twinkling below and the stars can be seen above.

Inspiration / Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation


In 2018, the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation developed Project Sunrise, an inspiring new vision for
their organization moving forward. Project Sunrise re-envisioned the office space to create an environment
that embodied their passionate mission, motivated their team of cancer fighters, and promoted sustainability,
health and wellness. A new home for the Foundation would be required to deliver their new strategic
plan. These new offices would be designed in a completely new way, enabling the team to collaborate and
innovate to accelerate fundraising, strengthen their commitment to their mission, and serve as a platform to
recruit and retain the best talent in fundraising.

“They were looking for a new beginning that would align with their people, the culture that they created
and future business goals,” says Mireille Metwalli, Senior Team Leader for the project. “They saw this as an
opportunity to reemerge with a much larger presence.”

The design team agreed that the office would be designed as a space to celebrate and bolster the Foundation’s
goals and achievements, while conveying a sense of hope and welcoming through the uplifting range
of spaces, colour and branding.


It was important for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation to create their own identity within the larger
brand of UHN (University Health Network), giving a spotlight to the human aspects in all the great work
they do.

“The most inspirational thing for us was the people working in this office,” says Norwood. “They’re doing all
these exciting, positive things and so we wanted to bring that positivity and light into this space.”

“They were looking for a new beginning
that would align with their people, the culture
that they created and future business goals.”

Visual features included interactive donor and history walls in the reception, which incorporate physical and
digital elements to inspire and engage donors with the track record of research breakthroughs that have
happened at the Foundation while also highlighting the most critical funding priorities in need of support
from donors. An additional visual feature included shadow boxes inspired by museum displays created and
placed along a wood-slatted corridor where items of significance are on display, such as the iconic yellow
Ride For Cancer bike.


The colour palette was carefully curated to take staff, partners and guests on a visual journey that explores
wellness, creativity and movement. Referencing Project Sunrise, the colour journey begins with yellow and
orange hues, evoking energy and hope, as well as symbolically marking the beginning of a new day. The
space then transitions to graduated blues and greens conveying calm and confidence. The end of the journey
is punctuated with the vibrant purples and reds of a sunset. The range of colours is beautifully accented
by natural light, with careful placement of built-out spaces, glass offices and meeting rooms throughout the

“We took the hues, tones, and feeling of how the sun would make its journey, starting from sunrise and going
to sunset,” explains Daniel Norwood, Senior Team Leader for the project.

Another important aspect of the visual journey was the materials. The design team wanted the spaces where
people would gather to be a celebration of nature and life. The use of sustainable wood and biophilic design
elements, a type of greenery, combined with polished concrete, which was maintained from the original
finish, reflects the energy and pace of the organization.

“We took the hues, tones and feeling of how
the sun would make its journey, starting from
sunrise and going to sunset.”


The team chose an activity-based office to promote movement and support the workforce for their variety
of tasks suited for individual needs. The office is split into differing sections, or “neighbourhoods”, made up of
flexible workstations with height adjustable surfaces and provide a nice alternative to private rooms and offices.
Defined pathways act as “sidewalks”, which connect the neighborhoods together, all while supporting a natural
flow to the way people move throughout the space.

With the inclusion of a custom moss green wall in the reception area plus other biophilic elements, the team
was able to create a sense of calm and belonging within the space.

“Having live plants in a space does so much for people emotionally,” says Norwood.

Each part of the office was designed with a sense of purpose, multi-use and connection. The main café was
designed to be the central hub for staff to gather and interact throughout the day. The cafes, quiet zones, and
meeting rooms were designed to open up into larger spaces so the foundation can host town halls and staff
celebrations. It was important for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation to ensure that the overall feeling
was positive and inviting for everyone, whether it be a cancer patient, a donor or an employee coming into the

“The design for this project was really about giving their people pride in where they work,” says Metwalli.
Overall, the new workspace aligns with the Foundation’s mission to fight cancer while promoting collaboration,
innovation, and communication – all needed to deliver on their bold new strategic plan.

With enhanced navigation, an appropriate mix of spaces to support different methods of work, and tons of
natural light, the office staff are fully equipped to work and feel their best.