Bruce Mau Design

Bruce Mau Design, a world leader in strategic design, has built an enviable client list that includes academic and cultural institutions alongside lifestyle, retail and technology companies. Its recent move from Toronto’s King Street West to King Street East serves to consolidate a number of BMD’s parent company’s properties under one roof.

A shared ethos between architect and client has resulted in an efficient and cleanly articulated workspace that embodies the culture of the company, promoting innovation, collaboration and interdisciplinarity. Housed on the fourth floor of a five-storey commercial building in the city’s historic Corktown neighbourhood, the office’s past life as a manufacturing facility is apparent in the rough-hewn qualities of heavy timber beams, patinated steel columns, exposed brick walls and concrete floors. Minimal intervention and a lack of artifice reflects the research- and client-driven approach of the agency; the result is a space that is modest in both character and intention. Its found condition is largely kept intact, acknowledging and encouraging an appreciation of the building’s history and inherent material character. According to BMD Managing Director Tom Keogh, “There is a high degree of restraint; the space is really meant to be animated by the character and energy of the people who work for us, and the in-progress work for our clients that is all around the studio.”

At the western end of the office, workstations are arranged in an open-concept format in clusters of desks that encourage flexibility and movement of staff into project-based teams. Two glass-enclosed offices respectively occupy the corners, accommodating privacy without sacrificing openness and transparency. A lack of spatial division encourages abundant ventilation and natural daylight to flood in from south, west and north exposures, decreasing the need for artificial lighting. The beauty of natural raw materials predominates, and lofty ceilings convey an expansive quality.

Progression towards the eastern end of the office reveals a client-centred zone focused on the importance of the collaborative relationship; three variably sized meeting rooms surround a generous kitchen/lounge – also referred to as the piazza. This open, public space in which to enjoy food, drink and conversation promotes conviviality amongst staff, clients and visitors, but is also suitable for casual presentations and town-hall gatherings.

The meeting rooms – used for both client presentations and in-house sessions – are glazed, transparent enclosures, which facilitates a higher degree of light transmission throughout the space. However, privacy is not sacrificed, as patterns sandblasted directly onto the glass function as a screening device. These patterns are not merely decorative; the subtle incorporation of the ornate and intricate graphics reference specific work completed for past clients deriving from BMD’s vast project portfolio.

Williamson Williamson have prioritized the comfort, well-being and needs of BMD staff through a variety of spatial conditions that support them and the diverse manner in which they work, both independently and as teams.

Photography by Scott Nosworthy