Inside the modern workspace of KPMB Architects

In our Workspace series, CB offers interesting, cleverly designed and unique spaces across Canada. From innovative home offices to out-of-the-box co-working spaces to unconventional setups, like this beauty company that no longer has a rural farm and this carbon-bike company located in a former car body – we want to show the most unique and beautiful spaces from all sectors. This month we profile the office of KPMB Architects in Toronto.

KPMB Architects has operated out of the same 19th-century industrial brick warehouse in Toronto’s entertainment district since 1987, spanning approximately 1,579 square feet over two floors. The company has worked on high-profile projects across the continent, including the renovation and expansion of Toronto’s Massey Hall and Boston University’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences. But in 2018, the company was notified that their office building was being redeveloped; they had just under a year to find a new place, renovate and move in. Two KPMB Architects partners, Paulo Rocha and Kevin Bridgman, were commissioned to source and co-design a space where their staff of 110, including marketing and business development teams, would be able to work, collaborate and brainstorm together.

After Rocha and Bridgman secured a lease for the entire 2,322 square foot 12th floor of Toronto’s Globe and Mail Centre, Rocha and Bridgman mapped out a design that echoed the company’s own ethos for office interiors. Instead of executive offices occupying the most important space along external glass walls, KPMB opts for a more equitable layout with all employees standing next to each other in rows of open desks. “There’s nothing more hierarchical than private offices with lots of windows,” Bridgman explains. “Everyone else gets very little light if executives decide to leave their blinds closed.”

White oak hardwood was used for the floors and walls of the office’s central conference and meeting rooms, echoing the heritage feel of their previous office. “The warmth of the wood beams and ceilings of our original workplace inspired us to introduce a similar warmth to our new space,” says Rocha.

The company also benefited from numerous upgrades from their previous office. They went from three meeting rooms to 12, including a boardroom with retractable glass walls that can accommodate large team-wide meetings and events, such as town halls. The old office did not have enough space for a lunchroom, but the new space has become a natural meeting place for employees to meet over coffee and meals. KPMB’s lunch lounge features black leather and blue armchairs from HAY’s About A Lounge chair series, a 4-meter high island clad in SapienStone porcelain, and Andreu World oak communal tables.

The company has now grown to 155 people with a hybrid work model where staff work in person three days a week. Here’s a look inside.

When staff and visitors step off the elevator, they are greeted by a reception area with unobstructed views of the city on either side of the building. Paths starting at the reception also serve as central “avenues” to walk from one end of the office to the other.
A photo of rows of desks next to windows in KPMB's office
Rather than pushing executive offices against the glass walls, Rocha and Bridgman keep this space open to foot traffic, allowing staff to move around easily. “By maintaining an open perimeter around the office, we were able to ensure that the expansive views of the surrounding city and Lake Ontario are truly accessible to everyone,” says Bridgman.
A photo of the wooden lunch room in the KPMB office
There was no room for a lunchroom in the old KPMB office. But here employees can have lunchtime conversations to share the project they are working on. It is also a place to screen major events such as the FIFA World Cup. Shelves display architecture magazines and books for staff to peruse during their lunch break.
A photo of a dark private meeting room with a wooden table inside
Most of the office’s 12 meeting rooms are equipped with video call screens for collaboration with remote teammates and clients across Canada and the United States.
A photo of three workers hunched over a desk together
Wooden tables throughout the office serve as gathering points for team members to meet and collaborate. The tables are also a great place for employees to spread out their materials, especially if they need a change of scenery. “I’m constantly here sketching and coming to the light,” says Rocha. “It is important that designers and architects remain connected to their local context. Our vantage point of the city provides exceptional views of many of KPMB’s past and current projects.”
A photo of a man working on his computer in an office
With more square footage to work with, Bridgman and Rocha designed these central tables between 37 rows of desks. “We group teams back-to-back, not face-to-face, so they can turn around and talk to each other and share maps and sketches,” says Bridgman.
A photo of people working at a communal table in the middle of an office
The model store in KPMB’s old office was always a “makeshift space,” Rocha said. But the new office has a special place for building small 3D model representations of architectural projects using wood, foam and plastic. The company’s ‘materials library’, with numerous examples of stone, wood, glass and paint, is located nearby.
A photo of a glass boardroom with white chairs
This boardroom seats 24 people, but the glass walls are movable, creating space for the entire team for company meetings and town halls.

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