Dubbeldam Architecture + Design was commissioned to design the headquarters for Azure Publishing, a leading global architecture and design media brand based in Toronto. The new offices are housed in a former transformer factory located in the Junction Triangle, an historic industrial area in the city’s west end that is undergoing a major transformation as a mixed-use neighbourhood. Dating back to the early 20th century, the converted factory boasts large floor plates, high ceilings and generously scaled windows – features that are ideal for the multitude of creative enterprises that it now houses. Across the road, the Museum of Contemporary Art has relocated into the century-old Tower Automotive building, becoming a significant anchor in the community. Its presence has further attracted other destinations, including the Drake Commissary and Henderson Brewery.
Within this emerging creative precinct, Azure has situated itself in 5,600 square feet of space spread over two levels. The entry is demarcated by its distinctive logo, rendered in a bold orange super-graphic, visible through the reception glass on axis at the end of a long corridor leading to the office. In keeping with the Canadian designers who are routinely featured in the magazine, the whimsical pendant overhead is by Molo, a Vancouver-based studio that makes furniture and lighting fixtures out of expandable paper geometries. An assemblage of five pendants are clustered like cumulus clouds and float above the reception desk whose sinuously organic wood top is crafted by the Brothers Dressler, bespoke furniture makers who are also neighbours on Sterling Road.
The reception area is flanked by a large, open-concept space that accommodates 26 workstations, a pair of private offices and a meeting room, which serve as the working environment for teams of editors, publishers, writers and advertising sales. Equipped with ergonomic desks and task chairs by Teknion, this quiet zone is conducive to professional focus, while also accommodating client meetings and collaborative sessions. To optimize structure and order, reference material and personal belongings can be stowed in integrated bookshelves and storage cubbies. The space is bathed in natural daylight from both south- and east-facing windows, increasing productivity and a sense of wellbeing for staff.
On the opposite side of reception, a double-height space captivates with its volumetric expansion, with 16-foot-tall original factory windows framed in black metal providing even north light. Flexible in nature, the space is ideal for social events and recreational activities. The adjoining lunchroom and staff kitchen – fitted with Scavolini cabinets – can be closed off by a sliding translucent acrylic screen, a device used throughout the office to maintain a modicum of privacy without sacrificing light transmission.
The office’s material palette is a strategic interplay of new and old: white and pops of colour are introduced through graphics, seating and signage, in contrast to the neutral palette of the historic textured red brick walls, aged wood plank ceilings, newly installed honey-blonde maple floors, and darkened rough steel columns and beams. According to principal Heather Dubbeldam, “The design of Azure’s new office preserves and accentuates the factory’s original character, instilling an authenticity to the space by revealing its past.”