Torys is a highly respected international business law firm with 300 legal professionals in its Toronto and New York offices. In Toronto, the firm has occupied nine and a half floors in the south tower of the Toronto Dominion Centre, some of them since the 1980’s.
In conjunction with negotiating an extension of its lease in 2005 and 2006, Torys decided to rejuvenate its interiors, which were no longer aligned with the leadership and innovative spirit that is the hallmark of its practice.
Designed by KPMB Architects , the proposed renovations were conceived to bring the existing premises up to current standards of practice from both a functional and aesthetic perspective. The principal objective was to consolidate meeting spaces.
An underlying goal was to foreground Torys contemporary Canadian art collection, which is distinguished by photo-based and conceptual works by internationally-lauded artists such as Edward Burtynsky, Rodney Graham, and Yves Gaucher, among others.
The initial phases of work involved the development of a set of planning values to guide the evolution of the renovation. These were:
• Penetration of Light and Transparency
• Orientation and Views
• A Complementary Palette to the Mies Van Der Rohe-inspired Base Building
• Supportive Work Environment
• Art and the Power of Placement
• Spaces of Interaction – Stairs/Corridors/Lawyers’ Room
The centerpiece of the project is the 33rd floor and 32nd floor conference centre. A generous, continuous loop of circulation is organized around the building core and is designed to function as a seamless gallery space. Views terminate at all four corners. Connectivity between floors is enhanced with the redesign of the interconnecting stair – a new wood and glass staircase facilitates movement and greater visibility between the two floors.
A series of north and south-facing boardrooms provide flexible convertible space which can be divided into smaller meeting spaces or completely opened up with a system of Skyfold walls.
The Skyfold wall system manifests Torys’ commitment to innovation and to contemporary Canadian art. The patented system was customized with integrated art works by Montréal artist Pascal Grandmaison and Toronto-based artist Robert Fones. Both artists were selected through an invited design competition organized by the law firm, the architects and art consultant Fela Grunwald.
The south-facing boardrooms feature Robert Fone’s Somewhere… which weaves six short fragments from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, in text designed by Fones, with photographs of waves of the Toronto Harbour into the individual panels. The artist describes the Skyfold panels “as pages from a giant book, with its spine in Lake Ontario and its pages open to the city”.
North-facing boardrooms feature Pascal Grandmaison’s With The Light (On My View) / False Reflection Become On Me. Grandmaison’s concept plays on the notion that the principal function of meeting rooms is to make decisions. The walls feature both direct and reflected views of a colossal head in profile, pensive in expression and ambiguous in gender. Grandmaison explains that the sequence of images articulate “through metaphor the path (from broad to specific) of the decision-making process; how our inner powers of concentration can become an idea that can be communicated to others.” At the same time the portrait’s gaze draws our view onto the Cartesian grid of Mies’ original north towers.
A priority in the redesign was to highlight the character of the original TD Centre Mies van der Rohe office towers. The strong dark mullions of the original tower are both contrasted against lighter travertine panels, gallery-white walls and glass and counterbalanced with a complementary palette of fumed oak, walnut, marble and bronze.
In the practice areas, ends of corridors were also opened to the city to mimic the terminating views on the 33rd floor. The material palette reflects the one used above in the conference centre: stone is employed in lobbies and food serveries, dark grey carpet counterbalances the mullions which are again contrasted with gallery-white walls and back-painted glass secretarial workstations. Internal staircases were redesigned in glass to promote visibility between different practice floors.
Ultimately, the design underscores the creativity of critical thinking that is at the essence of the practice of law.
Project facts and credits:
Site: 79 Wellington Street West, Suite 3000, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Client: Torys LLP
Project Team: Marianne McKenna (design partner), Steven Casey (design/project architect), George Bizios, Rita Kiriakis, Gary Yen, Thom Seto, Lilly Liaukus, Jill Greaves, Jose Emilia
Consultants: Halcrow Yolles (structural), Curran McCabe Ravindran Ross (cost), Andronowski & Associates (mechanical), Carinci Burt Rogers Engineering, Inc. (electrical), Aercoustics Engineering Ltd. (acoustical), Spectech (communications/IT), Intercon (security), Westbury (audio-visual), Trillium Architectural Products (hardware), Suzanne Powadiuk Design (lighting), Fela Grunwald, Fine Arts (art), Leber Rubes (fire & life safety/accessibility), Brian Ballantyne Specifications (specifications)
Tom Arban, Maris Mezulis
Text by v2com