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The Domino Sugar Refinery in New York exemplifies the office design trend of radical reuse
When the building is a relic, a ruin, a shell of its former self, an adaptation that links past and future can be just as audacious as it is sustainable and functional.

Case Study 1: Domino Sugar Refinery, New York

The Domino Sugar Refinery in New York exemplifies the office design trend of radical reuse

The Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn was once the largest such operation in the world. Today, it accommodates 15 storeys of office, retail and event spaces — all inside a glass volume inserted within the original facade. This new structure culminates in a stunning barrel vault roof that recalls the American round-arch style of the building’s windows. In adapting the iconic city landmark, Practice for Architecture and Urbanism has impressively bridged the old and the new while letting both shine. To wit: The firm left a deliberate 3-to-3.65-metre gap between the old brick facade from 1884 and the new glass interior, highlighting the ecosystem of native plants between them created by Field Operations.

Case Study 2: La Laguna, Mexico City

La Laguna, Mexico City

In the Doctores neighbourhood of Mexico City, local architectural studio Productora has converted a 1920s textile and yarn factory into an office complex that houses 25 artist’s studios and other creative businesses — including the building’s original function (textile-making) and Productora’s own offices. After a process that took over 10 years to complete, La Laguna’s courtyards are now revitalized. Walled-in by the original concrete and square ironwork grid facades, they now facilitate easy access and free-flowing circulation between complex buildings — in the same shade of green as the factory’s old looms.

Case Study 3: Office of Vértice Estudio Arquitectura, Toledo, Spain

Office of Vértice Estudio Arquitectura, Toledo, Spain

Part of a larger project to revitalize Toledo’s historic city centre, the office retrofit of architecture firm Vértice Estudio Arquitectura excavates, then combines, several eras stretching back centuries. Its Islamic foundation, built in the 9th century, supports city walls dating to the 17th century; its four elegant cast iron columns, from 1906, contrast with the dramatic beam and barrel ceiling that recalls the building’s stint as a paint and sheet metal workshop in the 1970s. Today, the warm, open 134-square-metre workspace is full of light — thanks to the unearthed original entrance.

The classic style endures — and is updated — in these warm, woodsy and human-scaled offices.

Case Study 1: DLA Piper, Helsinki

DLA Piper in Helsinki exemplifies the mid-century office design trend

Finnish modernism in all its restraint characterizes the Helsinki office of global law firm DLA Piper. In fact, the workspace is situated in a famed 1962 building by Alvar Aalto. In designing the interior, Fyra hewed close to the original style (with consultation from both the Alvar Aalto Foundation and the Finnish Heritage Agency). Its custom millwork sets the scene for both original pieces (like Aalto’s ceiling lights and fellow Finn Yrjö Kukkapuro’s 418 chair, foreground) as well as contemporary designs that fit the aesthetic, including Fyra’s Boa chair (in the background) and &Tradition’s gold-finish table lamps.

Case Study 2: NeueHouse Venice Beach, California

NeueHouse Venice Beach, California

The West Coast had its own breezy brand of mid-century style. And NeueHouse Venice Beach, a branch of the co-working company envisioned by Toronto’s DesignAgency, hits that note — with warm woods, sandy tones and mossy highlights — then tunes it to the modern moment. The project, situated in a 1920s structure, is built to last: It’s now fortified to withstand seismic forces.

Case Study 3: M&C Saatchi Group, Sydney

M&C Saatchi Group, Sydney

In Sydney, Australia, the Transport House, built in 1938, has been revived (with dark wood finishes and metal accents) as the home of M&C Saatchi Group. While key moves included repositioning the building core, adding two new internal staircases linking the tenant’s teams across all three floors, and incorporating a café, flexible work zones and quiet areas, Woods Bagot drew inspiration from the history of the original building, which once housed the Department of Road Transport and Tramways.

What better way to designate zones for group and individual work than with dramatic hits of dopamine-boosting colour?

Case Study 1: ESW Offices, Munich

ESW Offices in Munich exemplify the office design trend of bold colour blocking

A city within an office: Located in a vibrant, diverse Munich neighbourhood, the new workspace of the social housing organization Evangelisches Siedlungswerk (ESW) was created with this civic ethos in mind. The interior layout by Kinzo is animated by large wood “houses,” or alcoves, for both collaborative and contemplative work. Just as full of intuitive nooks and crannies as it is replete with pops of brightly painted wood, the colour-blocked interior makes generous use of primary hues, including the signature red of the brand’s logo, to enhance this warm cityscape and render it a kind of colourful utopia.

ESW Offices in Munich exemplify the office design trend of bold colour blocking

Case Study 2: JIC, Brno, Czechia

JIC, Brno, Czechia

Colour does the heavy lifting at this workspace for a Czech consultancy by local firm KOGAA. The 400-square-metre headquarters of the South Moravian Innovation Centre (JIC) features a spectrum calibrated to inspire specific behaviours. Depending on the hue, its two types of work areas — framed by transparent partitions in organic, sinuous forms (paired with large monochrome curtains) or defined by corrugated powder-coated metal — delineate either public or private space. Red setups imply action and communication; cool ones, like blue, suggest concentration and silence. Yellow and orange zones meet in the middle as nodes of free-flowing collaboration.

Case Study 3: Santa Tere Espacio, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Santa Tere Espacio, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

When reviving this abandoned self-built home in the San Antonio neighbourhood of San Miguel de Allende and transforming it into the offices of cultural centre Santa Tere Espacio, the trifecta of Office of Collaborative Design, Atelier TBD and Maye Colab put colour directly into the heart of the interior. Their pulsating palette — featuring bright yellow bricks, red tiles and royal blue doors — was inspired by the original house. So was the materiality: Select bricks from the demolition were recycled into the design.

When a creative-industry HQ seeks to establish a space that’s welcoming of the public, it needs to set the scene for the right kinds of engagement. For a paragon, look no further than Toronto’s Mason Studio.
Mason Studio's Toronto office exemplifies current design trends
“2033: An Optimistic Future,” a collaboration with Goodee and others.

In designing its new office inside an industrial building in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, interiors firm Mason Studio — led by Ashley Rumsey and Stanley Sun — took the opportunity to embrace their role as part of a larger creative community. Since opening its new HQ in 2022, the firm has hosted exhibitions and events that transform its main double-height gallery space and entrance with immersive installations that nourish the mind, spirit and even belly (recently, it hosted an ode to Toronto’s multicultural array of dumplings; see page 42) — and that feature both fellow design enterprises and neighbourhood organizations. The result: Mason has cultivated the type of work–play hub that makes design relevant to insiders and everyday folks alike.

Trend Report: New Views on Work

How architects and interior designers across the globe are reimagining the office — with a courageous dose of colour, culture and eco-consciousness.

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