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Two years ago, SKETCH moved into its new home at Artscape Youngplace, a downtown Toronto school building refurbished into a cultural hub of art studios and organizations. The 20-year-old non-profit engages at-risk and street youth aged 16 to 29 through visual and performance arts, in everything from painting and drawing to breakdancing. It carries out its programs on the ground floor of Artscape Youngplace, and runs its operations from a 112-square-metre admin hub on the second floor.

“There was no design when we moved in,” says Rudy Ruttiman, the executive director and founder of SKETCH. That’s where Perkins+Will came in. Janine Grossmann, principal of interior design at the firm’s Toronto office, had joined SKETCH’s board. “I got to understand both the monetary issues the non-profit faced, as well as the fact of just how crammed their office space was.”

The grassroots organization required a space that announced it was invested and here to stay. As a non-profit, it didn’t want to feel opulent or flush, but needed to be more effective – employees would often feel the need to go home to get work done in the crowded space – and show donors that it was serious. In a matter of months, from spring 2016 to September, Perkins+Will, with the help of ARIDO (the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario) carried out an interior revamp that balanced those aims.

Perkins+Will espouses a social responsibility initiative that devotes one percent of its time to pro bono projects. ARIDO has its own not-for-profit initiative, called the Renew-Originate-Implement initiative, or ROI. This allowed Perkins+Will to provide design services, while ARIDO members, including Herman Miller, Teknion and Interface, donated everything from workstation furnishings to carpeting, whiteboards and plumbing.

The result is a gleaming white testament to the power of smart spatial organization, thanks to a densified floorplate that maximizes space for 24 people with a variety of functions, from workstations and sit-stand tables to enclosed meeting rooms.

An island table for impromptu meetings positioned near the entrance establishes the office’s new energy. Beyond it, suspended translucent acrylic panels delineate three rows of workstations. On one side, a new kitchenette with teal base cabinets features shelving that soars to the ceiling and displays SKETCH’s awards.

“We maximized verticality because storage was so low,” Grossmann says, explaining the tall cupboards, open shelving and lockable storage that line the walls. A small phone room behind suspended sliding doors – where employees can have Skype meetings – also serves as a records archive.

On the other side of the workstation configuration, two back-to-back meeting rooms are tucked behind another set of suspended swinging doors. In the larger one, set against the window wall, employees can conduct board meetings without paper – thanks to an interactive screen and whiteboard. A suspension light fixture composed of cool LED arrays forms a sharp square outline and adds a graphic punch to the space. In the second meeting room, a clerestory window ushers natural light in.

While the interior is bright-white, the firm injected colour here and there – through Interface’s patchwork-y carpet tile, the vibrant meeting room seating, the display of artists’ works, and, of course, the teal cupboards – to reflect the brand and to delineate space.

“We were taken aback by the obvious investment, quality and care. They really heard who we were,” says Ruttiman. The renovation has succeeded in creating a welcoming space – not just for SKETCH, but also for the other artist groups with which it collaborates. “We can really hunker down and work here.”


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