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Spotlight: Workspaces
Inventive offices that take inspiration from Fordism, Shanghai’s alleyways and more.
The double-height atrium resolves a key design challenge: bringing light into the centre of the building’s deep square floor plate.
Newlab’s Fordism-Inspired Outpost Opens in Detroit
InMedia ad agency office in Shanghai
In Shanghai, a Modern Ad Agency Embraces its Historical Context
Innolabs by Perkins&Will
An Adaptive Re-use Project Brings the Science Scene to NYC
In the Zone with Bensen in Vancouver
Brian Wooden Brings His Spirited Cartoon Style to the Contract World
Colab by Senator
3 Collaboration Stations for Social — and Productive — Workspaces
Panorama system by Fantoni
Fantoni’s Adaptable Panorama System Responds to Workplace Trends
Spotlight: Workspaces
The double-height atrium resolves a key design challenge: bringing light into the centre of the building’s deep square floor plate.

“The building was going back to nature. There were trees growing inside of it, the basement was full of water and the concrete was damaged.” This is how architect Nicko Elliott of Civilian describes the undeserved fate of the Book Depository, one of many art deco landmarks that have shaped the city of Detroit. For 35 years, the Albert Kahn building — which first served as a post office branch and mail warehouse, then as a storage facility for the Detroit public school system — sat empty, slated for demolition after falling into disrepair following a devastating fire. That was until Ford Motor Company purchased it as part of a larger civic and urban redevelopment plan.

A prefab rosewood and pressed stainless-steel reception desk is installed around a martini glass–shaped column at the building’s entrance.
A prefab rosewood and pressed stainless-steel reception...
InMedia ad agency office in Shanghai

For nearly two centuries, Shanghai’s residential alleyways — or lilongs — have been spirited hives of culture and community. Initially a haphazard response to an influx of rural migrants and foreign immigrants (from Europe, Japan and America) during the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, the narrow one- or multi-storey dwellings are an integral part of the urban fabric and an archetype that belongs solely to the city. Cloistered behind ornately carved wooden or stone doors, the homes — which often double as storefronts, grocers, tailors and other family-run businesses — feature small internal courtyards for social gatherings and combine traditional Chinese spatial arrangements and details with imported Western architectural...

Innolabs by Perkins&Will

You might not anticipate major scientific innovation in Long Island City, better known for its arts and culture scene. Just a couple blocks from MoMA PS1, however, a recently completed lab facility designed by Perkins&Will marks a notable development in the area’s burgeoning life sciences industry. Innolabs, a 25,000-square-metre adaptive re-use project, faces the street boldly and creates a striking counterpoint to the historic neighbourhood. A slender black steel and glass addition provides a muscular contrast to the white historic facade of the original structure, driving home the former office building’s unexpected second life.

Alongside a lobby café, the Innolabs science building designed by Perkins&Will includes bike storage, locker rooms and more.

“There are two compelling reasons why adaptive re-use of older buildings is viable for labs —...

Vancouver’s Bensen has been synonymous with the best of West Coast design for more than four decades and running. In recent years, Niels Bendtsen, the Danish Canadian designer who founded the furniture brand, decided to move production to Italy, but he wanted to continue to invest in the city he loves and the district — Railtown — where it all began. “It’s an amazing neighbourhood and a hidden gem,” Bendtsen says. “It has the best views of the city: overlooking the harbour and its containers and the North Shore.” Now, at 411 Railway Street, he has inaugurated a building that will house the company’s headquarters and energize its surroundings with a future commercial hub.

Street-level entrances to 411 Railway Street scale the building down to an intimate welcome. Photo by Ema Peter

In fact, the building exemplifies new city zoning that encourages “creative product manufacturing,” referring to the making of clothing, furniture and other types of light production. As dry as it sounds, “zoning was the key inspiration for the project,” says Steve McFarlane, whose firm, Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers (OMB), created the six-storey, 10,400-square-metre beacon. “It was designed to be as flexible as possible,” says OMB architect and associate Rory Fulber. “It is purpose-built for creative manufacturing, but it can also become any other kind of space.”

The new Bensen headquarters in the Railtown district, by Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers, makes a gleaming addition to the industrial streetscape. Photo by Andrew Latreille

Curving gently in tandem with the sidewalk, the architecture comprises two blocky halves that meet at a soaring central atrium, which is animated by its framed view of those vibrant shipping containers outside and the main circulation route it encases within. This, in essence, is the project’s masterstroke: a series of zigzagging mass timber bridges that slide through the twinned structures’ concrete walls.

An internal series of mass timber bridges animates the atrium. Photo by Ema Peter

The upper storeys of the building are wrapped in a glass and charcoal aluminum facade that peels back on the top two levels to provide tenants with three generous and lushly planted outdoor terraces. Its slender fins, which help mitigate solar gain, also subtly play with the light, allowing the building to morph from solid to transparent as you move past it. The dynamism embodied in the architecture is articulated in the program.

The glass and charcoal-aluminum fin facade morphs from appearing solid to seeming transparent. Photo by Andrew Latreille
The building’s energy systems enable it to allow for light manufacturing or be adapted to any future use. Photo by Graham Handford

On the ground floor, several small design and architectural showrooms, a restaurant and a Pilates studio have separate porch-like entrances, and all spaces are wheelchair-accessible through the main internal corridor. For its part, Bensen will occupy the top floor — on both the west and east halves. With 400 to 600 people expected to work in the building, 411 Railway will see lots of movement on those fantastic bridges. “I’m hoping it will be a game-changer,” says Bendtsen.

Drone image, top of page, by Graham Handford.

Brian Wooden could teach us all a lesson in knowing thyself: The Nashville-based street artist, who grew up skateboarding and immersed in graffiti culture, always wanted to work in animation and fine art. Later on, as a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, he found himself approaching realistic portraiture in what he calls a “soft, painterly way.” But, he says, he knew this path wasn’t true to his self.

“I wasn’t having much fun — it was just a little too serious for me,” he says. “So I made a hard transition one day and started going back into more illustrative work.” He returned to his passion for street art, composing massive outdoor wall murals with abstracted cartoon characters; his work is riotous, filled with...

Colab by Senator
Manille by Extremis
Manille outdoor seating by Extremis

Named after the French card game, the Manille outdoor seating series by Extremis is more than a picnic bench for playing a few rounds. Its galvanized steel frame and European ash tabletop are covered by an awning with two options: an elegant soft fabric canopy or a fixed hard top. Multiple Manille pieces can be linked together for a sprawling table — but one alone makes for a simple, timeless gathering space. Backrests and bench seating accommodate diverse body types, and the table height and ends are wheelchair accessible, making it a more inclusive spot to come together.

Colab by Senator
Colab collaboration station by Senator

Through telltale shifts in pedagogy (namely, the ways in which Gen Z has been educated using...

Panorama system by Fantoni

“The office landscape is no longer the classic, straightforward grid organization where everyone works, but rather a highly creative landscape,” says Ben van Berkel, co-founder of Dutch architectural practice UNStudio. In response to this shift — which has only been amplified with the rise of remote and hybrid scenarios — van Berkel and his team at UNSx, the experiential design arm of the firm, have developed Panorama for Italian manufacturer Fantoni.

Red sofa with matching planter behind it
Panorama system by Fantoni

Described by the designers as “human-centric micro-architecture,” the all-encompassing toolset is intended to carve out flexible, efficient and comfortable set-ups that are organized into three configurations: Collaboration, Social, and Learning & Focus. With...