June 2, 2015

Connections Are Multiplying: Toronto Among Five IA-Designed LinkedIn Projects

Fun, fun, fun. That’s all anyone talks about anymore. What happened to actually working at the office? 

For one particular client, however, IA Interior Architects has proved, over and over, that it’s possible to do both. The firm has completed LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View, California, and offices in Toronto, Chicago, and New York and is currently designing another in San Francisco—a series that has kept IA’s Chicago-based staff on a professional fast track for the past three years. Across the board, these are high-energy settings with amenities galore, from sit-stand workstations to a multitude of unstructured spaces, encouraging connection via informal powwows, and even a video studio, since LinkedIn is producing content as well. Yet each bricks-and-mortar location for the professional networking Web site remains individual. Personality derives from ties to place, often best illustrated by graphics. So IA director of environmental graphics Julie Maggos has been an indispensable, inseparable partner to senior associate Neil Schneider, as they design simultaneously in two and three dimensions.

Toronto is a case in point. The office site is a downtown tower average in all ways except for the asymmetrical, rounded corners of its floor plates, and LinkedIn leased the 25th floor and part of the 26th, totaling 60,000 square feet. Before gutting the interior, Maggos and Schneider distributed a survey. “To see what makes the employees tick,” Maggos says. “What do they do for fun? How do they spend weekends? Our task was to translate that imagery.” What she and Schneider discovered was a culture equally captivated by the woodsy outdoors as by the urban landscape.

Allusions to both are therefore pervasive starting right outside the reception area, in the elevator lobby. One wall here is covered in a digitally printed birch tree pattern. Opposite, swaths of paneling veneered in walnut sweep upward to become canopies. A few steps past the glass door, in reception proper, there’s no mistaking the specific reference to Canada—a topographical map of the country, rendered in layers of white-painted MDF, occupies the entire wall behind the desk. 

For locavore design, if you will, try the café. It’s intended not only for eating but also for meeting, with four conjoined pods that riff on the peaked-roof row houses prevalent in Toronto. IA’s versions boast wood-grain wall covering on their exterior and happy, primary-colored acoustical material on the interior. Each is furnished with banquettes flanking a table, diner-style, and a classic George Nelson lantern.

Continuing the residential analogy, Maggos and Schneider envisioned the area adjacent to the row houses, surrounding the base of the staircase, as their back garden. It comes complete with picnic tables and benches, an ethanol fireplace, and, standing in for boulders, gray ottomans. At the far end of the café, in a corner alcove, a wall installation offers a witty reference to the wooden crates found at farmer’s markets: Panels are printed with the names of such local delicacies as butter tart, bannock pancakes, and poutine, aka French fries slathered in cheese curd and gravy.

This level’s other main attractions are the IT genius bar, its counter open to the café, and the training room, which can be closed off with garage doors. As for the level above, a quarter of it is devoted to the lounge, essentially a gigantic game room. Alluding to nearby parks while helping to control acoustics, leaf shapes cut from green felt cover a pair of partitions that curves around to separate a more serious-minded break-out zone from the Ping-Pong and foosball tables. Entirely enclosed, nearby, are an exercise or yoga studio and a wellness room, for nursing mothers or resting.

So where, you might be wondering, does everyone settle into heads-down work?
Arrayed at both sides, flanking the communal zone, are office areas, private offices, and meeting rooms small and large. The setup, with work and play interspersed throughout, is a standard LinkedIn solution, according to Schneider: “Staffers spend more time in the collaborative  spaces than at their workstations. There’s a lot of layering and mixed use.” 

LinkedIn’s unmistakable electric blue is
also a constant presence. Note the blue upholstery on benches in the elevator lobby and on lounge chairs in reception. Next to them, an enormous blue-foam double seating niche is emblazoned, twice, with the white “in” of the company logo. Maggos and Schneider see this as the ideal backdrop for indulging in today’s most prevalent pastime, the selfie. In the café, one of the row houses is blue-lined, and stools at high tables, along the window wall, have blue bases. In the lounge, blue vinyl strips on the concrete floor recall reflections of the city’s skyscrapers on Lake Ontario.

We couldn’t help but ask the IA team members their personal opinion of LinkedIn as a job tool. Schneider doesn’t skip a beat: “We do all our recruiting though LinkedIn.” Maggos adds, “In a booming market, it’s hard to find good people.” Applicants, get your résumés in order—not to mention your professional profiles and network of connections. 


Tom Powers; Adrienne Harbarger; Ruben Gonzalez; Devin Riccardi; Carolyn Miller; Sarah Bird; Meghan Van Noort: IA Interior Architects. Alfa Tech Consulting Enterprises: Audiovisual Consultant, MEP. G&P Millwork: Woodwork. All-Win Contracting: General Contractor.


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