July 22, 2013

How Sweet It Is: Coca-Cola’s Canadian HQ by Figure3

If you’d like to buy the world a Coke, it’s a snap in most places—except Cuba and North Korea. Coca-Cola has grown into the dominant global brand since being introduced in 1886 by an Atlanta druggist with a secret recipe. The first bottles crossed the border into Canada in 1905.

In Toronto, the Coca-Cola Company’s Canadian headquarters and bottling division had been suburban neighbors, sharing no space. That changed when all 400 employees moved to a single office downtown. The result, as the Coke jingle continues, is perfect harmony.

Coke now occupies a three-story glass addition built on top of a red brick former newspaper building, as part of a mixed-use conversion, plus street-level space for a reception area. Figure3 designed everything, 100,000 square feet in total. Specialists in architectural branding, the firm has worked for the likes of Umbra, Unilever, and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

At the center of the three main levels, an atrium brings in daylight and, when cleared of lounge furniture, occasionally serves as a town hall for company-wide events. “The drinks are free,” Figure3 principal Caroline Hughes says with a laugh. Commanding one side of the space, a sort of vertical billboard combines backlit digital photography from advertising campaigns with an LED video screen for motion graphics.

Leading to the office areas for different beverage brands are short hallways, portals that Hughes terms “delight zones.” In that spirit, Minute Maid’s portal got a mural of an orange grove. “The company has a responsibility to consider issues like water usage. These installations give that bigger picture,” Figure3 principal Suzanne Bettencourt adds. For Vitaminwater, imagine its bottles elongated to become rainbow stripes sprinting up a wall, across the ceiling, and down the opposite side.

A Coke-red portal turns the brand’s famous ribbon into an enormous time line dotted with cola milestones. To form a “Coke”-emblazoned hanging for an elevator lobby, red and silver bottle caps are linked Paco Rabanne chain-mail style. And each of the Navy 111 chairs in a lounge is made by Emeco from 111 recycled PET plastic Coke bottles. Talk about the real thing.

Project Team
Global Imaging: Graphics Consultant. PPG Industries: Paint. Westbury National: Audio Visual Consultant. Green Reason: LEED Consultant. Engineering Link: Structural Engineer. Smith+Andersen: MEP. Ell-Rod Holdings: WoodworK. MARANT Construction: General Contractor.

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