A Cigar Lounge-Like Office in Toronto

A tour of the new VICE Media bureau in downtown Toronto.

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Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

When VICE, the successful New York-based youth media company, tripled their staff in one year, they had the happy problem of needing more space. They visualized a thrumming downtown Toronto bureau, exuding VICE’s characteristic strong, energetic, and slightly irreverent attitude. To put that dream to reality, VICE hired DesignAgency, a like-minded cross-disciplinary company that prizes creativity and collaboration. And DesignAgency didn’t disappoint.

The design consultancy gave the bureau — a decommissioned factory — the chummy feel of a classic cigar lounge, then tastefully added all the technology, lighting, and sound equipment a media company like VICE requires. According to a press release, “[t]he results are instrumental for the VICE team to produce their multi-platform content, while allowing the open-plan space to play triple duty as a day-to-day working environment, a film and recording set and a showpiece that speaks to the personality and values of the company.”

We reached out to DesignAgency to find out more.

Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.
Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

Who was the interior architect/designer?

DesignAgency

When was the project completed?

2016

Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.
Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

What is the total square footage?

24,500

What is the square footage per person?

About 160 square feet per person

How many total employees are there and what is the daily population?

150

Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.
Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

Is any part of the space unassigned? If so, how much?

No.

Tell us about the office’s proximity to public transportation and other amenities.

It’s located in downtown Toronto, near a major highway. There’s also access to buses and street cars, but it’s also a very bike- and pedestrian-friendly place.

The space recalls a more liberal era of office culture when long hours and after-dinner drinks were the norm.

Please touch upon any notable products, how they were used, and if they solved a specific problem.

In the screening room, DesignAgency used Maharam for the upholstery. The vintage carpets throughout are from Smash and the Turco Persian Rug Co. For decorative lighting, they relied on Barn Light Electric Co., hollis+morris, One Forty Three, and Restoration Hardware. The quartz counters are Caesarstone, and there’s cement tile in the kitchen. The space’s furniture comes from Orior, Restoration Hardware, ALX, and Teknion.

Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.
Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

How is the company’s brand reflected in the space?

Right when visitors enter, they are immediately submerged in the world of VICE. Everything from the hard-edged, industrial lobby — with its steel and stone reception desk, raw concrete floors and rough brick walls — to its giant panes of steel-rimmed glass reflects VICE’s strong, youthful, and slightly irreverent brand. Surprising touches like a muted, neon VICE sign and a reclaimed Persian rug mated with a distressed leather sofa further the vibe.

Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.
Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

Is there a lot of open space?

The majority of the office is open concept, with giant east-facing windows that let in natural light. There’s also adjustable overhead lighting for various tasks, including filming. Staff can sit or stand at their reconfigurable desks, and they also have the option of using privacy screens. As a contrast to the open-concept layout, DesignAgency also created intimate break-out areas. In addition, two pavilions house the executive offices, but they also act as buffer between the kitchen and the rest of the office. This instills both a sense of quiet and intimacy since the kitchen doubles a set for on-camera cooking demonstrations. A screening room, fitted with plush leather armchairs, provides a space for unwinding and watching VICE products.

Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.
Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

What is the most unique feature of the new space?

The saloon — with its tall walnut shelves that are stocked with bourbon and whiskey, as well as coffee, tea, and sparkling water for those early morning meetings — is definitely very unique. The space recalls a more liberal era of office culture when long hours and after-dinner drinks were the norm. Materials like soft zinc on the bar, which distresses with wear, reinforce the throwback feel.

Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.
Photo by Adrien Williams, courtesy of DesignAgency.

And the Bear Room, which sits adjacent to saloon and is so-named for its counterpart in VICE’s Brooklyn offices. Think: taxidermy. This room is both the marquis meeting room and the signature interview space, which is also used for filming. It’s fitted with a pair of 500-pound coffee tables, made from sawn timber logs. And Ireland-based Orior, a bespoke furniture designer, custom-made the tufted couches, and an ox-blood accent wall, again, evokes that cigar-lounge vibe.

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