Workbook: On a Case by Staircase Basis

Deloitte MontrealArney Fender Katsalidis, a London-based architecture and interiors firm, recently completed a 160,000-square-foot office for Deloitte’s Quebec headquarters. “The charge from Deloitte was clear. Choose a building with great bones and transform the base into a highly connected workplace,” says Earle Arney, Chief Executive of the practice. The resulting project features 18 different types of workspaces, including a feature staircase designed to promote spontaneous conversations as staff moves between floors. We spoke with Matthew Kobylar, Director of Interiors and Workplace Strategy, about the concept.

Promoting active design in workplaces is becoming increasingly important. What would you say are the three key elements of accomplishing this goal?

Active design works when people are empowered by the tools, spaces and policies that enable them to work anywhere—not just in the office, but out of the office as well. These tools include technologies that allow staff to be mobile; such as phones and laptops and WiFi connectivity in the workplace.

Office spaces can include a variety of worksettings that allow people to work in an environment that suits their requirements in that moment. In Deloitte there are 18 different types of worksettings that provide staff with a variety of landscape of choices in which to work. If they are in a focussed frame of mind they can choose phone booths which provide privacy, libraries for silence or work-with-a-view spaces which are designed to enhance concentrated thinking. If they are in a collaborative mode, there are brainstorming rooms filled with writable worksurfaces, high-tech rooms with monitors that can capture conversations and, of course, traditional meeting rooms for more formal use.

You created a bold staircase that accommodates spontaneous discussions between floors, can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind this concept?

A key driver for Deloitte on this project was to grow the organisation by growing the business conducted between units within the organisation. For instance, a tax client might become an audit client, and later even a real estate client. Because the staircase links various functions that people want to reach throughout the day, it is a natural nexus and route that people take to move around the building. The staircase was purposefully designed to take advantage of this traffic and spur spontaneous interaction. The larger landings provide stopping points where people can pause and have a conversation without feeling like they are blocking the circulation path. 

05How did you develop the design of the staircase?

The staircase is a hanging sculpture in the atrium. It serves as a linking mechanism providing vertical connections for staff. One of the design principles of the space was the idea of “Deloitte on Display”. This idea was about offering transparency to clients to see how Deloitte works. The atrium is open and visitors, clients and staff get a sneak peek at the inner workings of the firm. This was carried on the stair by the use of one balustrade being solid and wrapping around each floor whilst the inside balustrade is glass and allows the oblique view onto the stair. The topside is “Deloitte green”, a key branding point that connects the company literally and figuratively. The underside of the stair was done in a reflective stainless steel. Due to the open risers on the stair, the underside reflects a bit of the green, but more importantly it captures movement of people on the stair from below.

Are there any furnishings on the landings? Or just a space where people can pause?

There is no furniture. However, the solid balustrade is set at an angle that creates a relaxing place to lean your arms against and chat while looking into the courtyard outside the atrium. Even though on display, users still get a feeling of protected cosiness from the landing above and the wooden screen on the side which is used as a background to the sculptural stair element.

 Photos by James Brittain

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