“Cut a Hole in Where?” Bold moves for Back to Work Design


Big business means a big office. For Boston Consulting Group’s Canadian HQ in Toronto, HOK Canada was the architecture, planning, and engineering firm for the job. Regional winner for the Best of Canada Design Awards for Shaw Contract 2023, Caitlin Turner, project lead and Director of Interiors at HOK Canada, discusses how the project became such a success with host AJ Paron. From tenant-improvement fit-ups, and championing Toronto’s mighty emerging design scene to planning for serendipitous bump-ins, this episode covers the social, financial, and design aspects of return to work so many of us are figuring out. This season of Once Upon A Project is presented by Shaw Contract. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

AJ: Hey friends, welcome back to Once Upon a Project. I’m your host, AJ Perrone, Design Futurist with Sandow Design Group. Once Upon a Project prides itself on not just looking at the pretty pictures of a finished design, but reveling in the process to discover the story behind the project.

 Today we are talking about bold decisions and innovative thinking. The project we are highlighting was a recent regional and best of globe winner for Shaw Contracts Best of Design Awards 2023 being a great interior designer sometimes means you really have to push a client’s comfort zone.

But as long as that’s in their best interest, the results can be spectacular. Let’s hear from my good friend, Caitlin, how a significant design [00:01:00] barrier on this project evolved from pushing the envelope, literally, to create a fabulous work environment that employees are flocking to.

Caitlin Turner : Hi, I’m Caitlin Turner. I’m the Director of Interiors for HOK Canada, located in Toronto, and I’m happy to be here today.

AJ: As always, let’s begin with my favorite question. What brought you to the career of interior design?

Caitlin Turner : How did I become an interior designer? Well, actually I come from a long legacy of interior designers. Both my mom and my uncle were interior designers and they got me into the field. I started my career, , 20 years next year at HOK.

So I’ve been there 20 years. As a design intern. I started on the reception desk. And the moment I arrived there, I’m from quite a small town in the big city of Toronto, I was like, wow, like, just the amazing people and the amazing women who were interior designers and worked at the firm were so inspiring and I said, I’ve got to go back to school to be an [00:02:00] interior designer.

I think it’s odd, right? Because when you have a parent who’s in a profession, as a, you know, 17, 18 year old who’s going to choose their path in their career, think, I should do something different than my parent is doing. But for me, it was just such a natural fit. And, it’s been amazing ever since.

 my mom was an amazing mentor to an amazing advocate, she loves to tell the story about how, as a child, when you would, put your kid into camp, and they’d make a craft, and she would come and pick me up, and all the kids used, like, 50 colours, and glitter, and every feather or whatever and mine would be like really tailored, beautiful, like the most beautiful craft and she was like, she’s going to be a designer.

She always says she knew long before I knew, but she wanted to let me figure it out myself.

AJ:  Kaitlyn’s had to figure things out for herself. And that has been a recurring theme for her career. Case in point is this award winning project. But I’ll let Caitlin tell the story herself.

Caitlin Turner : So the project I want to share today is one that I’m very [00:03:00] proud of. I love this project. I could talk about it all day. It’s for Boston Consulting Group. Boston Consulting Group is a very fast paced environment where they work in teams and together with their clients to really, expand the art of the possible, but also really understand what’s keeping, organizations up at night and how can they help solve for those solutions.

So I think right off the bat hearing about this project when it came off across my desk as an RFP, and you sort of research an organization, right? As I think as an interior designer in doing workplace, you’re always like curious about what your potential client might be doing and what kind of impact they’re having so that when you’re essentially doing your pitch, you can gear your pitch to them, right?

And be excited about the project. And instantly, I think the more you read about Boston Consulting Group, being on their website and understanding their impact on both local and global communities was so inspiring. So right off the hop I’m like, that’s a job I want. That’s a job HOK needs to win, right?

So you put all your heart and energy into thinking about how can you create something [00:04:00] meaningful in a first introduction or a pitch, a kind of competitive advantage to say, you know, pick me as your interior designer. Because there’s, the competition’s tough out there. There’s a lot of really amazing design firms, so you have to figure out how you differentiate yourself.

So the scope of the project was really to design a space for them about 90, 000 square feet. They had already determined to move into a very high profile, triple, um, triple a class building in downtown Toronto, and they wanted to create something with meaning and with impact. And so one of the things.

During the pitches, they asked us is, what would you do? What would you do with our budget? What would you consider in terms of our workplace? How would you make us different? And I think there were a few things that really stood out to us, you know, visiting their existing site was that. There was no brand recognition about all the amazing things that they were doing.

So how do you create a space that really inspires pride of place, but in a way humble brags about the amazing organization that they were? So that was one of the first things that came to my mind. I think second which is very [00:05:00] interesting and has been interesting for me and my design career in the last few years is obviously his workplace is changing and many people are moving hybrid BCG or Boston Consulting Group.

They were hybrid before the pandemic, right? They work in a gig pool fashion where they resource consultants and teams based on their level of expertise, in different areas. So already there’s this challenge of how do you make meaningful connections? How do you inspire people to do their best work when they’re not coming in?

the office every day. And then the last is understanding the kind of work that they do. I mean, this is an organization that attracts the best talent from across the globe to work at their space, right? These are like your top performers, your A type personalities, but with that also, there’s a lot of pressure, right?

And so how do you create a space that can actually give back like in meaningful ways? Make people feel well, right? Help them to perform at their highest level, but also help reduce the fact that there is this high pressure, high of stakes job that they are performing every day.

AJ: High pressure environments can often lead to [00:06:00] challenging dynamics. Sometimes it feels as though we are rising to the occasion, and other times we have no choice but to be ushered into our make or break moments.

You know those lessons you’re glad to have learned, but don’t necessarily want to learn them again. So I was hungry to hear about what challenges Caitlin faced and how she approached them.

Caitlin Turner : one of the major challenges within the project that can’t really be ignored is the fact of building a project of that scale and caliber during the pandemic. Right? So often we as designers, we go to site to ensure that our design vision is being executed, right?

That the contractor understands the documentation that the things that we’ve imagined are really coming to fruition. But now imagine you’re in a building that’s under construction. You’ve got to go through a parking garage, you’ve got to be COVID tested, you’re in a mask, you’re trying to look at a set of construction drawings with a contractor, usually we do that very shoulder to shoulder, right?

It’s like, hey, everybody roll up your sleeves and get the project done, and now you’re all trying to keep [00:07:00] distancing, we’re trying to show things from across the room, drawing at a bigger scale, and I think really, In a way, it has bonded the team members from client to contractor to, even the site super for life in a way, right?

Because it really was a challenging time, I think, in society, but even to just deliver a project at that time was very challenging. the result in the end is as a really amazing thing, I believe, right? Humanity Sometimes some of the worst things are also have shining moments, you know, like lemonade out of lemons.

 that kind of was one of the major things. I think another thing is just in the Interior design profession and this is some another thing where I see both the positive and the challenge so one of the challenges is Designing in a building that isn’t yet constructed Because interior designers were really visual people, right?

So you want to go to site and you look at a space and it like sparks our imagination and we see things. And now all you’re looking at is a set of, plans and an architectural sketch of the building, and you’ve got to start to imagine space. So that was really, I [00:08:00] think, a challenging, when you’d often do workplaces, sometimes you’re just working in a building that exists, right?

That wasn’t the case here. On the flip side of that, you get a lot of amazing things. And When you’re able to manipulate the base building architecture, which in this case we were able to do, , that’s where magic can really happen, because the building isn’t established, so there’s this opportunity to dream a little bit bigger than we normally get to, as interior designers.

AJ: Designers are charged to find great solutions. But sometimes, with the given parameters, you begin to see that this might not actually be possible. People are reluctant to change, especially when a project is already underway, as there are costs, ramifications, and egos at play.

 And this is the time where one must find the courage to not only dream big, But challenge the status quo.

Caitlin Turner : for Boston Consulting Group, one of their kind of goals or outcomes that they wanted to drive was these [00:09:00] collisions or connections. And what I mean by that is that throughout the day, they wanted to drive people to have these serendipitous bump ins where you might like Just meet up with your colleague at the coffee machine and ask them how their weekend was or what a project are they working on,

 typically we find that people can engage on a day to day with their core team members, But how do you create organizational culture or DNA in which people are sharing a common goal? And again, that sort of pride of place that they work. You do that through these like sort of small moments, social interactions, right?

So when I say driving collisions, I mean, creating those moments serendipitously for people to, to engage with each other. And so, a lot of the Boston consulting offices, they would have these sort of large atriums or large interconnecting stairs to really map back the traffic patterns to drive those connections and collisions.

But, we had a building that had been designed by another architect that didn’t have atrium space, didn’t even have a stair cut into it. And so one of the first things that the interior design team [00:10:00] noticed is that this isn’t going to work, right? Here’s a challenge. How do you create those collisions and moments without having that kind of space?

But, as I mentioned before, We had a building that was being built and the floors hadn’t been built on the top floor. So we thought here is our moment to go to the base building developer and the base building architect and propose that they change their building design to suit BCG’s goals. And that’s not something that happens quite frequently because a client leases a space, they get delivered that space and they build within it, right?

It’s called tenant improvement or TI fit up. our design team, we had lofty goals and our client, knowing the kind of client they are, where they push the boundaries and they think outside the box, we wanted to strive to do the same. So. The design team went, we went to the developer’s office and the base building architect and engineer was there and I remember the, the conversation because we kind of came in and it’s unexpected.

They’re not sure why we’re there. We’re there to represent our clients and ask [00:11:00] them a question. So we opened up this sort of conceptual design where we said, we propose that we cut a 20 foot by 80 foot atrium into the building. So,a kind of a quarter to a third of a floor plate. And I remember the developer at the time saying to me, sweetie, you want to do what to my building?

Like, you know, you can imagine a room that was all men and us two interior designers going into this room just to say, like, here’s our big idea. I think they fell off their chairs. But rather than taking no for an answer, we kept saying, but why? the floor is not built yet. There’s still time. You can,

revise your permits. So then people started sketching, and I think sometimes in a collaborative nature, you need to have people almost get behind your idea. It needs to be everyone’s idea. And so they started sketching and thinking about how it was possible. And that kind of atrium space that we created, it did shift over time.

 Initially we wanted to go right to the perimeter glazing, right to the facade of the building. It just wasn’t possible, with the zipper. [00:12:00] they’re like, you have to change the whole facade design. Bye. That isn’t going to happen, Caitlin, you know, that’s too far, but we did, we landed on this amazing atrium space.

And to be honest, it’s, it’s, it’s magic, right? Like it drives traffic patterns back. It’s filled with this amazing daylight. my client describes it as the high school cafeteria, Cause it’s this two story atrium that connects both a common space and then their major cafe space. And she says, it’s like the high school cafeteria, the great nines.

Are eating with the great twelves. People are commingling different groups, consultants with their business services team, everybody is mixing there. And it’s just a space that is, I think, magical at like all hours of the day, the sunsets there, it’s just gorgeous. And so I think, these are some of the challenges that I think if you approach as an interior designer with an open mind and a lot of heart to say Hey, but this is an amazing idea that nobody is considering sometimes that can happen and it did in this case.

So we’re quite proud of that.

AJ: And I think that’s [00:13:00] something to be quite proud of. I’ve been that woman in the room, the only woman in the room, that is telling all the men that there might be a better way. This can be very difficult, especially around construction, as there’s still strong prejudice against women understanding construction methodology, as they have never swung a hammer.

I actually had someone tell me I couldn’t run a job site. as I physically could not do the work. Of course, women have proven to be excellent project managers, consultants, and construction workers. But this stereotype is still out there, even in the professional world. Reflecting on my experience, I wanted to go a little deeper.

I asked Caitlyn to take me back to those moments. Conspiring with her team, formulating the plan, and then finding the courage to advocate for it. What did that feel like?

Caitlin Turner : thinking about how we approach that [00:14:00] challenge as a team, right? So, as you can imagine, in a design studio, you are forever ideating and generating concepts to, present to a client, what could it be? And I think, Boston Consulting Group, they challenged us for these awe moments.

Like, how do you create these moments of awe? Like, how do you make people feel like they’ve arrived at a place where big things happen, right? So first and foremost, we just started generating ideas right in the studio. what is it an interconnecting stair? Okay. Is it standard interconnecting stairs with an opening?

Sure. But a lot of people have those. They’re not that all moment anymore in workplace design. So then we started to imagine and given the building was being built, well, what if it was a full oversized atrium, a space that really just connected these openings at a very large scale.

 So we started to imagine it, we started to look at the plan and the programming to make sure we could still fit all the programming in, which we could, but then, we have to go through these hurdles. So first hurdle, of course, is to showcase it to the client, get their buy in, [00:15:00] understand that they also feel like this is something worth fighting for, because we knew right off the hop, we’re going to have to fight for this, it’s not going to come easy, it’s going to take a lot of energy, An effort on the interior design teams part to convince everyone at all stages.

So 1st, we got the client buy in. There was a lot of conversation about well, what does the atrium actually do? what is its impact? Because the amount of square footage to give up in a workplace, it wasn’t small, it was no small feat. But the second piece was really, like different levels of a game.

It’s like, okay, we’ve passed the first level and now we have to get to the next boss or whatever. So, but prepping for the developer and architecture and engineer meeting was a whole other, I think, conversation, right? interior designers, when you’re not on the sort of architecture based building team,to go and present a thing that would alter their building is highly unusual.

It’s highly unlikely.but I think, as a team, we knew how special of a client we had, right? They’re extremely well respected organization, very high profile client, and we wanted to [00:16:00] create something. Meaningful and amazing for them. So I think that gave us some of the courage to know that we had their backing, but also their faith, right there, like trust and our competency and our ability to deliver something amazing for them.

 we had that kind of always at our back, which I think really, really helped, but it was no even easy feat, internally to discuss, what is the approach in which you. Even ask that question, how do you do it? I think my kind of design personality is really to just come out and say the thing I want to do, ask the question, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?

You might get told no, but maybe you get told no for this thing, but then you negotiate slightly back, right? This idea, I want the atrium to the facade was a no, but then, okay. I said, well, what about this? Cause the reason they gave me for that, I’m like, well, here’s the solution. And I think as designers, you’re always have to think of the next kind of creative solution, but also two steps down the road, right?

Like, what are the potential hurdles that you might have to jump [00:17:00] over? and then get ready to jump, right? Get ready to think about what the solution might be, because ultimately, you might get told yes. And eventually they did tell us yes. And not only did they tell us yes, but they worked collaboratively with us in the end to get it there.

AJ: More about the behind the scenes on Caitlyn’s project right after this short message.

 Okay, so the team finally has the client buy in. Now what? How does a giant hole get cut out of a building? And what are the ramifications of changing everything currently in process? How did they actually make that happen?

Caitlin Turner : Okay, so I think the next thing really, though, is Is about okay, so you get the client buy in you get the developer and the base building architecture buy in but now You know, what’s the cost right? It’s like how do you pay for that? And I think one of the things is that You have to [00:18:00] also understand what are the critical success factors of your project?

And then how do you allocate your budget to suit those success factors? So, of course, there’s a cost for an atrium like that, but it is such a wow moment that we had to just sort of budget, right? So you create these wow moments of these all moments. And really, that’s a very public all moment. It connects from their client floor for all of their staff.

So it really is this inclusive, it’s not like the corner office moment anymore. It’s really about this sort of equity for everybody into share. And then you figure out your project costs elsewhere. And I think one of the things that I think also is a Designer, you recommend these things that have,larger costs in terms of the overall project budget and you really want to be able to know they’re going to be successful,

Because when people make that investment in terms of your ideas or, for your ideas, The success of them is so critical, and I think it made the design team work even harder, right? Because we knew we were creating this magical, massive, thing for the project, but we had to execute it flawlessly, and I think one [00:19:00] of my most proud things about the project Is now that it’s built and constructed again, our client reports, it did everything we promised it would

It drives those collisions and connections. It brings people together across the organization. They use it for client events for, internal events. It’s really this all purpose space. So in terms of allocating our budget there, it was a really smart move.

AJ: I would imagine that the design team wanted to ensure this bold idea would pay off for them. So that brings us back to the question so many of us have been grappling with. How do we get people back into the office? But it’s not just about returning to a space, it’s about building an environment that will help people perform at their highest productivity level.

 And is it possible that they might actually be able to enjoy themselves in the process?

Caitlin Turner : In terms of designing a high performance work environment, but also where high performers work, right? And so there are things to consider. So one of the [00:20:00] things that we discovered during our visioning and focus group process is the case team room that, that Boston Consulting Group uses.

So that’s a room in which everybody from the different sectors come together and really solve problems for clients, So they get together in a room for extended period of time and they brainstorm or co create or hash through some kind of idea that they’re, or problem they’re trying to solve.

And one of the things that design team noticed right off the bat is a lot of those were internal rooms. They were very much the same workstations inside of a room on the internal piece. But we know as an interior design community, like to generate ideas and to co create and to really have, I think, The best ideas come forward.

Daylight is a major factor of that. So one of the things we looked at in the programming is how can we reprogram the space to allow for those case team rooms where sometimes people are spending 12 plus hours a day working in and generating ideas in. are amazing. So now they’re self contained rooms that have abilities to work and workstations, breakout, display content, [00:21:00] whiteboard, we adjacently planned phone rooms and small breakout rooms for people so they can dip in and out.

And I think that was a major change in the way that they work and, and has really helped them,bring those case team. rooms back together in a post pandemic world, right? Really encourage people, come back into the office because you’re going to be with people and in a high performance environment that supports all your daily tasks that you are doing.

 I think the nature of the design for Boston Consulting Group, the materiality and the selection was very intentional as well, because when people are coming in, not full time every day, there is this feeling that you want people to feel instantly comfortable.

So the design can’t be too sharp. It can’t be too intimidating. It needs to look like a professional service firm where great things happen, but it can’t be too ostentatious either. So there was a lot of careful selection in like materiality, lighting levels, so that when people came in, they could feel like I belong here, right?

Like a lot about being included and inclusive that I think is [00:22:00] really amazing when you are in the space, you feel that you feel like I’m comfortable here, whether you’re a visitor or you’ve been working there for 20 years.

I think the second piece too is, is really around about health and well being. and I think this goes hand in hand with both interior design but also operations, right?

You can’t ignore that the operational support will allow for the spaces That you’ve designed to A, work effectively, but B, have longevity. So, understanding some of the benefit offerings and the way that they support their people, we wanted to create specific spaces for people to receive care throughout their day, right?

Moments for respite. areas for care. So I’ll give you an example. Like they have a psychologist that will come in and it’s a fully subscribed program. And we created a room on the window. That’s a psychology room. So when you come in, you want to meet with someone for your therapy one on one, you have the ability to do so on site.

I think. Putting some of those things at the forefront also helps to destigmatize the mental health issues, right? Like they’re encouraging people to receive that support on site at BCG. [00:23:00] Another thing that we ask people during our focus groups, and I think we’ve seen even more of this in a post pandemic, is how do you decompress?

How do you wind down after your day? And we heard many things, but in true high performer fashion, lots of them would say like, oh, I’m a skier. I used to be an Olympic skier. Like, no big deal. Or, a lot of people were like trained classical pianists, just like, oh yeah, I’m my side hobby, I’m a pianist.

And so we created even a music and sound room. So an area where people could come in and to be honest, I tried to convince them to put like a baby grand piano in the atrium, but they were like, I think that’s a bit much. So we created a music room that’s, you know, acoustically sound that people can go in throughout the day and play music to decompress.

 Canadian winters are really long. Everybody knows in the great white north. And so we created a room that has a vitamin D full ceiling light, green wall so that people could go in and get vitamin D throughout the day. Like, anything that we could think of outside of your typical prayer, mother wellness spaces, which by the way, they have all of those as well.

We really wanted to make [00:24:00] them meaningful so that people could get that respite throughout their working day.

AJ: So let’s back it up a bit. Where did the team find ideas and how to make the design of the space fit into their culture?

Caitlin Turner : our inspiration for the design was the fabric and the fusion of the Toronto locale. So, being one of the most diverse cities in the world and thinking about, like, how we could create that diversity. Within the materiality selected for the project.

 So we use like a lot of rich materials, different furniture from like European manufacturers, hospitality, like some stuff that was different than what you would typically see in a corporate practice. we had a lot of layered wood tones or, fusion of materials. So like the handrail on the stair, like you put your hand on it, it moves from wood.

To brass, right? And there’s just something really beautiful and tactile about touching different materials. And I think even some of the materials we chose for the walls, there were nods to Toronto, like some brick veneer, that’s a nod to our brickwork community. But like [00:25:00] texture plastered, working with local artists and local craftsmen.

And that’s a really dying art. A lot of that stuff, like hand troweled plaster, Venetian plastered texture walls. Those things are things that I think over the last few years, The amount of trades that are doing those are really limited. So it was a challenge for us as a design team to source those people and work with them to create something meaningful.

But the space is so rich and as you journey throughout the floors, there’s these Easter egg moments where materiality changes softly and you get a new wall texture. And I think in a very timeless way, You don’t have too many things, but it is a really experiential space in terms of materiality and details as well.

 a unique experience across the three floors.

AJ: Now, as you might recall. This project won many awards from Shaw Contract’s Best of design competition. So I wanted to know, what made working with Shaw Contract on this project so special?

Caitlin Turner : I think flooring really serves as a versatile, but also an important component in [00:26:00] workplace projects. You know, it It plays a really pivotal role in enhancing your sustainability goals, your acoustic goals. And I think those are really. Critical for BCG. One of the things the design team wanted to focus on is having this sustainable project, but that sustainability can be sexy.

 for us, really choosing a manufacturer like Shaw, who can support both these goals, our sustainability targets, and yet delivering such a beautiful product, playing this pivotal role enhancing both acoustics and the aesthetics. And think led to great success on the project.

AJ: And we’ll be right back after this short message.

 Welcome back to Once Upon a Project.

 So what might a day in the new office feel like? I asked Caitlin to walk us through the user experience, a day in the life of the average BCG employee.

Caitlin Turner : So I think if you could imagine what’s the journey or experience of space, right? So if you think about a typical office, right? You come in, multi floor [00:27:00] offices are pretty much the same in terms of footprint, typically, right? Like you have your base building ceiling, a lot of it’s like T bar ceiling, right?

That grid ceiling. Windows around the outside, people are connecting via the elevator lobby, you know, if you’re working on floor 20, you might not see your colleague on floor 19 ever, right? Because your paths throughout the day don’t naturally intersect, right? People also, humans take the least passive resistance in terms of traveling a floor plate, and they take almost the laziest and the same path, right?

We’re very much creatures of habit. People sort of you can map it very easily. So one of the things That we really wanted to think about it. I think that the whole goal of changing this, like, structural, nature of the building and creating this atrium was really to flip that on its head, right?

Because you’re not going to draw people to another floor, unless there’s something you’re interested in. In it for them to go there, right? So you have to create something that is so meaningful that they can’t be ignored. You have to make it so exciting over [00:28:00] there that they’ve got FOMO if they stay over here.

And I think that’s very unique to the Boston Consulting space is that This atrium space and it connects reception and the client’s experience to the practice or, employee floors to their central cafe is a thing that draws people. It’s like the magnet that brings people together. And I think You know, if you think about the typical building space, right, you don’t really understand the floors,

Like in a lot of buildings, you don’t really experience the nature of being in like such a high tower with this sort of experience. But once you start to create atrium spaces, man, you can start to see that expanse of floors, all of a sudden you’re looking down below into the next floor below, into the city beyond.

It’s quite an amazing sort of, I’m a little person in a big, World kind of experience, right? you’re expanding this, the nature and the architecture of the building. So I think, compared to a typical office space, we’ve tried to flip that on that at 10 and intentionally. [00:29:00] So we wanted people to be like, I want to be in this space and it is the busiest space whenever you go there, it’s humming with people, no matter what time of day it is, they’re working, they’re socializing, they’re catching up with colleagues.

It really is an amazing space.

AJ: From Caitlin’s description, the height of the atrium, the flooding of natural light, it sort of reminds me of the feeling of awe people have walking into a church or cathedral.

Was that the intention of the design team?

Caitlin Turner : Yeah, the comparison to Cathedral. That’s an interesting, an interesting idea. I think there’s something magical when you go into Cathedral type spaces where you are at the floor, feet on the floor, looking up in the ceiling and feeling this expanse of space. Again, it almost. helps to solidify in a way our problems or maybe feel bigger than they are, there’s something nice about feeling like you are a small thing in a big space. I believe, there’s this all moment. You’re like, wow, this is [00:30:00] impactful. This is amazing. You know, this, Atrium, like it defies gravity almost in a way, I can remember the design team being like, wow, it’s just so amazing when you’re standing there.

And the atrium does the same thing. Cause when you’re at the base and you’re looking up and you’re seeing the floors above and the stair connecting, again, it’s this meaningful thing that I am part of a larger, a larger thing. And I think in organizations in a post pandemic world and hybrid nature.

A lot of people lose connection to that organizational brand DNA that you’re doing important work. And I think Boston Consulting Group, they know the importance of their group and their space can help instill that, you are part of something bigger, something grander than your day to day task whatever that task may be.

AJ: This is important work, and we know that it’s not always the public’s perception that what a designer does is deeply impactful. There is real value in what design can do for humanity. So I asked Caitlin, what are the lessons the [00:31:00] design community can learn from this project?

Caitlin Turner : I

Think what the design community can really learn. I think we should recognize that we’re in a very odd time,A lot of organizations are trying to mandate or magnet people back into the office, and it’s not going as planned,

I think a lot of organizations are, those who are trying to motivate are saying, it’s not going as planned. Happening the way I want it to be. People aren’t returning at the pace. We want them to be, mandates. Some organizations are mandating. What is the consequence of that mandate? I think there’s a lot of conversations that are happening in workplace design, but really what I want people to look at this project and understand is that Boston Consulting Group Was hybrid pre pandemic and I think that’s interesting because a lot of in the pandemic remember people saying like nobody’s ever worked in hybrid work before it’s like yes actually professional services firms have been doing it forever and they know a lot of things about hybrid work.

I think the second piece of that is creating a space that earns people’s commute that helps draw them back in, but supports their work behavior and their [00:32:00] high performance work is key, because what I find is that people don’t think About their workday till the end and they think was my commute worth it and you know in lots of cities Toronto is a prime example.

The commute is long for a lot of people, you’re in New York Hannah’s in Chicago, right? That’s a long commute that people are doing and so when they get there and they have their day and they’re leaving at the end of the day people reflect they self reflect on their commutes and they think was that worth my trip in and I think Organizations can learn from really purposeful design interventions And experiences of space and how people journey throughout the space throughout the day and understand that if you get that and you create that high performance workplace, people will be more likely to come in because you will be giving back to them.

I think a long time ago, or years ago, people. I think it’s really important that people took for granted that people commuted into the office, People took for granted that you came to work five days a week, and we can no longer take that for granted. You have to showcase to them and employees how important the work is [00:33:00] that they’re doing on a day to day.

And you do that through health and wellness offerings. You do that through creating, Meeting rooms and team rooms that really engage and drive outcomes. You do that through reinforcing your culture and your brand through the way you design and, create architecture and inspirational moments.

And I think you remind people like employees, how important they are to your organization and then they commit back, It’s this community thing where you’re committing to them and they’re committing to you. And I think they’ve done this very successfully as an organization, but I think the space reflects that as well.

AJ: But what did Caitlin learn from this project?

Caitlin Turner : I think I learned a lot about myself as both an interior designer, but also as a person who deeply values and, and is very committed to client relationships and team relationships, this team. Bonding that was created by setting a culture of collaboration and a common goal and working together.

Like I said, rolling up your [00:34:00] sleeves, no matter if it’s. My swim lane or yours and working together for a common goal was amazing for me. I think it, as an interior designer, it pushed me quite frankly. this was a high profile client with the brightest minds in Canada working there. So whether it was focus groups or visioning or presenting to their partnership group, I had to bring my A game every minute of every day.

 and that pushed me and it was challenging. I’m not going to sugar coat it for me at, many moments, personallyto have such a focus on my profession at that time. But I feel like I’ve just grown so much as an interior designer. And I really felt that effort and energy that I put in, they respect it as an organization and as a client group, I have to say, and maybe because they’re consultants in a way themselves.

So they really see when someone’s going above and beyond, but it did, it pushed me to, get outside your comfort zone and propose ideas that maybe you’re going to get laughed out of the room for someone’s going to call you crazy. But you know what? I believed in my [00:35:00] heart, those were the best decisions for the project and we’re going to create something magical.

And so I really had to say like, no, I can do this. I can stand in front of this room or this partnership group and sell this idea and it’s going to be great. And I think, you know, there’s a, Competence and a trust that’s required in all things interior design and projects and you have to build that trust with your client But they gave it to me and I didn’t take it for granted and I could talk about this project all day It’s like very near and dear to my heart now, but it grew me as an interior designer.

Absolutely You know my 20 years in HOK that project I think I saw more growth for myself professionally and as an interior designer than I had in the years prior.

AJ: We never know, when embarking on a project, how it might change us. What it might teach us, the connections we might make. It’s like going on a first date or starting a new relationship. So much lies in the unknown. But hopefully, there’s also a willingness to grow, to learn, [00:36:00] to step into a potentially new era.

However, it’s not just the designer who is changed by the project. Actually, It’s the users who stand to be impacted in a more frequent and ongoing way, which leads me to my next question. How has the user response been to the building and how are you measuring this?

Caitlin Turner : I think post occupancy surveys for organizations, no matter what the scale and size and for interior designers is really important, sometimes you try new things and you need to understand, are they working? Because, Often we’re designing an interior design for workplace, sometimes environments that people have never really worked in before, right?

So you’re proposing ideas based on benchmarking or research or the information you’ve collected about the organization. But I think it’s always good to go back and reflect and understand what’s working well. Are there things for improvement? Because small tweaks can be made. And these are major investments organizations are making.

So. [00:37:00] I often tell clients it’s always good to save a bit of the budget at the end for a small tweak because you might have a furniture setting that doesn’t work, or you might want to add some additional lighting, you know, as people adjust to their new work environment. we did complete a post occupancy focus group for Boston Consulting Group.

One of their consultants and I ran it together, which is also unusual, they have their own consulting team in house that is, of the best in the world. So, they ran that session and I participated. and quite honestly, when you,put so much heart into projects as interior designers, sometimes it can be hard to receive Constructive criticism, if you will, they were very, very kind, very, I think, excited about their space.

A couple of big learnings, though, for me one is about the education of what’s available when you create a space that has all these amazing things and as I mentioned before Humans are like, you know creatures of habit. They will go to their same places on the day to day You need to remind them.

There’s a music and sound room. There’s a psychiatry room, [00:38:00] there’s a mothering room There’s this amazing coffee machine that’s on this floor There’s elevated meeting rooms, any of those things people don’t understand, and they might not experience them on the day to day. So that was a big takeaway for me.

I think secondly, some of the things that we had. created in terms of work settings and some of the furniture, they would have some that were extremely popular and others that weren’t really used, but there was like a technology learning there or something that they could tweak. They were quite minor, to be honest.

 I think a lot of the upfront work that we’ve done in business unit interviews and focus groups really paid off on the back end that front end gathering of information.

And just like the nature of providing so many thoughtful integrated moments, I think was very well received.

AJ: Inclusivity has been a hot topic of discussion, But Caitlin’s stance is really informed by her passion for thoughtfulness and Intentionality. She stands in direct opposition to a one [00:39:00] size fits all approach to design.

Caitlin Turner : designing a space in which people feel included or feel like they can be their true selves is really important, right? I think the pandemic really heightened a lot of things. I think here, especially where a lot of mental health issues, so there’s a lot of, , design elements that are to support, people’s mental well being within the space.

I think in terms of inclusivity as well, the design and the work settings, they vary and they’re intentional. So we leaned on our neurodiversity research and,every phone room is not the same. there are different lighting temperatures

They have convertible offices, So they can be a private office or a meeting room. There’s three or four types of those. There’s so much diversity within the design. So that when people come in, it’s not like you all get the same thing. Because that doesn’t work, right? It’s like, designing for everyone is misfitting for everyone.

So I think we were really intentional to think about how people might [00:40:00] work. How they might feel included. And how that’s okay. And that varies for people. We have quiet zones on the floor. We have areas that have brighter lighting. We have areas with more dim lighting. We have different furniture. if you’re more of a fidgeter or you like more of a buzzier space versus a totally acoustically sound space, all of those have been included another element for diversity inclusion that we really focused on was our art program.

So BCG had, a collection of art, a small collection. They wanted to increase that collection and we thought this is a really amazing way because I think in the pandemic, a lot of people focused on their local community. How can we give back? How can we support our local community? So rather than, just procuring a general art through an art consultant, we gave them very specific guidelines,

so we have diverse artists from the BIPOC community. We have Canadian artists, From the indigenous community, all of that was really intentional. And then we designed QR codes at the art so people can actually scan the QR code, which is a great thing from the pandemic. Everybody knows how to [00:41:00] use a QR code now, and then they can read more about the artists and tie them to other artists.

So really that engagement beyond just their workplace was really important in terms of community. And then the food offerings. Toronto is a big food scene. We have amazing, diverse collection of restaurants, and it’s like the thing I’m most proud of as a Torontonian is our diversity. having one food provider with a back of house kitchen who serves you turkey sandwiches every day, like, That’s not good, right?

That’s not inclusion. And so what they do is they partner with local restaurants with passion, and they bring in boxed lunches for people that vary, and support different, you know, dietary restrictions or religious food restrictions. And I think that’s really interesting too, because it gives back to your local community, but it’s also respecting that people don’t want to all eat the same thing.

And isn’t there something great about that? And it’s very Torontonian, So I think those elements that both, I think our operationally, but also the design supported were really important for the project

AJ: This may make curious. What do people not know about the [00:42:00] design community in Toronto?

Caitlin Turner : What do people not know about the Toronto design scene? I think is a very interesting and loaded question. I think that one thing to note is just, I think there’s a real appetite and community of design here. but it is still a relatively small community, compared to other major cities like Chicago and New York, you know, my, colleagues are there.

I think we tend to have, smaller scale projects Because a lot of people’s head offices, global organizations aren’t. Like, they have a Toronto headquarters or Calgary headquarters in the Canadian design scene, but they’re not like their major headquarters is in San Fran or it’s in New York.

 So the scale of the projects, and quite frankly, the budget of the projects tend to be lower than some of the major US work. So I think the Toronto design scene is about really creating something meaningful, but also doing it with less. more limited budgets, you have to be meaningful in your selections.

You have to create these moments, but they can’t be [00:43:00] everywhere. You’re not building, 500, 000 square foot campuses here. those projects, they’re few and far between if, if exist at all in the Toronto scene. So, it’s a lot of renovating within existing towers. And so, how do you make interesting space when you’re working within, like, a standard, slab to slab?

Ceiling height. It’s a different challenge, but I think an interesting one and I think there’s in the last 10 years, I think the Toronto based design firms, have really been pushing the boundaries on what interior design looks like in Canada. And I think that’s something we’re all proud of, it’s a competitive market, but there’s a lot of accolades that we give to each other because we understand we’re advancing the interior design profession and the recognition for the interior design profession.

But also we’re advancing, our Canadian and Toronto, design community and we’re really proud of that. But I will say because we were shortlisted for the Interior Design Boy Awards last year in December and we came and me and my colleagues sat there and they started to show the projects, it was so fast.

I remember it was flipping through all the work and we just both looked at each other. We were like, [00:44:00] Oh my God, this work is like the best work from across the world. Like that work doesn’t even exist in Canada. My peers and competitors were like, Oh my goodness, even to get there was like a life changing career moment to be an interior design magazine even for my mom to see me be an interior design magazine, like the pride that she felt for that, I think was amazing.

You know what I mean? Because it’s like a lot of Canadian projects, they don’t have the scale Like the bar is at a different level, and so I think it’s just amazing.

AJ: It’s like your mouth. It’s the floor. It’s amazing I do know what she means. Literally. Having family that really understands design see your work being recognized for excellence. It’s a lifelong achievement. Her mother should be very proud as This project for BCG combines the best of architecture, wellness, sustainability,

and an amazing sensory experience to make something that has never existed [00:45:00] before. I mean, I’m ready to start commuting from Minnesota. So the magnetism of the space is working. And honestly, Caitlyn has the best bar story. So this one time, I cut a giant hole into a building. How cool is that? . Once Upon a Project was produced by Surround, a podcast network by Sandow. special thanks to our producer, Hannah Vitti. Thanks for listening, and I can’t wait for you to hear our next story.