Contract - Good Energy: Red Bull Canada office expansion, Toronto, by Johnson Chou Inc

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Good Energy: Red Bull Canada office expansion, Toronto, by Johnson Chou Inc

16 December, 2011

-By Jean Nayar


If Red Bull gives you wings as the energy drink’s tagline promises, then you might say the company’s recently completed Canadian headquarters space is like the wind beneath them. Designed by Toronto-based Johnson Chou (see interview with Chou, page 136), the founder of his namesake design firm, this 5,000-square-foot third phase expansion of Red Bull’s office brims with surprising juxtapositions of materials, light, and form that engage the eye and craftily lift the spirits.
Located on the second level above shops in an 80-year-old building on bustling Queen Street West in Toronto, the crisp-yet-casual flavor of the space was driven, says Chou, by Red Bull’s CEO, Jim Dailey, whose holistic approach to doing business was central to the program. To expand awareness of its singular product and reinforce its brand, “Red Bull has developed a unique form of corporate sponsorship of race car drivers, skateboarders, athletes, musicians, and visual artists,” explains Chou. “It’s not just a one-shot deal, but instead is conceived of as a kind of mentorship in which Red Bull participates in supporting an individual in his or her career.” And so, says Chou, the offices were designed not only to provide an inspiring work environment for Red Bull’s employees, but also to nurture and express the vitality, imagination, and charisma of the celebrity athletes and artists it supports.

Expressing vitality
To integrate Red Bull’s mentorship program into the mix of the overall office scheme, the design team was charged with executing the project in three phases. The first phase involved creating a space in the Toronto building for Red Bull’s “Music Academy,” which is a month-long music event that the company hosts every two years—often in pop-up spaces—in different cities around the globe. At these events, pianists, vocalists, trumpeters, DJs, and other musicians converge—at Red Bull’s expense—on a city to participate in a series of lectures, symposia, and performances. After the recording studios and spaces Chou had created for the Toronto event had fulfilled their function, Chou was called upon again to repurpose them, in the second phase of the project, into the Red Bull office headquarters. The third phase expansion, featured here, extends the office to the south of the second phase. According to Chou, the client’s brief for the latest phase was three-fold: to create a space that reinterprets the initial space yet remains consistent with it; inspire administrative and accounting staff, who are often relegated to bland spaces; and incorporate predominantly reclaimed materials.

A mix of metaphors and materials
At the heart of Chou’s scheme for this space is the notion of “transformation.” Emblematic of the effect of the Red Bull drink on those who consume it—as well the effect of the Red Bull company on the musicians, artists, and athletes it supports—a mix of visual metaphors work in tandem to subliminally “create a narrative for visitors that evokes the idea of a transformative experience,” says Chou. The Red Bull office is thus a predominantly minimalist setting that embraces contrasts and evokes its context.
Inside, a series of additional design elements and spaces continue to play off the idea of “transformative vessels,” enriching the visual narrative. Chou says the “boardroom interior is enclosed with rib-like maple strips that make it feel like you’re in a sauna—a reference to Canadian nature and landscape.”
Contrasting materials—granite, glass, felt, stainless and hot-rolled steel, reclaimed tamarack, oak, and cherry woods—add visual interest to the space. “There’s a mix of high and low, rough against smooth, dark against light,” says the designer. And playful touches—like a skateboard ramp that transforms into an extended work surface and a feather lamp in the lounge area—keep the mood light. The space is devoid of “overt advertising of the company,” says Chou. The only reference to the product is the series of wall-mounted, glass-fronted mini refrigerators containing cans of Red Bull in the bar, yet the unique spirit of Red Bull clearly shines through. “It’s not a traditional office. It’s a space full of laughter and people who enjoy being together,” says Chou. “I wanted to evoke a feeling of energy here.” Mission accomplished.  

Red Bull Canada office expansion. Designer Johnson Chou Inc. Client Red Bull Canada. 
Where Toronto, Ontario, Canada. What 5,000 total square feet on one floor. 
Cost/sf Withheld at client’s request.






Good Energy: Red Bull Canada office expansion, Toronto, by Johnson Chou Inc

16 December, 2011


Tom Arban

If Red Bull gives you wings as the energy drink’s tagline promises, then you might say the company’s recently completed Canadian headquarters space is like the wind beneath them. Designed by Toronto-based Johnson Chou (see interview with Chou, page 136), the founder of his namesake design firm, this 5,000-square-foot third phase expansion of Red Bull’s office brims with surprising juxtapositions of materials, light, and form that engage the eye and craftily lift the spirits.
Located on the second level above shops in an 80-year-old building on bustling Queen Street West in Toronto, the crisp-yet-casual flavor of the space was driven, says Chou, by Red Bull’s CEO, Jim Dailey, whose holistic approach to doing business was central to the program. To expand awareness of its singular product and reinforce its brand, “Red Bull has developed a unique form of corporate sponsorship of race car drivers, skateboarders, athletes, musicians, and visual artists,” explains Chou. “It’s not just a one-shot deal, but instead is conceived of as a kind of mentorship in which Red Bull participates in supporting an individual in his or her career.” And so, says Chou, the offices were designed not only to provide an inspiring work environment for Red Bull’s employees, but also to nurture and express the vitality, imagination, and charisma of the celebrity athletes and artists it supports.

Expressing vitality
To integrate Red Bull’s mentorship program into the mix of the overall office scheme, the design team was charged with executing the project in three phases. The first phase involved creating a space in the Toronto building for Red Bull’s “Music Academy,” which is a month-long music event that the company hosts every two years—often in pop-up spaces—in different cities around the globe. At these events, pianists, vocalists, trumpeters, DJs, and other musicians converge—at Red Bull’s expense—on a city to participate in a series of lectures, symposia, and performances. After the recording studios and spaces Chou had created for the Toronto event had fulfilled their function, Chou was called upon again to repurpose them, in the second phase of the project, into the Red Bull office headquarters. The third phase expansion, featured here, extends the office to the south of the second phase. According to Chou, the client’s brief for the latest phase was three-fold: to create a space that reinterprets the initial space yet remains consistent with it; inspire administrative and accounting staff, who are often relegated to bland spaces; and incorporate predominantly reclaimed materials.

A mix of metaphors and materials
At the heart of Chou’s scheme for this space is the notion of “transformation.” Emblematic of the effect of the Red Bull drink on those who consume it—as well the effect of the Red Bull company on the musicians, artists, and athletes it supports—a mix of visual metaphors work in tandem to subliminally “create a narrative for visitors that evokes the idea of a transformative experience,” says Chou. The Red Bull office is thus a predominantly minimalist setting that embraces contrasts and evokes its context.
Inside, a series of additional design elements and spaces continue to play off the idea of “transformative vessels,” enriching the visual narrative. Chou says the “boardroom interior is enclosed with rib-like maple strips that make it feel like you’re in a sauna—a reference to Canadian nature and landscape.”
Contrasting materials—granite, glass, felt, stainless and hot-rolled steel, reclaimed tamarack, oak, and cherry woods—add visual interest to the space. “There’s a mix of high and low, rough against smooth, dark against light,” says the designer. And playful touches—like a skateboard ramp that transforms into an extended work surface and a feather lamp in the lounge area—keep the mood light. The space is devoid of “overt advertising of the company,” says Chou. The only reference to the product is the series of wall-mounted, glass-fronted mini refrigerators containing cans of Red Bull in the bar, yet the unique spirit of Red Bull clearly shines through. “It’s not a traditional office. It’s a space full of laughter and people who enjoy being together,” says Chou. “I wanted to evoke a feeling of energy here.” Mission accomplished.  

Red Bull Canada office expansion. Designer Johnson Chou Inc. Client Red Bull Canada. 
Where Toronto, Ontario, Canada. What 5,000 total square feet on one floor. 
Cost/sf Withheld at client’s request.



 


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