To achieve highly cinematic effects in video games, a production company needs multimillion-dollar budgets, a large staff, and a working environment that fosters creativity. When THQ, the southern California–based company behind such blockbuster games as Homefront, decided to set up its largest development studio in Montreal, it knew the office had to impart creativity.
“Because we expect our staff to create visually stunning products, we wanted that to be reflected in the studio: If the space is beautiful, then we can demand it of them,” says Johan Eile, THQ’s director of business development. “We also needed an extremely scalable and flexible environment, where our teams could communicate with each other in a cross-disciplinary way.”
In Montreal—the video game industry’s equivalent of Hollywood—THQ secured two lofty floors encompassing 57,000 square feet of space in the historic offices [once occupied by the] Montreal Gazette newspaper. The company also narrowed down its choice of designer to local firm id+s. “It’s the type of project where you can get quite creative. The budget wasn’t high, which made the challenge even more interesting,” says id+s Principal Susie Silveri, who worked on the THQ offices with project designer Stefania Pasto. “We needed to create an environment that would attract and retain outstanding talent. Montreal is a mecca for these companies, and competition is fierce.”
Youthful appeal meets sophistication
Realizing that the staff was accustomed to highly stimulating virtual environments, the designers looked to high degrees of contrast, while maintaining the restraint that exemplifies id+s’s work. They used a light hand in incorporating industrial elements and color into a clean-lined, elegantly monochromatic space. For the artists, who prefer a quiet and dark environment, the work area features a palette of dark grays from floor to ceiling. Meanwhile, the game designers, producers, and other staff members who need a more collaborative setting, work in brighter areas defined by white and natural wood. “It’s a good mix of closed, focused spaces and open environments,” says Eile.
Three curvy white portals outline primary circulation corridors and are also popular hangout spaces, outfitted with handy coffee stations and lounge seating. Because the workforce skews young, there are nods to youthful activity are throughout. For instance, one work area was inspired by skate parks; the lunch room has a “rest stop” theme; a bona fide conference table was painted green so it could double as a ping-pong table. “We wanted to cultivate a sense of playfulness,” says Silveri, who considered adding more graphical elements to the space, but refrained because the client wanted the focus to be on art produced in-house.
Organizing employee groups by design
And when faced with the very common challenge of how to avoid a monotonous sea of workstations, the designers incorporated a honeycomb-shaped layout using standard cubicle components. The hexagonal cells organize people into groups, while still providing each contributor ample work space. “People really like them, and they have tables in the middle so that you can have ad-hoc meetings,” says Eile. Sculptural arrangements of black metal poles, which conceal all the power and data cables routing to the workstations, also visually break up the space.
Even before the project won Quebec’s Grand Prix du Design award for office design in the category of 20,000 square feet or larger, THQ had already commissioned id+s to design their expansion to a third floor of the building. “The reaction has been phenomenal,” says Eile. “I think the firm managed to pull off a design that feels both slick and timeless, which is important because the industry moves so quickly—we didn’t want an office that would quickly feel dated.”
Key Design Highlights
- Three curvy portals form the main circulation routes, but also double as informal meeting and breakout areas.
- A hexagonal plan is used to avoid monotonous cubicle layouts; the honeycomb pattern becomes a recurring theme, also seen on the lunchroom’s floors.
- Catering to the mostly young staff, design elements reference youthful pastimes, including a skateboard ramp–like structure and a conference room table painted green to double as a ping pong table.
What 57,000 total square feet on two floors
Cost/sf Withheld at client’s request