Interiors Awards 2017: Office–Small
Designer: Henri Cleinge
Client: Crew Collective
“This office interior features an obvious contrast in material and color, which heightens the distinctions between the building’s classical and modern elements. The new insertions are separate from the existing design, allowing one to appreciate both aspects.” —Jury
The Montreal-based tech company Crew turned to local architect Henri Cleinge to design its unconventional headquarters, called Crew Collective, combining three programs—private offices, a semipublic coworking space, and a public cafe—under one historic ceiling. This particular ceiling, barrel-vaulted and adorned with painted plaster and gilded coffers, soars 46 feet above the former banking hall of the Royal Bank of Canada, dating from 1928 and located within the Royal Bank Tower in Old Montreal. Cleinge’s sophisticated design builds on the existing neoclassical interior to produce an inspiring, urbane space that embodies Crew’s creative culture.
Crew’s business is website and mobile design, with a team composed of design and development professionals. Reflecting the amalgam of today’s tech economy, Crew employees intermingle with freelance coworkers at Crew Collective.
The notion of the hybrid program began with Stephanie Liverani, Crew co-founder and chief operations officer. “I wanted Crew Collective to feel cozy and be a great representation of Crew’s [physical] home, since we mostly live in the digital world,” she says. “I brought the concept to Henri and elaborated on the elements that we felt were important, such as access to lots of work space, quiet pods, outlets at each seat, and the ambiance of comfort and relaxation.”
“The idea was to revitalize an existing bank by creating a new use for it without compromising its history,” says Cleinge. To accomplish this, he faced two challenges: designing a contemporary intervention within a historic, neoclassical space and establishing different program zones while promoting a dynamic work environment. The solution leaves the original interior largely intact, taking cues from its brass details for a series of installations that accommodate its new functions as they transition from the public to the private realm.
Entering the 12,000-square-foot interior, visitors encounter a public cafe within a glowing atmosphere replete with the bank’s limestone walls and inlaid marble floors. The cafe can accommodate 62 patrons at custom-designed white oak tables, a newly installed concrete bar, and lounge seating. Baristas fill orders against the backdrop of the original brass-detailed bank teller stands, which separate the cafe from the private Crew offices beyond.
Framing the cafe’s sides, four rectangular enclosures contain brown cowhide-upholstered booth seating for 36 temporary workers. With a ceiling height of 7 feet 6 inches, and sheathed in brass-plated steel, these enclosures read as installations within the larger bank hall. They mediate between the public cafe and the adjacent semiprivate area for 20 coworkers while maintaining a level of transparency.
A longer brass-wrapped enclosure sits behind the bank teller stands, housing conference rooms that are downlit by small square recessed LED fixtures. With brass walls, white oak tables and floors, and clear glass partitions, the conference rooms appear luminous, defining the border of the private offices occupied by Crew and its subsidiary Unsplash, a collective of digital photography. Featuring white oak and rolled-steel desks in an open arrangement, this private office area stretches along the rear limestone wall, which is punctuated by towering arched windows. Staff can also gather and work in such places as the employee lounge and kitchen.
Since opening, Crew Collective has garnered considerable local attention, earning recognition for its sophisticated design, comfortable work setting, and welcoming atmosphere. Here, the community “can feel focused and creative, whether they are studying, working on a project, coding, or holding a business meeting,” says Liverani. More importantly, “the new design allows [them] to understand what Crew believes in, and our main focus on inspiring creativity in each of us.”
who Architect: Henri Cleinge. Project team: Henri Cleinge; Paulette Taillefer. Contractor: Gestion Georges Coulombe. Consultants: Pageau Morel.
what Laminate: Formica. Drywall: CGC. Lighting: Sistemalux; Authentik; Linea P. Hardware: Dorma. Glass: Techni-Verre. Workstations: Mobilier de Gaspé. Seating: Herman Miller; EQ3; Linea P Upholstery: Linea P. Tables: Mobilier de Gaspé. Architectural/custom woodworking: Kastella