Enlightened Government

New Offices, Les Terrasses de la Chaudire, Hull, Quebec

Accommodation Planning and Interior Design, Architectural and Engineering Services/ Public Works and Government Services Canada

Architects working in the Accommodation Planning and Interior Design and Accommodation Management Branch of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) have introduced new “innovative officing” principles to an open concept office that accommodates approximately 44 public service employees situated in Hull, Quebec. Having first adopted this strategy for workplace design in their own offices, the interior designers and accommodation management staff are now transforming a variety of government offices in kind.

According to architect Guillermo Ceppi, National Manager of the Accommodation Planning and Interior Design group, innovative officing “provides the opportunity for increased organizational effectiveness and productivity” and “heightens employee morale.” Les Terrasses de la Chaudire is based on current thinking in office organization, which does away with small cluttered cubicles in favour of a non-hierarchic open office with a variety of communal spaces and activity areas.

The staff at PWGSC required larger than standard work surfaces, and subsequently, the support and shared meeting rooms were adjusted in an effort to ameliorate size, acoustical insulation, and ventilation. Two zones were delineated in a 62 metre long, 13 metre wide and 4 metre high space formerly used for storage by the National Library of Canada: the north side is designated as “calm/private,” while “active/public” activities are at the south. Corridors, like urban streets, animate the office with twists leading into “piazzas” with particular functions: teaming areas, a reference centre, a production room, a library, and an “Oasis” relaxation area. Working areas are located at the exterior window wall to take advantage of natural light, and support areas are situated along a glazed partition at the ground floor public corridor to buffer the workstations from too much potentially disruptive activity. A homelike atmosphere is effected in the support and enclosed spaces and corridors with the use of a variety of high-efficiency accent lighting, colourful walls, and standard height ceilings. Low-cost but sturdy materials and furnishings include refurbished surplus systems furniture, metal file cabinets, new plywood tables, industrial metal shelving, cork, painted drywall and corrugated plastic.

The goal of creating a collaborative and flexible office culture is achieved with such featured spaces as dedicated individual workstations, which support both quiet solitary work and collegial interaction; teaming areas allotted to each group space; enclosed meeting rooms; two quiet rooms for confidential phone calls or one-on-one discussions; an “Oasis” area providing a refuge from incoming calls and a relaxed atmosphere in which to read or have a cup of coffee; a production centre with printers and other shared office equipment, and an operations centre housing high-performance computers. A centrally located boardroom is separated from the rest of the office by a glazed garage door that can be opened for large meetings and presentations.

Client: Public Works and Government Services Canada: Accommodation Planning and Interior Design, and Accommodation Management

Design team: Guillermo Ceppi, Martin Contal, Colette Smith, Renee Amyot.

Area: 800 m2

Budget: $560,000

Completion: April 1999

Photography: Photo Features