Watching It Unfold

TEXT JOHN BENTLEY MAYS

PROJECT THE JUGGERNAUT, TORONTO, ONTARIO

ARCHITECT GIANNONE ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS INC.

PHOTOS BEN RAHN/A-FRAME

Film editing is usually done in the dark, but it need not be a gloomy enterprise for that reason. Brightening up its facilities while ensuring both the lightless solitudes and the continual interchanges essential to its business were the tasks handed to Toronto architect Pina Petricone (partner in Giannone Associates) by The Juggernaut, a post-production, design and animation studio. Petricone’s solution is a warmly inventive reply to The Juggernaut’s commission, and an engaging architectural interpretation of this behind-the-scenes company’s art.

The setting of Petricone’s project on Wellington Street West is a century-old warehouse in a downtown district of such relics from the heyday of heavy industrialization: squared-off, multi-storey, stolid brick buildings for the most part, with oblong windows punched in plain faades. Entering the reception area of The Juggernaut’s ground-floor offices, the visitor is not immediately transported from the industrial neighbourhood into the weightlessness of the firm’s activity. The sandblasted brick walls and timber frames of the old building are still visible, and they define the rectilinear shape of the 3,600-square-foot space. Light spills in through standard-issue windows that open to the side and toward the street.

But step inside, and you know you’re not in Kansas any longer. Video monitors mounted in cold-rolled steel cases boldly announce The Juggernaut’s mtier of mass-mediated digital imagery. In a striking gesture of industry-based symbolism, Petricone has dropped between walls and reception area a number of large, long plywood boxes that resemble film strips scaled up into three dimensions. These ribbon-like features lunge into the space at floor level, creating benches and tabletops, soar up the walls in front of the windows, then arc over the interior. Instead of wholly blocking the historic husk of the building, they generate an attractive visual flutter of old and new, structure and image, load-bearing modernity and postmodern lightness.

The boxes have been clad with blue rubber to suggest what the architect calls the “tranquility” of the hard, highly focused editing work that goes on within the studio. They also connote the energetic moves intrinsic to the editor’s craft–the jump cuts and splices, slashing and stitching and the like. Viewed as a total ensemble, the reception area serves as a strategic transition from the early 20th-century streetscape into the dark editing suites beyond–a zone in which external illumination is lessened and the building’s sturdy structure lightened, and in which The Juggernaut’s basic mission is poetically articulated.

Employees have been encouraged to make something personal of the editing rooms at the heart of this complex. Each of the suites features an editing console and a conference area, but one also contains a drum set and an electric guitar, and another has been decorated with a few sticks of favourite furniture from home. These intimate touches in the editing areas speak of a corporate philosophy attuned to the idiosyncrasies and work rhythms of its disciplined creative people– to their needs for solitary labour at some times, and, at others, for meetings with colleagues and clients in comfortable surroundings.

But they also express the relaxed sociability that Petricone has celebrated in every dimension of her Juggernaut scheme. Instead of burying the kitchen in a dark interior room, for example, she has moved it forward into the reception area. Result: an entry area that can quickly morph from an informative interface between The Juggernaut and its clients into a place for casual lunches and large parties. In both the large elements and small details of The Juggernaut refitting, Petricone has accommodated well the fluidity and post-industrial flow that so vividly characterize the universe of digital media. CA

John Bentley Mays is a Toronto writer.

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CLIENT THE JUGGERNAUT

ARCHITECT TEAM RALPH GIANNONE, PINA PETRICONE, MICHAEL RIETTA, SARAH IWATA

MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL VENNERI MECHANICAL & ELECTRICAL CONSULTING ENGINEERS

CONTRACTOR JEVLAN CONTRACTING & INTERIORS

AREA 3,595 FT2

BUDGET WITHHELD

COMPLETION MARCH 2008

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