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Backgrounder: 210 King Street East
April 22, 2009

Situated in downtown Toronto, 210 King Street East is the current home of Autodesk's Toronto office. This eclectic workspace spans four historic Toronto warehouses, built between the 1930s and 1960s, with a total 145,000 square feet of office space. Toronto architecture firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg was commissioned to carry out the integration and renovation of the warehouses, which was completed in November 1997. At the time, the company was called Alias|wavefront, later renamed to Alias Systems in 2004, and subsequently acquired by Autodesk in January 2006.

Three of the warehouses, including 204 and 214 King Street East, are designated as heritage buildings, requiring that original features of the buildings be preserved. This greatly limited the extent of possible renovations. 210 King Street East, on the other hand, suffered damage from a fire and did not receive the same designation, making it an ideal candidate for the main entrance to the office. This space was renewed through the creation of an expansive two-storey lobby and striking steel staircase, the signature feature of the office.

The open-concept office layout balances both public and private spaces. Designed with socialization and collaboration in mind, employees can congregate in the central kitchen and cafe of each floor, as well as on a rooftop terrace atop 214 King Street East. Quiet work environments are found around the periphery of the office, offering secluded spaces to focus on work. The landmarks of each floor, including the kitchen, cafe, main foyers are mirrored on each floor.

The renovation incorporates exposed brick walls and original hardwood floors with industrial-inspired steel and concrete accents. Adding to the loft-like atmosphere, ceilings span 12 to 14 feet in height and wooden beams, cable routing, and ventilation systems are exposed. In total, 600 miles of cable was laid throughout the building. Diamond plate steel ramps mitigate the differences in floor heights of the three westerly buildings. The floors in 214 King Street East, which lay almost half a floor below the rest of the office, create a split-level effect.

It was not without difficulty that both the goals of preserving historic buildings and creating a unique high-tech workspace were achieved. However, 210 King Street East is a prime example of how these two values can be blended into a functional, yet appealing and interesting work environment.

In the past, stories about this renovation have been featured in the following publications:

Small, Medium, Large
Azure
November/December 1998
Vol. 14, no. 120, pp. 34-39.
Case Study 3: The Funky Fort of Nimble Teams
Eciffo
Spring 2000
Vol. 36, pp. 36-43.

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