A Look Inside Montreal's
"Coolest Office Space"

Lifework

What do Shaolin racoons, Apaches, magic, Jedis, and Herman Miller SAYL Chair have to do with TP1, the digital agency recently named "Montreal's Coolest Office Space"? Read on to find out and to take a look inside the award-winning walls of this creative company specializing in online, print, and media campaigns for private and institutional organizations, as well as artistic associations like the Montreal FRINGE Festival.

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What year was TP1 established? What led to that point? TP1 was founded in 2005. Up until then -- and for most of his career -- our founding partner Jan-Nicolas Vanderveken had been a freelancer. It has been suggested that he launched TP1 because he was tired of working alone in his basement.
Along with fellow founding partner Joseph Blauer, he assembled a team of 35 strategists, designers, and techies who combine their strengths to communicate in new ways -- and inspire others to do the same. TP1 stands for "Tous pour un," which is French for the Musketeers' motto, "All for one!"

Tell us about TP1: what you're passionate about, what inspires you, and where you're going. We love great design, new ideas, and cowboys. We like vintage posters, architecture, retro video games, playing Rock Band, Lego, karaoke, drinking beer, and jamming with the TP1 band (we're music lovers, as you probably guessed). We also really like fearless clients.

Last year, we organized the agency into teams. Instead of being grouped by specialty (strategy, user experience, design, project management, and technology), TP1 is now organized into five small, multi-disciplinary teams comprising a variety of talents to deliver great products. The teams even have names: Shaolin Racoons, Apaches, Right Clique, Magic, and The Jedis. This structure greatly influenced the way we designed the space.

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Tell us about that space. What do you like or dislike? What would you change? We wanted a space as creative as we are. That is, a space that could feed -- and accommodate -- the creativity that fuels everything we do.

First, we selected the building. We wanted an older, but well-maintained location with a lot of natural light. We found everything we wanted in the Castle Building, located in the heart of downtown Montreal. The owner is great to work with, and we even got a rooftop patio.

Despite the very tight turnaround time, the design team at Moureau Hauspy (MHAD) proved up to the challenge. The proposed design concept was resolutely transparent, with well-lit open spaces. Apart from a few closed, but glassed-in offices, the rest of the workspace is entirely open, with five distinct areas for each of our five teams.

The walls are mainly white, although a few are black slate for functional reasons (to display various projects and activities, and for brainstorming). The concrete floor has been left untouched, other than a simple tarnish. This gives the space an urban, industrial look, which is complemented by touches of wood for a warmer atmosphere.

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Most of the furniture was custom designed by the MHAD team. A few of the wooden tables, including one in the conference room, were made ​​from recycled bowling alley wood. A "pixelier" -- or a three-dimensional flipboard with multi-coloured sides -- was installed in the entrance to the agency. It establishes a connection between the visitors' waiting area and the rest of the workspace. Employees create original images by spinning the small cubes according to colour, making the "pixelier" a unique way to showcase our potential for innovation.

Special attention was given to lighting, both natural and artificial. Workstation lighting is avant-garde and flexible. We installed a system of pulleys, coloured cables, and sockets above each workstation, enabling each employee to adjust their own desired level of lighting.

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The layout also includes a large lounge and dining room with kitchenette. Comfort was one of our priorities. And although TP1's DNA is firmly digital, ideas are still born from old-fashioned words and images. To help keep the creativity flowing, MHAD created an "atelier" room with walls you can write on. Blackboards and white boards cover three of the walls, while the fourth is partially converted into a floor-to-ceiling cork board. The conference room is also primed for productivity with just-right ergonomics and a style that retains the building's original cachet.

We wanted to create an open, uncluttered, minimalist, functional workspace capable of expressing our collective identity and supporting the team's vast creative potential.

What we like the most about it? The rooftop terrasse, windows that actually open, the natural light, the "pixelier," the fact that it can be turned into a great party space (awesome speakers and central sound system) and our amazing Simonelli Appia espresso machine.

There's not much to dislike. After using the space for a few months, there were a few adjustments that needed to be made, such as the acoustics in one of the conference rooms and a lack of storage space for coats and boots during our Canadian winter.

You have SAYL Chairs in your space. Why did you choose them? The SAYL Chairs are probably the first thing we selected for the new office. There was a demo at MHAD, given to them by Herman Miller's Montreal branch, and we found the chair to be extremely comfortable and surprisingly well priced. We were also impressed by the fact that the SAYL won a Core77 design award. The Google Montreal office might have even copied us -- we spotted a few SAYLs in their new space!

We like that they're very comfortable and firm, perfect as a work chair, and offer good value, an amazing warranty, and original design. We've recommended it to others, and even loaned a few to one of our clients while they waited for delivery of their own.

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Do you have other Herman Miller pieces in the office? Eames Aluminum Group Management Chairs (mesh model for the boardroom and leather model for Jan-Nicolas' office). Great, timeless design. There's nothing not to like about them. We also have a couple Nelson Platform Benches and some Eames Molded Plastic Chairs.

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Lastly, are there any gadgets, desk accessories, or apps that TP1 can't do without? An orange Link task lamp by Pablo, a Tivoli Model One radio, TODO Blackboards by Erratum Design, the beer fridge (always stocked with McAuslan's beer, a local brewery). As for apps, we're avid Foursquare users (don't forget to check in when you visit). And Post-its!

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(Images: Cindy Boyce)

lifework2012-02-22 at 2.10.00 PM.jpgRepublished in partnership with Herman Miller Lifework. Originally posted by Amy Feezor.