Zulu Alpha Kilo's Collaborative Cool

Workspace Tour

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Name: Zak Mroueh, Chief Creative Officer & CEO, Zulu Alpha Kilo
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 8,000 square feet
Years occupied: 4

While many advertising agencies have a free-spirited and collaborative approach to the creative process, few have taken that philosophy to heart to the degree that Zulu Alpha Kilo’s founder Zak Mroueh has. The first glimpse of Zulu’s commitment to "combined creative forces" greets visitors at reception in the form of a large, in-progress work of art. The canvas and nearby set of paints and brushes, where all are invited to add their unique mark to this non-traditional version of a guest book, are positioned in front of a motion sensor activated camera that captures each contribution to the art installation.

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Free of the segregated departments found in most agency spaces, Zulu’s sleek design forgoes traditional desks and private offices in favor of long, communal tables, where longtime staff work side-by-side with new neighbors at their ever-changing work stations. Various meeting rooms styled in different moods are set up around the office, including an authentic 1950’s tribute to the “Mad Men” era of advertising, and a rock-lined hall leading to the tranquil, light-filled Zen Room.

Recognizing that the kitchen often serves as the creative and social hub of a home, Zulu’s kitchen harnesses that relaxed, naturally occurring inspiration by balancing its fully functional culinary elements with a high-tech boardroom set-up that offers a state-of-the-art projector and sound system for informal brainstorming sessions and client meetings. The seeds of creative media campaigns for Audi, Bell Canada, Coco-Cola Canada, Corona, Interac Association, Service Inspired Restaurants (Jack Astor's), and Workopolis (among others) have been germinated by imaginative teams in this industrial kitchen.

Leaving the building's original brick, beams and concrete exposed, the glass and magnetic steel that make up the majority of newly added walls and doors are a contemporary design choice that helps keep the focus on the art and ideas being fostered within them. Literally. The steel walls and doors are covered with tiny magnets so staff can throw images and concepts up on the walls, and then re-arrange and tear down with ease.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Our designer and architect, Johnson Chou, set out to design a simple, industrial, contemporary office environment. In addition to clean, elegant lines, we found it equally important to utilize space wisely, balancing headcount efficiency with maintaining an open and comfortable workspace.

Inspiration: The space was designed to foster creativity and collaboration amongst staff. Everyone is part of one team and sits along one long table on each floor. Every few months we organize a seating shuffle to keep seating assignments fresh and new.

Favorite Element: As an ad agency, we couldn't resist modelling a room after the golden age of advertising — a 50's themed meeting room. With this in mind, we designed a lounge incorporating wood panels, vintage furniture, carpets and accessories (right down to the manual typewriter, scotch bottle and cigarette case). It brings a smile to people's faces.

Biggest Challenge: The first floor had a wall of very large windows that were great for natural light, but since they were on the ground floor, they were covered with unsightly security bars. In order to maximize natural light and keep the aesthetics of the space consistent with the rest of the office, we covered the windows with translucent acrylic panels, and prints depicting 1970's breakthrough achievements in innovation and pop culture were applied onto the panels. This feature is an integral part of our space.

What Clients Say: Most of our clients' offices are in traditional high rise towers, so coming to our space is a great change for them. In fact, our main boardroom is regularly booked by our clients for their offsite meetings, which is the ultimate compliment for us.

Biggest Embarrassment: The Zen Room was originally furnished with a table that was only a foot tall and pillows to sit on. We quickly abandoned the idea after a few meetings. We received sore joint complaints from staff sitting cross legged on the floor hunched over a very short table!

Also, the large steel doors covering the kitchenette were installed to close automatically. They worked so well that sometimes while pouring a morning coffee or nuking lunch they would close behind you and before you knew it you'd find yourself literally trapped inside the kitchenette! We tweaked the hinges to be more "close-friendly".

Proudest DIY: Extending the legs on the Zen table so everyone can sit on chairs!

Biggest Indulgence: Supersizing the main boardroom to facilitate a comfortable environment for large meetings. The space can also be used as simultaneous meeting areas for different teams to share ideas. It has magnetic walls dedicated to posting and reviewing creative concepts, and a white oval curtain track for more intimate meetings. We custom built a large, bold oak door to enter the room.

Best Advice: Be involved with your designer every step of the way. Trust and be honest with your designer about your opinions. A good designer will value your ideas and incorporate them into the design.

Our Blog: Thinking Inside the Box

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Resources of Note:

ENTRY

  • Reception desk – Antique metal desk and glass enclosure (JCI custom)
  • Highway Sign chair - Queen West Antique Centre
  • Industrial Fan - repurposed, original to building, found in basement
  • Orange chairs - Queen West Antique Centre
  • ZEN ROOM

  • Reception desk – Antique metal desk and glass enclosure (JCI custom)
  • DOG HOUSE

    • Table - Custom
    • Chairs - Eames Eiffel chairs

    ZAK'S OFFICE

  • Chairs – Morba
  • Wall clock - Suite 22 Interiors
  • Coffee table - Queen West Antique Centre

  • MAIN BOARDROOM

    2nd FLOOR HALL

    KITCHEN

    MAD MEN ROOM

    DESIGNER/ARCHITECT

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    Thanks, Zak!

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    (Image credits: Justice Darragh)

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