Rooted in Flexibility

By Janet Wiens

Roots' new headquarters reflects the Canadian retailer's vision and need for flexibility and openness.


Flexibility is a key element in any design project, and the new headquarters for Roots, one of Canada's leading manufacturers of clothing, furniture and other items, boasts flexibility throughout the facility. The company's new home in Toronto successfully reflects its culture and work processes in an environment that has won rave reviews from its staff.

"Don Green and Michael Budman, Roots' founders, were very involved in the design process and clearly articulated what they wanted," says Donna Wood, studio director for Bullock Associates, also of Toronto, the project's architect and interior designer. "We were expected to create an environment that would provide the flexibility to meet the company's current requirements while also addressing potential future needs."

Roots also had three other key project goals, according to Wood. The first objective was to consolidate the company's existing four locations into one facility. Remaining goals centered around creating a clean, bright and contemporary atmosphere that would reflect the company's values and design focus.

The answer was to move into an old warehouse—resulting in an adaptive re-use project located in an area of the city that is being revitalized. Roots occupies 60,000 square feet on two floors that are connected by both an elevator and two staircases—one in the front of the building and one in the middle of the space. Sales, IT, and accounting are located on the first floor, while design, merchandising and purchasing are located on the second floor.

"The windows in the structure were inadequate," says Wood. "One of our first steps was to add large windows to the
building on the first floor where the loading dock was originally located. This full expanse of glass in two-story sections allows natural light to generously flow into the space and was integral to creating a bright, open environment."

The Bullock Associates design team selected a virtually all-white color palette for the headquarters, which provides an excellent backdrop for displaying Roots' products while also addressing the goals for brightness and a contemporary feel.

The reception area features a desk with clean simple lines, a porcelain tile floor with an area rug, and an intimate seating area that includes chairs and tables manufactured by Roots. The company's founders sat around a fire discussing business ideas when they were younger, and the reception area's fireplace ties to their history while adding warmth to the space on cold winter days. A showroom on the other side of the fireplace provides space for client meetings and presentations.

Bullock Associates recommended leaving selected structural members exposed throughout the space—a tactic that begins in the reception area. Structural steel bracing and piping were left uncovered and painted white. The approach adds visual interest without being overwhelming.

Employees can grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee, or conduct meetings in the first-floor café. The space features sealed concrete floors and laminate-topped tables with wood chairs. Two-story glass panels were also installed in this area to brighten the space. A patio located off the café provides a place for outdoor dining when the weather is sufficient. The café and patio can be combined to create a large area capable of accommodating fashion shows, parties or charitable events.

The desire to create an open and contemporary atmosphere resulted in the selection of ie by Teknion for the offices. The product's installation, one of the first in Canada, is an appropriate backdrop for displaying Roots' products while also meeting functional requirements.

Offices are clustered depending on a department's function and can easily be changed to meet varying employee needs. The 240 workstations, which are finished in silver and white, have a post-and-beam structure and translucent membrane screens that provide privacy without reducing the openness of the offices. Managers have higher panels than the general work areas, and were intentionally positioned for increased privacy.

Displaying and storing merchandise in the offices was addressed through several approaches. Teknion designed a series of coat rods that hang from the workstations to fulfill display requirements in individual workstations or clusters. Spaces for rolling racks and closed storage were also provided to help keep the offices from becoming cluttered. Some elements, including ductwork and the wood ceiling, were left exposed in the offices to again add visual interest. Skylights were added above the second floor to allow more natural light into this level. Additional design features include a rolled, charcoal
carpet manufactured from felt that is both durable and aesthetically appropriate, as well as the use of acoustic ceiling tiles in select areas.

"We've heard from Roots employees that they are very pleased with their new facility," concludes Wood. "They appreciate the openness and believe that our design reflects the company's own design focus. The decision to consolidate from four locations into one resulted in operational benefits that make interacting between employees much easier."