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Free-Flowing Ideas and Flat Hierarchies
There are no private offices in Yabu Pushelberg’s freshly renovated headquarters. The renowned Toronto design firm abolished them — even for the principals, George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg — to promote the exchange of ideas and foster a sense of community. Now the entire staff is more accessible and plugged into the day-to-day activities of a studio whose design credits include the Park Hyatt New York, Lane Crawford Shanghai, and the Miami Beach EDITION.
In place of traditional offices, the principals designed a variety of meeting spaces, from formal to casual. Boardrooms accommodate up to 16 people and are equipped with videoconferencing to connect easily with both clients and Yabu Pushelberg’s New York studio. Each team also has a dedicated meeting area, allowing them to leave in-progress materials in place and pick up the creative process where they left off.
The open-plan office is a new concept for the established firm. For 23 years, Yabu Pushelberg had been comfortably housed in an unassuming, low-slung building in downtown Toronto. But when its neighbor move to another location nearby, the studio seized the opportunity to expand and redesign. Not only was the space in need of a makeover — the last comprehensive design was done in 1993 — but the office’s previous broken-up layout was out of step with the collaborative way the designers were working together. Now the airy, white-walled 13,000-square-foot workplace allows for better communication flow and more opportunities for teams to cross-pollinate ideas.
The kitchen is one such hub for collaboration. Outfitted with four custom oversized picnic tables and benches from Dutch designer Marlieke Van Rossum, the dining area invites staffers to informally share thoughts and ideas as well as food. Then there’s the “salon,” where guests encounter an eclectic mix of furnishings, including Yabu Pushelberg–designed pieces, other furniture and art collected over years of travel, and designer table-tennis and foosball tables.
Yabu and Pushelberg founded their studio in 1980 and have since become an award-winning, sought-after design duo for restaurant, hotel, and residential projects. The principals take an “anything is possible” approach to their work, experimenting with new materials and forging relationships with artists to create layered interiors that transcend trends. For their own workplace, however, they opted to create a pure, neutral space as a respite from the overwhelming arrays of colors, materials and patterns they use in their work.
USM features prominently in the skylit space. “We’ve always admired USM’s rational aesthetic,” Yabu and Pushelberg write. “As young designers in the seventies and eighties, we remember being aware of USM, but then, it seemed exotic, European and somehow unattainable.” Now, in their own office, each designer has a USM Haller pure-white workstation, complete with a rolling storage unit, alongside a fully adjustable Keilhauer chair and a Tolomeo lamp.
Team meeting spaces contain USM Haller tables surrounded by Jacques Guillon Cord chairs and linen-wrapped posting panels for brainstorming sessions.
“It was an easy decision to use USM in our studio,” the principals say. “There is a seriousness and a quietness to the design that we appreciate.”
Unlike in the studio’s previous incarnation, resources are now at staffers’ fingertips, information is transmitted faster, and the entire office projects Yabu Pushelberg’s philosophy of a flat hierarchy. Plus, according to Yabu and Pushelberg, “The space is lighter and bright, and most importantly, people are happier.”