By Mario Toneguzzi, SPECIAL TO RETAIL INSIDER
The Travel Centre, at the intersection of King and Spadina in Toronto, represents a rethinking of the corporate workplace, merging a storefront retail area and an event space with united offices for Flight Centre’s four brands.
George Foussias, Design Director, with Quadrangle, which was the architectural/design team for the project, said the goal was to establish a location where working, selling and socializing seamlessly collide.
“A key challenge of this project was to design a workplace that easily accommodates and unifies the multi-use spaces from day to night, while bringing together all the entities within the Flight Centre brand,” said Foussias. “We started by locating an anchor, vintage building, into which we fit a boutique retail store, a signature event space, and a state-of-the-art work environment that speaks of travel, wonder, and adventure.”
The aim was to create an environment that would inspire people to travel and so the interior was influenced by 19th century explorers’ clubs and movies about fantasy travel including The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
The building was originally built as a 19th Century garment factory. The scale and heritage quality of the facade was kept intact while eye-catching interiors capture the attention of people walking by.
The Travel Centre occupies about 10,000 square feet in the six-storey building. Previously, a retail store occupied the space.
“The building itself is a fantastic heritage, signature building,” said Foussias. “There’s a beautiful, beautiful old industrial look to it with exposed brick, exposed wood and wood beams because it used to be an industrial building. So when the retail store went in they covered a lot of it and hid a lot of pieces. We gutted it out to clean it up. We just opened it up as much as possible.”
The Travel Centre’s motto is “to open up the world for those who want to see” and the building’s space reflects that.
“The vision was to create a hub to showcase all of Flight Centre’s brands in a very strong key location in Toronto,” said Foussias. “They wanted a space that was strong as an anchor in Toronto. We came up with a strategy and a vision on how to do that. Our approach was to create sort of a fish bowl – a space that’s visible from everywhere where all these brands are within but they’re all visible to everyone.
“We defined different areas within an open floor plan where these brands are blocked by colour blocking and by signature words and mantras that they have.”
Foussias said Flight Centre also wanted the ability to have a space within the site that would allow them to host events. So the upper floor is a flex space within the warehouse where furniture can be removed to create one big venue that can hold more than 300 people.
He said the ideals of adventure, travel, not taking things way too seriously, wonder, and the mystery of travelling were important elements of coming up with the design for the space.
When someone enters the double-height lobby and retail space they immediately notice the contrast between the historic post and beam interior and an angled black box boardroom.
“The entry invites curiosity, casting views in multiple directions, while inviting the live beat of the busy street to infuse the interior. Comfortable tables, casual chairs and banquette window benches invite guests to linger, leaf through the displayed brochures and discuss their travel plans,” says Quadrangle about the unique design. “Monitors display the days’ best travel deals. The floors, decorated with a pattern of oversized passport stamps, immerse visitors in their own travel fantasy.
“On the upper level, a spacious Explorers Club serves as an event space, a drop-in workspace for visiting executives, and a backdrop for social media broadcasts. An open-concept serving kitchen and bar sets the atmosphere for hospitality and entertainment. Informal gatherings can take place in the Map & Charts Room or the Travel Library, and desks concealed in oversized travel trunks on casters can be opened to provide personal workspaces.”
The lower level workplace area brings the various Flight Centre brands together in a single location.
Quadrangle, which is based in Toronto, has about 172 people.
Editor’s Note: Jeri Brodie of Aurora Realty Consultants negotiated the deal on behalf of the tenant (she handles Flight Centre’s real estate) and Steven Alikakos of RKF acted on behalf of the landlord.