Lokaal is a boutique coworking space occupying the second floor of a refurbished building dating from the early 20th century in Toronto’s Corso Italia neighbourhood. Part of a thriving mixed-use building that has asserted itself as a creative hub in the community, the workspace is sandwiched between an architecture firm above and a marketing agency and coffee shop below. As its name would suggest, Lokaal attracts local creatives and freelancers that would otherwise work from home, inviting them to create a collaborative community of their own – who in turn engage with and support neighbourhood businesses.
With the goal of providing an appealing and functional shared space for entrepreneurs interested in establishing a career-focused community and working in a space that inspires, the design combines the building’s original features with a distinctive Scandinavian aesthetic. The existing red brick party wall was carefully restored and exposed, providing a fitting complement to the new sustainably sourced, light maple wood flooring. The original small window openings that characterized buildings of the early 1900s were enlarged to encourage light to flood the space while providing views and a connection to the neighbourhood.
The aim of facilitating cross-pollination amongst creative disciplines drove the design of Lokaal’s program. Facilities include a shared workspace, private offices, collaboration space, a meeting room, a lounge, a phone booth for private conversations, and a generously scaled kitchen/lunchroom. All of these zones are efficiently organized in such a way as to accommodate a variety of work styles ranging from collaborative to independent and focused. The primary work area was designed for programmatic flexibility, where an open plan combines a fixed-desk setup along the outside perimeter wall with flexible hot-desk workstations in the centre that can be moved aside, thereby extending the lounge area and/or accommodating larger events and gatherings.
While the crisp white walls and charcoal grey door frames and partitions introduce a bolder graphic quality, brightly coloured light fixtures and graphics introduce a degree of playfulness to the space. The chalk wall in the collaboration space allows members to express their artistic talents, leave messages, or brainstorm ideas away from a computer screen. Custom-designed pieces by local artisans were commissioned, including a custom felt light fixture and a pleated industrial felt entry wall by Kathryn Walter of Felt Studio. Local millworkers were commissioned to build the custom desks, cubby lockers, and the 14-foot-long window bench.
With the aim of creating a healthy and productive workspace to improve occupant well-being, operable windows not only allow for the transmission of natural daylight but also promote the flow of fresh air. The effectiveness of these passive ventilation strategies resulted in an 80% reduced need for mechanical cooling use in its first year. High-efficiency mechanical systems were installed, as were low-flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting, sensor- and timer-controlled lighting systems, and low- or non-VOC paints and finishes. Acoustic panels utilizing recycled plastic and carpet tiles made of recycled fishing nets were chosen, as was the characterful expression of exposed brick interior walls over Gyproc sheeting to reduce material usage.
The building hums with creative energy, and is so much more than the sum of its parts. This hive of human activity under one roof functions as a generator of ideas, connections and new local economic output. Within that context, Lokaal is fulfilling its objective of galvanizing the neighbourhood community while facilitating innovation and collaboration. It surpasses its function as a mere workspace, and establishes a deeper sense of connection and involvement through the thoughtful planning of exhibitions, workshops and other events such as Doors Open Toronto. It is now home to the likes of illustrators, graphic designers, film festivals, fashion, digital media and other creative disciplines.