From outside, KPMG Vaughan is an odd place. Like the black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the building seems an intrusion from another world. Seemingly engulfed by the parking lot of an almost abrasively gigantic Walmart—a centrepiece of Vaughan's repeating landscape of big box stores—the 14-storey office tower is being touted as the first harbinger of Vaughan's new Downtown, and as an early landmark around which a new urban landscape will muster.
Located alongside the TTC's upcoming Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station, the Diamond Schmitt-designed building will be directly connected to the station, and by extension the Downtown Toronto skyline to the south, once the TYSSE opens at the end of next year.
For now, however, the SmartREIT-developed tower remains an ostensibly urban presence amidst an expanse of warehouses, stores and parking lots. While condo construction sites are now beginning to dot the surroundings, the area remains a product of 20th century sprawl. But with a glut of development already planned following the subway opening, that will quickly change.
Alongside the tower's east façade, a Claude Cormier + Associés-designed plaza is taking shape, fronting the building with a declaratively pedestrian-oriented space.
On the west side of the building, an elongated public park will stretch across the heart of Vaughan's 'Metropolitan Centre,' with conceptual renderings—following a master plan by Diamond Schmitt—showing a cluster of towers surrounding the green space.
For now, however, the tower is the first urban presence to join the subway station under-construction to the east. Stepping inside from the snowy plaza, an expansive lobby greets guests, with a corner café offering the first in-house retail space. A pair of larger commercial spaces are yet to be completed, with the lower office floors yet to be occupied as the closing stages of construction wrap up.
On the upper six floors, however, the offices of anchor tenant KPMG are already active. The high-tech space designed by IBI Group consolidates many of the auditing company's operations under a single roof, providing a new regional hub of operations. Tom Kostopoulos, GTA Partner-In-Charge for KPMG Enterprise, explains that the flexible new office space is "entirely paper-free," creating a more environmentally friendly space where storage is no longer a priority.
Ample natural light is a priority throughout the Class A office space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, wide hallways, and glassy office spaces designed to create a permeable environment. "Connectivity is our big buzzword," Kostopoulos tells us, arguing that the more open-concept environment is more conducive to a horizontally integrated and co-operative work environment. "The partner offices don't feel as separate, and the space as a whole is a lot more open, which creates a greater sense of connectivity."
An in-house conference and phone system means that any phone and computer can be connected to the company's network, allowing individual computer screens to be shared across the world during meetings, while facilitating easier transfer of flies.
In lieu of assigned desks and offices, there's a range of individual and collaborative work spaces, which are tailored towards varying degrees of formality and interaction. Meanwhile, partner offices aren't designated towards individual employees. Instead, each partner can book an office for the day in the morning, accommodating the auditors' sometimes variable schedules, which see employees frequently travel to see clients—sometimes even for "months at a time," says Kostopoulos.
The height of office desks is also easily variable, allowing employees to switch between standing and sitting. Throughout the larger bullpen spaces, meanwhile, the flexible interiors turn cabinets into auxiliary seating spaces, encouraging employees to interact with one another across the office.
The uppermost 14th floor is given over to communal space, with a series of modular "We used to have to fly everywhere and rent out conference space in hotels," Kostopoulos adds, explaining that the centralized conference and seminar space—which can be subdivided into a series of smaller rooms—allows for large meetings and training sessions to be held in-house.
Smaller, more intimate rooms provide also spaces for casual one-on-one meetings, attempting to provide the sort of comfortable atmosphere seldom associated with multinational auditors.
The 13th floor features a large sun-filled break room; a casual space where catered lunch is served to employees. More private break/rest areas also surround the central staircase. Each floor also features a small recreational space alongside the elevators, such as a putting range and air hockey table.
"We had to include a lot of communal, fun spaces, since it's what millennials are looking for," Kostopoulos explains. It has to be an attractive place, he argues, which it is. Of course, much of that appeal is a way of making the sometimes long hours enjoyable. "This place can stay busy after 8 PM," Kostopoulos notes, and the amenities and quality of space make it easier on the employees. While the new building offers an improvement in workplace quality of life, however, those very benefits also arguably reinforce the industry's strenuous—and sometimes overwhelming—work culture.
For Vaughan's nascent Downtown, the KPMG Building is an unmissable portent of the City's evolution. Designed to LEED Gold specifications, it's a contemporary and fairly attractive space that signals Vaughan's positive urban evolution. So far, however, the building seems more an island unto itself than an offering to the city around it, with KPMG's employees offered a self-contained hub of work, rest, and entertainment. How all of it connects to the new city will be seen in the years to come.
We will return with coverage from our tour of the neighbouring Vaughan Metropolitan Centre TTC station in the coming days. In the meantime, more information about KPMG Vaughan is available via our dataBase, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space below, or join the ongoing conversation in our Forum.
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