OFFICE CRUSH: The wondrous boardroom at Verval Ltée

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a series of three colourful workspaces in Ottawa.


Photo by Christian Lalonde -

The colour of the backlit walls and ceiling can be changed with the push of a button for a quick atmosphere shift. Not surprisingly, more than a few intimate parties have been held here. Photo by Christian Lalonde –

“When you’re in this room, you experience a combination of space travel and time travel,” says Verval president Charles Armand Turpin as he shows off the wild boardroom he co-designed with Paul Kariouk of Kariouk Associates. “You don’t feel the time pass.”

With a few clicks of his control, the backlit walls and ceiling glow vibrant yellow. Another click, and yellow is replaced with lively red, followed quickly by soft daylight. For this interview, the full-wall screen in front of the boardroom table glows with a soothing nature scene.

The beauty of this room is that it can go from conventional to madcap, calm to chaotic, in the space of minutes. In other words, the boardroom morphs to suit the needs and moods of staff. Suddenly, says Turpin, “we don’t feel like we’re sitting down to work. We’re sitting down to have fun. It’s wondrous.”

Photo by Christian Lalonde -

The massive screen can be used for work purposes or as artwork that can set the tone for a meeting. Photo by Christian Lalonde –


Verval Ltée

Type of business: Building envelopes (exterior glass systems for large buildings)

Number of employees: 15 at the office, with 120-plus at other sites

Square footage: 500

Designer: Kariouk Associates

Cost: About $500,000

Timeline: June 2013–June 2014

What was the impetus for change?
The building was designed in 1974, so the boardroom was retro — so retro that it was almost back in style again.

What are the key elements of the new look?
Obviously the backlit walls and ceiling are the first things you notice. There is something like eight kilometres of wiring with LED lights under this rubbery membrane. I can go for natural, playful, or crazy with the push of a button. The boardroom table, which I designed with Paul [Kariouk], is the centrepiece. It’s curved and flowing. You can position yourself around it in different ways, depending on how many people are meeting and what you’re working on. The smaller table can be used as a coffee table or raised so that it fits with the main boardroom table.

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OFFICE CRUSH: Futuristic workspace of MD Physician Services emerges from ashes

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a series of three colourful workspaces in Ottawa.



Photo by Tim Lau

When a small fire led to extensive smoke damage in MD Physician Services’ six-storey office, president and CEO Brian Peters and his team decided to view the setback as an opportunity to redesign and retool for the next decade. Project Phoenix was born. The dramatic cosmetic changes steal the limelight, but Peters is proudest of how the new office works — state-of-the-art communications tools, flexible workstations, and diverse meeting spaces make for a happier and more motivated workforce.

The design team, 4té, that led Project Phoenix used one wall within the building to celebrate the renovation. Here, an artful array of words and sentence fragments highlights the ideas that drove the design. Four key words at the end sum it up perfectly: Small Fire. Lasting Legacy.

By the Numbers…

MD Physician Services

Type of business: Financial management and investment services for Canadian physicians

Number of employees: 600

Square footage: 120,000 on six floors

Design: 4té

Cost: A few million, some of it paid by insurance

Timeline: January 2013–February 2014


Photo by Tim Lau

What was the impetus for change?
On January 3, 2013, there was a fire on the ground floor. There was a lot of smoke damage. Since everyone was out of the building for the foreseeable future anyway, we thought why not take the opportunity to completely redo the space and retool for the next decade. Project Phoenix was born.

What are the key elements of the new look?
The designers at 4té took us to visit a number of other office spaces as inspiration. We wanted to be modern and functional. The design process was quite collaborative. We had three big meetings at the Hampton Inn over the course of the design so that everyone in the company could see where we were going and vote on their favourite options.

How does the redesign match your company philosophy?
It matches the way we want to be. Financial services can be a very conservative sector, but we feel that we pushed the envelope a bit with this design. I think it helps us retain forward-thinking people.

Does this workspace make employees more productive?
Definitely. If you’re happy, you’re going to be more productive. This space is much more interactive than the old office. You talk to people more; you’re more focused. The combination of the design and all the systems now in place make everyone feel more connected.

Which room has given you the most bang for the buck?
All the spaces get well used, but if I was going to point to one specific room, I’d have to say the Phoenix Bistro. Before the reno, it was a boring high-school-style cafeteria, but it had the makings of a great space.

How do you justify such a big investment?
This renovation has changed the very dynamics around here. We’re already looking at how we can take the lessons we learned here and transfer them to the other offices around the country.

Click on the thumbnails for a virtual tour of the MD Physician Services office:

All photos by Tim Lau

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