SA Armstrong, Canada

This headquarters building, for the manufacture of mechanical pumps and heat exchanges, was part of a relocation consolidating previously dispersed premises into a single corporate entity. Located in the manufacturing fringe of Toronto, and within the extreme regularity of the concession grid, SA Armstrong adopts the well-tried arrangement of offices fronting the manufacturing shed behind. It is a partial renovation and addition to an existing single storey 1950s factory building.

The plan comprises large rooms on two floors reflecting the company’s departmental structure – sales, engineering, administration and manufacture.  On three sides, smaller cellular offices form the boundaries to these departments.  The fourth side is open to the double-height hall and to the activity of arrival and departure and beyond to the industrial landscape of Toronto. The double-height glazed space had two intentions: firstly, the institutional idea of a generous place of arrival for both staff and visitors; and secondly the idea that externally this large screen might act as a representational device for the business as a whole – a Canadian portico.

The resemblance of the end elevations to Walter Gropius’ Fagus factory is intentional.  With the glazed front this gives the project a layered and technological appearance.  It also fulfils a playful idea of not being able to see from one end of the space to the other.