Since its inception, Dentons Ottawa has been on a notable growth journey, quickly becoming one of the largest law firms in the city. But, with great success comes the need for a great office.
Located at 99 Bank St. in the Sun Life Financial Centre, Dentons’ office boasts large windows offering sweeping panoramic views of Parliament and the downtown core. Although the firm occupies the entire fourteenth floor – giving it room to continue to expand – as Dentons’ director of talent, Lara Vos Smith, explains, the original outdated design and flow weren’t reflective of the growing law firm’s culture or values.
“Our space was in need of a refresh,” she says. “We had to make it open (and) collaborative to make it more reflective of who we are now.”
In order to create an office environment suited to a modern, growing business, Dentons connected with a familiar partner, MARANT Construction Limited, a leader in the commercial interior construction industry and a company revered for its expertise in the renovation of legal, professional service and corporate spaces.
The law firm’s Toronto office was constructed by MARANT years earlier, creating a lasting relationship between the two companies. With MARANT’s unmatched commitment to its clients – even after a project is completed – it was a natural fit for the pair to tackle the national capital office in 2019.
“It has been an honour for MARANT to support Dentons with the Ottawa renovation. The firm recognizes MARANT’s partnership approach to solutioning challenges, our expertise in leasehold improvements and commitment to high-quality,” says Matthew DiCintio, regional director of operations at MARANT. “This has allowed MARANT to support Dentons in numerous ventures and foster our relationship as a ‘building partner’ to them for the last 23 years.”
A bold new look
To reflect Dentons’ innovative spirit, MARANT, in collaboration with 4té, the project’s interior design team, executed on the open-concept, industrial style the team decided on — a big departure from the office’s previous look. Vos Smith says the original space was “fairly traditional” with lots of wood tones and closed-in boardrooms and offices.
“It’s really hard to remember what was there before because it’s such a transformation,” she says. “We took it right back to the bare wall, to the bare floor, and started from scratch.”
Once on-board, MARANT managed the demolition of the entire floor, as well as the build-out itself – assessing all site conditions, providing suggestions to mitigate any possible delays, and working closely with architects and engineers to ensure a smooth process.
As a result, the office underwent a full transformation, featuring open ceilings with exposed HVAC systems, as well as epoxy and concrete flooring for a clean, minimalistic aesthetic. By shrinking the size of the private offices in favour of large, collaborative spaces and by moving those spaces from the perimeter of the space to the interior, the floorplan also has a more balanced feel.
The main area, made up of the reception and boardroom, was completely reimagined and fitted with three operable wall partitions, offering the team more flexibility in how they work within the space, says Stephanie El Azzi, project manager at MARANT.
“It gives the client the option of having an open space to host their events, or to keep it closed and private for meetings,” adds El Azzi.
Glass office-fronts, quartz countertops and signature lighting combine to give the office a bright, spacious look. The new staff lounge is lined with benches and welcoming leather banquettes with a kitchen island in the middle of the room, giving a “very modern look with high-end finishes,” El Azzi says. There’s also an espresso lounge with top-of-the-line coffee machines, wine fridges and a small kitchenette, ideal for hosting smaller events.
The law firm’s work with entrepreneurial clients in the technology sector is also reflected in the architecture of the office. Angular walls and sightlines were strategically used to create the feeling of movement and momentum, capturing the idea of the firm advancing forward into the future.
Dentons’ extensive art collection brings an added element of colour and creativity to the office, which MARANT accentuated through the construction of gallery-like spaces, El Azzi says. For example, in one of the board rooms, lighting is angled to emphasize an art installation featuring an orca, created by Indigenous artist Corey Bulpitt.
“When I show people the space, that’s one of the first things I want to show them: this beautiful boardroom with this beautiful piece of art,” Vos Smith says.
Dynamic and nimble
Having started in the fall of 2019, the office redesign was completed in 2021, a much longer timeline than anticipated due to pandemic lockdowns.
But COVID-19 wasn’t the only challenge MARANT tackled along the way; Dentons is located below the prestigious Rideau Club, meaning noise control was extremely important in order not to interrupt events. Sometimes, this meant that construction work would have to start as late as 10:00 at night.
In addition, Dentons staff were still occupying their office space during construction. To minimize the impact on hard-working employees, MARANT divided the office into two, switching sides with staff as it completed work on each section, says El Azzi. It also made sure to maintain the team’s IT connection and never obstructed the office’s iconic views of Parliament, leaving an open line of sight for employees to enjoy.
“It was a challenging period of time, but I always found that (MARANT) responded really appropriately,” Vos Smith says. “It was good to have some experienced hands at the wheel.”
An exciting return to work
El Azzi says that Dentons’ Ottawa location is a landmark for offices in the region, seamlessly integrating open spaces and private offices, something that is especially important for law firms dealing with sensitive client meetings. “We’re setting a standard for delivering modern, high-end finishes within the [private and public] sector,” she says.
Vos Smith is also thrilled with the new office space. Despite many employees still working from home due to COVID-19, she says that her team has shared “extremely positive” feedback already.
“There are lots of opportunities to use the space to re-engage as a team,” she says. “It will be re-energizing for people to have a new, fresh, bright, light-filled space to come to.”