When the Caivan team was introduced to Figurr Architects Collective and its portfolio, partnering on the new Ottawa headquarters, sales and design centre and manufacturing plant in the south of the city was the obvious choice.
It’s a big reason why Figurr Architects Collective was brought in by construction manager BBS Construction. Collaboratively, they designed the new headquarters and manufacturing plant for Caivan and its subsidiary organization, the Advanced Building Innovation Company (ABIC).
“Caivan and ABIC wanted an interpretive-centre experience,” explains architect and head of Figurr’s Ottawa office, Roberto Campos. “And they wanted to make sure the architecture team understood what was needed to create an immersive visitor experience.”
As a frequent designer of institutional projects with big open spaces that prefers to collaborate closely with its clients, Campos says Figurr was uniquely positioned to take on the project, which finished this past January.
A three-pronged construction initiative
Caivan’s new office project consisted of two phases: A manufacturing plant (built first), and Caivan’s head office and design centre (phase two), all linked by a bright and spacious town hall-style atrium.
The ABIC manufacturing plant assembles high-quality, precise, and sustainable prefabricated housing panel systems for Caivan homes across the province – mostly in the form of prefabricated panels that are more quickly and sustainably assembled on-site.
The design centre will provide educational material and visible access to the manufacturing plant to help visitors learn about the ABIC manufacturing process and the Caivan values as an integrated land developer and homebuilder. It includes a mezzanine facing the manufacturing plant, where future homeowners can gaze down on the manufacturing process – and maybe even see their own home being fabricated.
The town hall atrium seamlessly connects the entire facility. It features a stunning combination of rich mass timber, structural steel columns supporting incredibly high ceilings, an institutional-grade polished concrete wall, and a large south-facing curtain wall that bathes the entire space in invigorating natural light.
Designing such a complex project, however, wasn’t easy.
Campos says part of the challenge was creating a facility that works well for all its visitors, from administrative staff to plant workers to prospective homebuyers.
“We had to really look at how all of that was going to work together so we could provide a good experience to everybody who either works at the building or visits the building, and so they all feel like they’re part of the same team,” he explains.
“And ultimately, that was where the town hall atrium became the link between these programs.”
Key to the project: Close collaboration
Campos says none of it would have been possible without such close collaboration with Caivan – a company that happens to know a thing or two about building design and construction. “The ownership group was heavily invested in what they wanted,” he says.
That added up to hours of meetings and back-and-forth to share ideas and whittle away at concepts to carve out a solid plan, including sharing and reviewing precedent imagery, concept sketches and conducting lengthy charrette sessions.
Both teams used a private Pinterest account to upload images and ideas at any time of the day or night. He and his team would often go to bed with ten or so recommendations in the account, Campos explains, and wake up the next day with a few dozen more ideas contributed by Caivan’s team.
That helped the Figurr team determine what ideas Caivan didn’t like and which to focus on.
“And even then, we would still throw in things just to, at the end of the day, try to grab some kind of reaction,” he says.
“It was really important that everything that ultimately came out of this project was reflective of Caivan’s identity and their brand as an organization,” Campos adds. “And so, it was important that they stayed involved throughout the process.”
Linking Caivan’s business with its office space
Much of that brand revolves around high-quality, ultra-precise construction materials and methods – and the spirit of that is reflected in the entire facility, Campos says, particularly the town hall atrium.
This sense was reflected in how the facility was built, with everything lasered before drilling or fastening to ensure perfect precision. All tradespeople who worked on the job had to buy into the vision, the sense of precision, attention to detail – not always an easy task – and custom work.
“Take those steel columns in the town hall atrium – they’re all custom-made. There are no off-the-shelf pieces. They were all made from flat-stock steel. They’re designed to be very minimal but, at the same time, to be very functional because they’re hollowed out. And within the hollowing is where they run conduit lines for electrical support, lighting, sound equipment, and other needs.
“So it was this combination of: How do we look at sophisticated, precise material – like steel working together with this incredibly warm wood in a very precise way? And that’s actually very similar to what Caivan does as a business.”
Through collaboration, patience and design skills, this project clearly reflects Caivan/ABIC’s vision and identity, and sets them on a path for success far into the future.