Lokaal Coworking

The moment when Dubbeldam Architecture + Design was ready to assert its physical presence in the community and directly engage with urban life came in 2017 when it saw an opportunity to acquire a century-old, three-storey corner brick building marking the beginning of Corso Italia, a bustling neighbourhood along Toronto’s St. Clair Avenue West. Principal Heather Dubbeldam envisioned a scenario in which she could take part in the street’s renewal by renovating an entire building, treating it as a microcosm of community activity. The upper floor is dedicated to our studio’s offices, with the entire second floor hosting Lokaal, a collegial and inclusive co-working space on the second floor for creative freelancers. As Co-Founder of Lokaal and Business Manager of Dubbeldam, Kevin McIntosh keeps the lights on and works to build a great community of entrepreneurs and creative people in the space.

Designed in 2017 with spacious workstation allocations well above the now recommended two-metre distancing, generous natural ventilation that supports air handling systems that already exceed industry standard fresh air exchange by more than 100%, and maximization of natural daylighting, the building’s design placed occupant health and well-being as top priority. As the world emerges from the COVID pandemic, conversations around workplace design have almost universally shifted to an increased focus on sustainable design. It’s a revelation for many that designing for the well-being of occupants is not a new idea, rather one that was pushed aside decades ago:  “The truly great architects and designers throughout history have always placed people at the centre of their design,” says principal Heather Dubbeldam.  “Over the past century, the industry became distracted from what is truly important and an era of designing and constructing sick, unhealthy buildings and workplaces evolved. Now everyone is paying the price and the solution is obvious to all…in hindsight.”

This principle of social sustainability was a foundational driver in the design of the building, and the spark that led to the opening of a people-first space and business underneath the studio. The concentration and proximity of creative talent is mutually beneficial and inspiring, and the extension of activity taken up by our office reaching beyond conventional architectural design and building bringing its own challenges and opportunities to learn and grow.

The building has reaffirmed its position as a local landmark that fosters creativity and community engagement. This hive of human activity under one roof functions as a generator of ideas, connections and new local economic output. Within that context, Lokaal is fulfilling its objective of galvanizing the neighbourhood community while facilitating innovation and collaboration. It surpasses its function as a mere workspace, and establishes a deeper sense of connection and involvement through the thoughtful planning of exhibitions, workshops, and public events such as Doors Open Toronto. It is now home to the likes of illustrators, graphic designers, film festivals, fashion, digital media and other creative disciplines.


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