The Challenge

Open Mind Interiors starting working with NAN 2 years ago. At that time, they were in the process of trying to find a building to purchase that would allow them to consolidate their staff into one location and become a pillar of their culture in our community. When we started working with their organization, they had over 100 employees dispersed in 3 separate office locations creating limitations to communications and barriers to their overall productivity. NAN is a dynamic organization doing very important work, so their work environment needed to reflect this.

In 2019, NAN found the building on Syndicate Avenue that was a perfect fit for them in a great location. We took the floor plate of the building and started rethinking how the building could function to meet all of their needs. We knew we would have a challenge trying to fit everyone into the building along with everything on their “wish list”, so OMI worked very closely with the NAN team to develop a workstation standard that would meet the needs to their employees while maintaining a compact, consistent footprint throughout the space. We spent a lot of time interviewing employees in all departments to really understand what was a “must have” for them. This resulted in a standard workstation layout which became our building block to develop our design concepts for each floor of their new 5 storey building.

The Concept

Working closely with Cory Stechyshyn from i4architecture, we wanted to create an engaging, adaptable work place for NAN that would be culturally inviting and encourage their staff and visitors to move around the building and work anywhere. NAN had some specific goals in mind for their new building which included: a staff lounge on each floor, more team huddle and meeting rooms, open lounge spaces, access to natural light for all staff, a staff gym, a large conference room for large event with its own kitchen and a outdoor space. This was a lofty list but we were able to give them all of it!

The top floor of the building was designed with the executive in mind. This space has some of the best views in Thunder bay of the lake as well as Mount McKay. For this reason, we put all of the executive offices around the perimeter of the floor plate. When important dignitaries visit the Grand Chief and his team, they will get to see the natural beauty of Thunder Bay in all directions. The second to fourth floors of the building will be home to most of the NAN staff. Each floor features a staff café, one or two lounge areas, a full work centre with printers etc. multiple meeting rooms and team spaces. Our design team decided to wrap all of the director and manager offices around the core of the building on these floors, allowing the open workstation spaces to take advantage the floor to ceiling windows and natural light. By using full height glass walls across the office fronts, we have created a bright, inspiring place for their entire team to work. The main floor of the building is focused on events and meetings. Previously NAN has had to use external banquet facilities to host large events such as Grand Chief Meetings but now, they will have their own conference space that will hold up to 100 people. This space will have a kitchen and crush space adjacent as well as access to an outdoor patio to really make it special.

Our OMI team wanted to make this space feel unique to NAN. We put a lot of thought into the colours and finishes used throughout the space to make it feel modern but yet pay homage to the Aboriginal communities they serve.  We took design elements from Woodland art such as using black outlines that symbolize communication and connection and used this same element around glass walls and furniture. We mixed black accents with a soft wood tone on the interior walls reminiscent of birch bark and then incorporated bold colours such as green, gold, red and blue throughout the building. The Great White Bear, which represents the Spirit and Soul of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, will have a place of prominence in the main lobby as you enter the building.


The Outcome

It is our hope that this building will not only give NAN a new way of working but a new sense of pride in our community. We hope their staff will be re-energized when they start working in this new space later this year. Our goal was to provide them with an open, connected workspace allowing for better communication and collaboration in a healthy, comfortable space. We want this building to reflect knowledge, diversity and inclusion to everyone that works in it or visits for years to come.