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Project Overview

In embracing post-pandemic design requirements, our client, International Research Development Centre (IDRC), assembled a group of employees to work closely with the design team to create a successful change management narrative through design – conceptually, functionally, and aesthetically.  This group was called Mwanzo, a Swahili term meaning new beginnings.

The project was an opportunity to create a space that welcomed employees back to the office following the COVID 19 pandemic.  An opportunity to work closely with the Client was embraced to ensure both a sense of ownership and a reflection of the values and focus in the work IDRC does both locally and internationally.  As an organisation that champions research and innovation alongside those it works with, this collaborative approach was vital.  An opportunity to create a professionally designed space intentionally reflecting the Client’s requirements and allowing the Client to be a central player in the process, and project’s success.

The vernacular of weaving was a key element in many features of the design.  Returning to this idea that good design is like a well woven fabric, each thread important and critical to the overall success and resulting in unified design solutions.  Combining good design with an international development awareness of the universal use of woven materials across cultures, many features reflect this concept.  From functional to decorative elements, design and meaning intertwine to create a visually holistic representation of the Client’s work.

Materials and design features were thoughtfully used to enhance this concept.  The collaborative work zones and display areas encompass millwork constructed to resemble an abstract weaving pattern. Textiles, including fabrics, wall coverings and carpet, mimic basic woven looks, plaids, and suited jacket materials. Lighting incorporates fabric textures and intersecting patterns, resembling weaving in a variety of contexts.

As an organisation focused on and employing people from a variety of international communities, including many different cultures and experiences, it was important to recognize multiple needs within the space. This was a directive from the Client that is central to their organizational culture. As part of the engagement process, our team relied on consultation with the Mwanzo group to explore the impact of IDRC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) values on the design. This was achieved through a series of workshops that explored the types of spaces that would support these values, and the use of specific design elements to achieve their EDI goals.


57,000 ft2




Ottawa, Ontario

From functional to decorative elements,
design and meaning intertwine to create a visually
holistic representation of IDRC’s work. – Olivia Carmichael

International Development Research Centre

Accessibility Standards Canada

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