Fun factory: a look inside Red Bull’s space-age new offices on Queen West

Fun factory: a look inside Red Bull’s space-age new offices on Queen West

No surprise that Red Bull’s new offices resemble a space-age nightclub. They also prove that it’s OK—even beneficial—to mix business with pleasure

The everyday responsibilities of the marketing staff at Red Bull Canada’s head office are somewhat unortho­dox. For instance, they conceived of a promotion that involves four people skating, Jackass-style, down a twisting, ice-covered track through the streets of Old Quebec City, cheered on by 100,000 fans. On other days, they find, nurture and promote up-and-coming musicians and run a lobby gallery for the next generation of visual art stars. And, of course, there’s the job of encouraging legions of stressed-out students, revved-up club kids and anyone else who needs a kick to get (and stay) addic­ted to the company’s sickly-sweet caffeine drink. The unconventional man­date is mirrored in the brand’s new Canadian head office.

The two-level space is upstairs from the Gap on Queen West and houses the company’s sales, marketing and finance staff—a squad of 43 Gen Yers. Mini-fridges full of comp cans of Red Bull are ubiquitous (you can’t work there unless you drink the stuff). Toronto architect Johnson Chou designed the office to also serve as a venue for promotional events and as a recording studio (for the company’s annual music academy, an incubator for indie bands). Chou gave the company silver pod-shaped conference rooms, a wood-clad rooftop patio, exposed pipes twisted into the shape of the twin-bull logo, and glass workspace dividers that employees personalize by scribbling notes and ideas in dry-erase markers for passersby to check out and add to.

Fun workspaces aren’t a new idea. They were all the rage during the ’90s dot-com boom, when tech start-ups expressed brand ethos by decking out their offices with pool tables and rock-climbing walls. But when the bubble burst, budgets for toys disappeared faster than Inspired offices are coming back into style, as studies suggest these spaces boost not only creativity but also productivity. A prime example is Google (you may have heard of it—its annual revenues average $20 billion, and it’s a permanent fixture on “Best Companies to Work For” lists), whose new Toronto office supplies free, daily healthy meals for staff, video game stations, foosball tables and more loud colours than a gay pride parade.

For Red Bull, the relaxed attitude goes beyond the architecture. Employees can set their own hours and play Xbox or watch cable TV on company time. A permanent bar-lounge area is planned (for after hours, of course). In return, most workers put in extra-long hours and treat the space like a second home. But working late seems all right if it means leaving your cubicle and walking directly into an album launch party for such Toronto bands as Fritz Helder and the Phantoms and Hot Hot Heat, without even going out into the ordinary, grey world.

Top: The Red Bull office has a lounge-like oak-panelled board­room that has also served as a recording studio. Bottom: the office is entered via a tunnel that glows with colour-changing LEDs. It empties into a waiting room outfitted with a turntable and a record collection (Images: Tom Arban)