Inside Aviva’s new “digital garage,” with a Steve Jobs portrait made out of floppy disks

Inside Aviva’s new “digital garage,” with a Steve Jobs portrait made out of floppy disks

DigitalGarage_108 (2)

What: Insurance company Aviva’s digital department
Where: Almost half of the 49th floor of First Canadian Place
How big: 14,300 square feet for approximately 135 employees

Aviva’s new digital garage looks more like a burgeoning tech startup than the home of a century-old risk assessment firm. After the company found success with similar spaces in London and Singapore, Aviva Canada enlisted interior design firm Figure3 to start creating a separate office for its digital department, and transferred over the entire team in mid summer. Even though it’s high up in First Canadian Place, the vibe is low-key and industrial—even the boss wears jeans to work. The adaptable, open-concept space is great for fostering innovation and running fun techy events like internal hackathons to test out new ideas. The only issue? It’s tough to prevent the non-digital staff, who work in one of the company’s traditional offices downstairs, from becoming envious of their upstairs neighbours.

The Figure3 team worked hard to make the space loft-like. They removed the ceiling tiles to expose the pipes and stripped away the carpet to uncover concrete flooring:


In keeping with the floor’s garage concept, the space’s walls are adorned with tool-themed wallpaper. Whiteboards and chairs all have wheels, and there are no desk phones—the most common communication method is tapping someone on the shoulder:


There are some meeting areas and workspaces made entirely out of brightly painted shipping containers. Others are named after superhero hideouts, like the Xavier Institute or the Batcave:


At the entrance, staff and visitors are greeted by a trio of custom-commissioned art pieces. The portraits of tech innovators Ada Lovelace, Steve Jobs and Susan Kare are made of painted floppy disks:


The company has partnered with Ryerson’s DMZ business incubator, and recently hosted a “pitch day” where 10 local startups were invited to give 15-minute pitches to Aviva’s corporate venture fund (the team has $180 million it is looking to invest globally over five years):


Cactus dividers from Belgian brand BuzziSpace serve as both cute decor and effective sound blockers. The colour scheme is a slightly punchier take on the firm’s official colours of blue and yellow:



December 6, 2016

A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Nick Gentry as the artist who painted the three portraits in Aviva's office.