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HOK’s Toronto Studio Provides Pro-Bono Design, Raises Funds for Women’s Shelter

HOK’s Toronto Studio Provides Pro-Bono Design, Raises Funds for Women’s Shelter

HOK volunteers designed this new lounge space to make 1st Stop Woodlawn feel more like home.

Toronto — YWCA Toronto is one of Canada’s largest providers of transitional and homeless housing. Jacquie Martinez, an office manager in HOK’s Toronto studio, and colleague Deborah Sperry, interiors practice leader, sit on the YWCA’s “Home Team” shelter committee. Together the two HOK coworkers started thinking: What if they could recruit their colleagues to join them in their cause? Particularly, what could HOK’s Toronto studio do to improve YWCA’s 1st Stop Woodlawn Residence, a shelter located in a deteriorating 1960s-era building that provides long-term transitional and emergency housing for 130 women and youth?

The answer: A lot.

Over the past 13 months, HOK’s Toronto studio through its charitable committee, HOK Impact, has helped to raise more than $100,000 CAD for improvements to 1st Stop Woodlawn. Meanwhile, studio designers have donated time designing an updated kitchen, dining room and lounge for the shelter and a programming room for the building’s basement. Altogether, HOK has donated over 150 hours for the project.

“We’re wanting to create a space that feels more like home,” says Martinez. “Currently the space feels a bit unwelcoming and is very outdated. We started by looking at how we could upgrade the kitchen which is in dire shape with much of the equipment not working.”

Contractors and a kitchen consultant have also donated time to assess the property and provide an overall budget for renovations, which will include updating the electrical system and kitchen equipment. Using strategies from healthcare and hospitality, the design team focused on supporting healing and accessibility for people with various mobility needs. The design incorporates views to the surrounding tree-lined neighborhood of Summerhill. Artwork from the residents provides interior decor.

Volunteers from the YWCA’s shelter committee and HOK’s Toronto office during the “Home Is Where the Art Is” auction at HOK’s Toronto studio.

In November, HOK Toronto’s office hosted an art auction with the YWCA’s shelter committee that raised $130,000 CAD for the renovation. The “Home Is Where the Art Is” auction featured 29 pieces of artwork donated by Canadian artists including Charles Pachter, Mara Korkola, Erin Armstrong, Mike Smalley, Frances Thomas, Byron Hodgins and James Kennedy. The event also raised further awareness of YWCA Toronto and 1st Stop Woodlawn.

“As a local charity that assists women, this project resonates so much with our design team” says HOK’s Caitlin Turner, a director of design, interiors. “The HOK staff most involved in this project are women, and we all recognize how vital it is to have this resource of 1st Stop Woodlawn for women, who can be especially vulnerable.”