Robin Brodie Cooper, FRICS

Partner, Gleeds

BCO Senior Vice President and Conference Chair

We live in a world where long-established industries are being disrupted and upended at breakneck speed. A world where populations are changing rapidly – becoming more diverse and more urban – and where this change is breaking down social norms and fostering new ones.

Toronto is a city facing this future. The city hums with entrepreneurialism, disruption and creativity. The tech sector is soaring, new industries are blossoming, and people want to be a part of the action. Half the city’s people were born outside Canada and the population is growing at pace, with people from different backgrounds, beliefs and cultures living and working together in harmony.

Canada is a country full of history, fought over by the British, the French and the Americans. Toronto, now the financial capital of Canada, has a deep and rich indigenous history.  In fact, the name Toronto is derived from the Mohawk word ‘tkaronto’ which means ‘where there are trees standing by water’.

Today, those trees are skyscrapers, punctuated by the iconic CN tower. The skyline sprouts from a modern city that is open, tolerant – and thriving.

For proof, look at its workplaces. Toronto has some amazing office buildings developed by the likes of Oxford Properties, Brookfield and Ivanhoe / Cambridge to name but a few. These developers, who cut their teeth in Canada, are now designing closer to home with joint ventures, partnerships and investments in Canary Wharf, 22 Bishopsgate, 100 Bishopsgate and the Cheesegrater.

Toronto’s developers are creating workplaces that are open to new generations, new industries and new technologies. The Google Sidewalk Labs project, although in its infancy, will utilise technology to maximise effectiveness not only in running buildings but human behaviours.

Like its host, this is a Conference that has its sights set on the future.

We’ll be asking key developers about how the office industry will change. In particular, we’ll hear about potential disrupters that could drive wholly new office building designs and radically alter social environments.

We’ll also listen to leading occupiers, who will speak about whether workplaces are meeting their current – and, of course, future – needs. Together, we’ll examine the importance of creating a sense of place in a world moving at dizzying speed.

Meanwhile, afternoon tours will show the city’s thriving commercial heart. But it’s not all work, there’ll be the cycling challenge, deep lake fishing and golf all ahead of our first day. Evenings will be spent eating the city’s world-leading, multicultural cuisine and enjoying vibrant bars with vistas that look across Toronto. 

I truly believe there is no better place to understand how our world is changing, and how our work must respond, than where the trees used to stand by water.

I look forward to seeing you there!