The DNA of this blog is composed of art, culture and design and it continues to be. Toronto is the hotbed of this trinity this week with the Interior Design Show and the Toronto Design Offsite Festival with various venues and points of focus. Designers, artists and their disciples will flock to Toronto’s cultural centre with installations and events all over Dundas West, Queen West, the Junction and other neighbourhoods.
Design and art aficionados will find their fix starting tonight with the launch party at Smash in the Junction starting at 8 p.m. Dear reader: if you are up for it, there’s a free (!) Letterpress Card-making Workshop at Graven Feather (906 Queen Street West) starting at 6 p.m.
The Junction will be the place to visit tonight with the above mentioned TODO Launch Party at Smash. My favourite art supplies shop, ARTiculations (2928 Dundas St West), will host an opening reception for the exhibit Accumulation by Christine Kim starting at 6 p.m. It’s all about investigating and experimenting with lines, light and shadow. Toronto’s beloved design shop Mjölk will host to Stockholm-based Italian industrial designer Luca Nichetto. If you’re a coffee fiend like I am, you might find a new toy that would enable your brewing vice with a new collection of accessories inspired by Italian coffee culture. The reception starts at 7 p.m.
Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel starts tomorrow, Thursday, January 23. Installations by A0 (ALSO Collective + Mason Studio) and EYES ON DESIGN are my top picks to see.
To finish the week off, Interior Design Show (IDS) will be open to the public this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The two talks I will be attending are on Saturday, January 25. The first one with Sami Ruotsalainen of Marimekko and Andrew Sardone from the Globe and Mail at 12 p.m. The second is with Rafael de Cardenas from New York-based firm Architecture at Large in conversation with the Globe and Mail’s Style Editor Amy Verner at 4 p.m.
So, how’s your design week looking? Just grab some water, cash, your iPhone and you’re good to go.
Lamps by Moooi Amsterdam
Chest of drawers by Tajo Remy
When I think of Dutch culture, I think of art and design.
On my last visit to the Netherlands, I had the chance to go beyond Amsterdam and to see the lovely little cities surrounding the capital. What unites the seven cities and towns I visited is the function that the architecture and design that is inherent in everyday living. Everything makes sense.
The porcelains of Delft, the houseboats on the canals and giant bay windows are indicative of the pursuit of purpose without sacrificing aesthetics. And why not? The stereotypical coldness associated with the geography is broken when you step back to realize the romance of the whole picture.
For those who are on Pinterest, Urban Peanut: A Gallery has a board! Come and check it out here.
Ork Map of Toronto
Christopher Columbus_Map_New World_1490
By Mike Baldwin
Directions are either helpful or confusing, maps included. Visual cues are meant to minimize interference by by language and this is where design comes in. Conventions and cultural references are used to help in this experience but there are still shortcomings.
The visual that a map presents to its beholder is spatial; ingenious use of other elements like colours and texture gives the said beholder a space for personalizing the experience of wayfinding. One good example of this visual map is the ‘You Are Here’ map that can be found at any shopping centre. By using the beholder’s relative starting point, the hunt for the shoe sale is a little closer for someone shopping with daddy’s credit card which is a blessing (for the current teenager) and a curse (for the same teenager but ten years from and now also for the unknowing father).
Maps are documents of discovery. Without blazing trails, maps would not exist and without verifying accuracy, maps could very well be drawings mazes that can be filled with colour using wax crayons. Navigators commissioned by kings earned a living heading to the unknown seas brought back trophies as well as roughly plotted maps of their routes to get from one place to their destinations. Christopher Columbus had an estimated idea of how to get to the New World but confusion about where exactly his ship landed has born a huge influence on our present geographic references.
Recently, experimentation in cartography has come from graphic design. The maps are neither topographic, geographic or political; they have become typographic. Looking at the Ork maps of cities, including Toronto, the intention is to visually represent the different neighbourhoods and districts in urban centres through kerning and letting. They are useless if you are a tourist trying to navigate the streets but heck, they are beautiful.
Present-day collectible maps are great to serve as art and design pieces. Nothing else. They are visual references and approximations that could be slightly helpful. One can argue that this is a design failure; another can rebut by asking if we even need maps still. The analog/puritan in me would say ‘yes.’ The tech enthusiast in me asks, ‘don’t I have an app for that?’.
December has slapped us in the face with no apology. Being cooped up in a suburban box for most of my waking hours should not be an excuse for the lack of action on ‘the Gallery.’ (I am quietly willing this nickname to get catchier every time I use it.)
With the season of gift-giving in our midst, a list is in order and better yet, a list of gifts that I would like to receive. They are the only gifts worth giving unless you prove me otherwise.
This SIWA Backpack by Naoto Fukasawa is made in Japan. The material is wash-suki paper which is quite deceiving because it is resilient, waterproof and become softer with the wear and tear of commuting. Ideal for the urban nomad in everyone. $250 at Mjölk.
The iPad has been a game-changer since it was introduced to the market in 2010. Carrying one everywhere has been a constant for the person who is always on the go. Once you’re home, wouldn’t you like to have your sidekick come home to a nice cradle? I have been crushing on this iVictrola for iPad designed by Matt Richmond. It’s like the composite creature in Mary Shelley’s novel without the monster stigma. There is an old repurposed Magnavox horn from the 1920s to be used as the speaker with a handcarved walnut base. If you’re lucky enough to run into one, I know who has two thumbs and would like to find one under his tree. This guy. $985 from Design Within Reach.
Since it’s the holidays, we think about our friends and loved ones and how we can spend more quality time with them. It is all about being efficient with time and being always prepared for last-minute parties or dinners (maybe some that might have slipped one’s mind until about an hour before the appetizers). The Mini Cooper Coupé 2012 is a present that will keep on giving. Impromptu visits to the parents, aunts and uncles are on my list of resolutions. Please help make this possible. Starting at $25,950 at MINI.ca.
Around this time of the year, a design-hungry hog would be salivating about the thought of going to Salone internazionale del mobile where designers, manufacturers and consumers congregate to see what is in store in the very near future. The thought of being in the same room as the jewels of some of our time’s brilliant minds could induce short bursts of euphoria akin to Beatle-mania, if only those hyperventilating were full-grown adults, with refined tastes that are only be appeased by limited edition Eames chairs made from recycled bamboo chopsticks. I must confess I took the liberty in inventing this particular collector’s piece.
Not even an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano could keep the design-obsessed away. Last year, patrons and enthusiasts risked being grounded in Europe just to behold innovative products in design. What heaven does one live in where being stuck in Europe is the worst thing that could happen? Sign me up. Please.
Cité de la mode et du design, Paris
A couple of weeks ago, tired from a full week of completing projects both at work and at home, I decided to do a little indoor gardening. The tropical plants, lucky bamboos of birthdays past and and whatever is left of an orchid plant after the bloom is gone were the subjects of the Friday night impromptu botany experiment.
Fifteen years ago, my grandmother gave me a plant that has not been repotted since. Imagine a 4 foot tall plant in a 6-inch plastic planter. It was an odd thing to behold.
“Why don’t I cut stalks from this plant and put them in water? I know roots will shoot. Let’s just see,” I thought to myself. the success story involves the first plant, roots and all, being potted the day before yesterday.
I never fancied myself a greenthumb but here I was, little plant in my hands, dirty with soil. I started thinking: “What’s an interesting plant to grow?”
I started thinking about my lithops when I was living in Montréal. Lithops are also known as living pebbles because they are the perfect example of biomimicry. Their camouflaged appearance has helped these succulent plants (ex. cacti) escape predation and getting eaten by the thirstiest of animals for the water stored in their leaves. They are ‘designed’ by nature to withstand the dry summers in Southern Africa, their native habitat.
I know I am geeking out, dear readers, but they are such strange plants and lithops just made me read more about them and other succulent plants. The best design inspirations definitely come from nature. Have you read Darwin’s “Origin of Species”? Go ahead. You’ll see how Alexander McQueen‘s Spring 2010 collection makes sense.