The AGO’s wall of wonders;An open book;Haworth in Toronto

Though its full name is more fusty than fun, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Off the Wall! Dr. Mariano Elia Hands On Centre is one of the city’s most popular creative spaces for kids of all ages. It’s likely to become more popular this year, thanks to Reich + Petch Design International. As part of the Transformation AGO expansion project, the gallery enlisted the international design firm (based in Toronto, with offices in Washington, D. C. and London), along with Holman Exhibits, to redesign and reinvigorate the centre. Says Britt Walter-Nolan, the AGO’s coordinator of family programs, “This revitalized space will attract kids and unleash their creative genius.”

Off the Wall!’s focal point will be the Cabinet of Curiosities (a Wunderkammer. or wonder- room) that invites families and children to look at interesting objects and consider different themes related to art and creativity. The curiosities can include everything from feathers and claws to cassette tapes and remote controls. Children can also sign out a discovery case and take it with them into the galleries, finding new relationships with the art. “Interestingly, Wunderkammers once were owned by such wealthy monarchs as Peter the Great and the Hapsburgs, whose collection included the feather headdress of Montezuma,” says Tony Reich, co-founder of Reich + Petch. “We believe curiosities from the past or the present can help provoke interest in their history and imagination.”

The AGO’s interpretive strategy for the space is divided into five zones exploring different aspects of creativity. Make your Mark looks at ways to record an idea that moves beyond pen and paper. Memory Maker reminds us that our life experiences are a source of artistic inspiration. Seeing is a necessary part of creativity and the “eye spy” activities in the Observatory suit even the youngest visitor. In Body Canvas, children dress up in non-traditional ways -an important outlet for personal expression. In the DIY Junktion, everyday items become components of sculptures. The activities in each zone will change constantly, so no two visits will be the same.

Fabrication of exhibits in the 1,700-square-foot Off the Wall! space is underway in preparation for the AGO’s grand reopening in the fall.

The Cabinet of Curiosities, chock full of found objects, is the focal point of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s redesigned Off the Wall! Centre.

A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto-based David Fleishman started his own company in 1997, developing several furniture and product designs. The awkwardness of handling oversized art books inspired him to create an elegant bookstand he called the Tectonic Sphere. Adapted by Umbra for its U+ Collection, Livroche -as it’s now known -can display books or stand alone as a sculpture. Where Fleishman’s prototype was constructed of maple and stainless steel, Livroche is hand-carved from natural stone.

Materials of the future

Material ConneXion, the leading global platform for material innovations and solutions, has published its second book, Ultra Materials: How Material Innovation is Changing the World (written by George

M. Beylerian and Dr. Andrew Dent; edited by Bradley Quinn). Using groundbreaking products and projects of recent years, Ultra Materials reveals the new application of these materials in architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, product and vehicle design. It includes interviews with designers who have made particular use of new materials, including David Adjaye, Zaha Hadid and Marcel Wanders; offers an analysis of the transformative science being employed; and provides a window into the future, drawing on the ideas of leading experts. The book’s 400 featured items run the gamut from self-cleaning materials based upon the surface morphology of a lotus leaf to outdoor pavilions made from inflatable membranes.

Worth a second look

Second-Look, the first recycling program for vinyl wallcovering, took home the top sustain-ability awards at three international design shows and was named one of 2007’s best new products by Architectural Record’s Product Reports. Introduced by Louisville, Ky.-based LSI Wallcovering, Second-Look won the Gold Award for Most Sustainable Product from IIDEX/NeoCon Canada; the Symposium Distinction Award for Most Sustainable Product from the Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo; and the Grand Prize for Environmental Solutions in the Innovations Competition at NeoCon.

A comprehensive sustainable solution, Second-Look includes a retrieval program that reclaims used vinyl wallcovering made by any manufacturer and transforms it into new patterns with a minimum of 20 per cent total recycled content and at least 10 per cent post-consumer. LSI Wallcovering’s Cirqa, Plexus and Versa wallcovering brands each offer a Second- Look recycled collection; in addition, many of LSI’s standard designs can be made as Second- Look recycled wallcoverings, with a 500-yard minimum. The low-VOC wallcoverings last for more than 10 years and can be repeatedly recycled to divert them from landfills for decades.

Haworth, Inc., the global manufacturer of office furniture and architectural interiors, opened its newest showroom in the heart of Toronto’s financial district this past January. Located at 55 University Ave., the showroom serves as a resource centre for designers, architects, real estate professionals, clients and dealers; showcases the company’s products; and presents progressive ideas in sustainable design and adaptable workspaces.

The new space was designed in conjunction with Perkins + Will/Eva Maddox Branded Environments and IBI Group. It’s consistent with other Haworth showrooms, with moveable walls, raised access floors, and modular furniture in a variety of applications and finishes. Spanning 13,000 square feet on the first and second floors of the 31-year-old building, the showroom is an applicant for LEED certification.

The first floor showcases Haworth’s integration of furniture, architectural products, technology and materials. Thanks to the dramatic, double-height ceiling in the lobby, light permeates the space -supporting the idea that access to elements of nature enhances human performance and increases productivity. The second-floor learning centre includes a design resource centre to facilitate discussion and exploration of materials and finishes with designers and clients; a sustainability lab offering a physical demonstration of building with modular components; and a multi-purpose/collaboration room for large training or smaller group activities.

Renovated in 1997, the building is noted as having a great view of the city and provides a high profile at street level. In addition, it is Go Green-certified by BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) of Canada. BOMA Go Green designation is awarded to buildings demonstrating compliance with 10 key measures of good practice in resource consumption, waste reduction and recycling, building materials, interior environment and tenant awareness.