What’s Up Jan./Feb.

Renoed and re-imagined by Frank Gehry – and reopened this past November to near universal acclaim – the Art Gallery of Ontario is furnished with Danish design selected by the AGO and the world-renowned architect. A total of 16 Danish design companies were chosen to furnish main parts of the gallery with products, such as chairs, benches, lamps, cutlery and floors. Danish design is also available in the gallery’s shop. Says the AGO’s Matthew Teitelbaum, “The timeless and elegant lines of the Danish furniture and design complement the AGO’s architecture, meeting the museum’s high aesthetic standards.”

Through several leading Danish supporters and the generosity of the design manufacturers, the AGO purchased more than $1.5 million worth of Danish furniture and design at a significant discount. The products of well-known Danish design icons (including Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Poul Henningsen and Georg Jensen), along with contemporary designers, are found in the AGO’s new Frank restaurant, Caf AGO, Norma Ridley Members’ Lounge, an espresso bar and contemporary galleries. “This project is an exceptional story of the opportunities created when culture and business work together, says Danish Minister for Culture Carina Christensen. “It is a permanent imprint for Denmark in Canada.”

The SuperDanish project was initiated two years ago, when Frank Gehry enthusiastically embraced the Danish offer to give the new AGO an extraordinary Danish design profile. Denmark’s honourary consul general, Arne Nordtorp, and trade commissioner Peter Mrk have worked closely with the AGO on selecting a Danish design solution with focus on comfort, quality and functionality. Every design product has been carefully evaluated and chosen by the AGO, the gallery’s interior consultants B+H Architects and Gehry himself.

Says Poul Erik Dam Kristensen, Denmark’s ambassador to Canada, “Danish design at the Art Gallery of Ontario is a testimony to the worldwide recognition that Danish design has achieved over the past 50 years.”

Chairs of chairs

Michael Thonet introduced his solid bentwood chair in Vienna in 1859. Known as the “14,” it was developed specifically to appeal, and be affordable by, broad levels of the population. Little did Thonet know that he had created what would become the first mass-produced chair in the world; or that it would launch his eponymous company’s international reputation in the 19th century. Today, the company is run – out of Frankenberg, in North Hesse, Germany – by the fifth generation of the Thonet family, direct descendents of Michael Thonet. With its simple, unfussy shape and high level of functionality, Thonet’s 14, also know as the “coffeehouse chair,” marked the beginning of a new aesthetic appeal. Homes, cafs and restaurants suddenly looked quite different – lighter, and less opulent. What’s more, it was the first flat-pack chair. This revolutionary process enabled the chair to be constructed from six components and a handful of screws. As a result it was easily shipped all over the world and assembled on site.

Now known as the “214” chair, Thonet’s masterpiece turns 150 this year. Its quality was – and remains – so high that the chairs survive for generations (many of those produced in the 19th century are still in use today). It has been in continuous production, with more than 50 million chairs produced to date. It is, quite simply, the most successful industrial product in the world.

Happy 150th, then, to the 214. This is a chair with legs.

At a celebratory dinner in November, held in its delightful digs, the Design Exchange honoured 64 Canadian design projects – in 12 categories – from across the country. Judges chose award winners based on function, profitability, aesthetics, innovation, accessibility and sustainability. Ranging from architecture to visual communication, the 12 categories included three devoted to interior design.


Best of Category in Interior Design: Commercial went to Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning for its Kasian Toronto Office. Located in Liberty Village, the office was conceived as a working lab to embody best practices, show theory in action, and serve as a benchmark for client’s corporate offices.

Best of Category in Interior Design: Residential went to Dubbeldam Design Architects for its Cabbagetown House. The primary design challenge was to create a contemporary renovation within the shell of a 100-year-old home in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood.

Best of Category in Interior Design: Temporary or Portable went to Chase International for its Clear Spirit Marketing Centre, located in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. The objective was to design a marketing centre lobby that contrasted with the historic essence of the building’s exterior.

Multiple winners in the three design categories – each netting an Award of Excellence and Award of Merit – include Gow Hastings Architects Inc., Cecconi Simone and Kantelberg Design.

A full list of winners is available at www.dx.org/dxa.

Oh, the humanity

It all began with tree planting. On the job for several years, Chris Rothery saw parts of British Columbia most people don’t know exist and gained an intimate knowledge of the land. That connection gave him an uncommon understanding of where wood comes from. One night he lay awake, thinking about building a chair, then got out of bed and proceeded to sketch one. He hasn’t stopped designing and building ever since.

Rothery went on to earn a diploma in Fine Furniture from Camosun College in Victoria, B. C. In 2006, he started OnlyHuman Furniture. The Victoria-based studio specializes in custom designed and manufactured furniture from the finest woods, including engineered bamboo, one of the world’s most environmentally friendly construction materials. Even when working with traditional woods, OnlyHuman focuses on reducing the environmental impact.

Last year Rothery and his partner, Christine Stack, expanded the business. They added a small retail boutique to promote his work and also bring cutting-edge design from around the world to Victoria. OnlyHuman is the exclusive dealer in the city for Vancouver-based Bocci, along with the modern Dutch masters Moooi and Droog Design.

Why the name “Only-Human”? “My feeling is that the ‘flaws’ that give someone character. I hate Botoxed faces! Give me crow’s-feet any day – they show confidence, knowledge and wisdom,” says Rothery. “The objects I love and the ones I create must have that same confidence in themselves. Though they function very well, they’re a long way from perfect – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”