Lemon aid

Jeff Hardy, principal and retail team leader for Toronto’s Quadrangle Architects, knew Yorkdale’s 3,000-square-foot Lululemon store was going to be a bit different from the rest of the 30 to 40 North American projects his company oversees yearly for the mammoth yoga-wear retailer. “You could tell that it was going to come out quite special,” he says. “Part of it was the sense of importance. Yorkdale is one of the busiest shopping centres on the continent.”

Then, too, Lululemon wanted to experiment – much to mall-management chagrin – with the avant-garde concept of completely covering up its storefront. Lululemon’s staff store designer, Emily Robin, liked the idea of an exterior veiled in wood and, being a fan of Toronto furniture designers the Brothers Dressler, commissioned them to create the installation. 

Jason Dressler picks up the story from there: “We’ve always wanted to pixilate an image with wood colours. When we started thinking about an image connected to nature and Ontario, we sent Lululemon a reference shot of this maple leaf with a slug crawling on it that Lars took in fall eight years ago up at the family cottage at Parry Sound. Its tonal range matched the wood tones we wanted to use. Emily loved the image as much as we did, and asked for a mosaic of it not only for the facade but also leading into the store.”

While Quadrangle worked on the actual store structure and layout, the Dresslers, together with a dozen specially hired craftspeople, spent weeks constructing the 23-by-25-foot front cladding and contiguous 12-by-6-foot doorway made from 35,788 one-and-three-quarter-inch pieces, representative of more than 20 different species of wood. 

“It was very labour intensive,” Dressler says. “All these people working a non-stop, 45-foot-long assembly line: laying down, gluing, finishing. Except for a few pieces, the mosaic was entirely made from scrap materials, leftovers from our furniture making. The amount of history within this mosaic is tremendous: parts of doorways, churches, Queen’s Wharf piers, barrels. That’s what we thought was so great, just how many layers of Ontario history there was to it.”

Public response to this most Canadian of icons has been very positive since the store’s 2012 opening. Inside, the Dresslers’ theme carries through in the chakra-inspired reconstituted tree that hangs behind the cash desk; the walnut “wooden waterfall” drinking station; and the dressing-room chandelier made from reclaimed walnut veneer, steamed green and combined with beaver-chewed sticks, then icicled over with Swarovski crystals. Connectivity to nature’s calm and a healthy lifestyle, sensitivity to the ecology, a deep respect for a community’s shared history – for Jeff Hardy, these things relate directly to his client’s design mandate. The fact that through their crew’s collaborative expertise it turned into something quite extraordinary, well that’s just karma.  cI