A Closer Look
This year’s rendition of IIDEXCanada, presented as a centrepiece to the umbrella Buildings Show, took place during the first week of December at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and offered a plethora of seminars, special keynote addresses and, of course, exhibitors, all loosely grouped around the theme of “the new normal.” That phrase covered everything from recent regulatory changes to rising design trends to the central GoAway! workplace exhibit, curated by Quadrangle Architects, which focused on the idea of office accessibility being everywhere (the exhibit itself changed vignettes four times over the course of the show). We came, we saw, and we noted some of the best that was on display.
Anyone who thinks vinyl floors are dull, not to say old school, hasn’t seen the latest offerings from Toronto’s LSI Floors. Weathered concrete, hammered aluminum, even cow skin, for heaven’s sake, can be digitally printed on to tiles in a five-layer process that also provides sound absorption and stain-proofing, as well as a microscopic glass-beaded surface for a non-slip tread. But what really caught our attention was the booth’s 38-foot aerial photographic map of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brand new and at present the only application of its kind in North America, this map’s sister is embedded in the floor of the Albuquerque Museum. Visitors can literally walk over the face of the city, using their camera-equipped smart devices to discover GPS “hot spots” that instantly bring up audio/video information about prominent city features. Potential uses for this unique wayfinding system run the gamut – from hospitals, shopping malls and other museums, to condo sales offices that could give prospective buyers a virtual tour of their new neighbourhoods. (lsifloors.com)
A small trend to note is the way today’s bright white lights are now diffused by black shades, whether this is through a lamp fabric or, as with the case of Montreal’s Eureka Lighting, spun-aluminum pendants powder-coated in matte anthracite. The company’s Aperture light, sized 12″, 24″ or 36″, presents a custom, dimmable LED light engine hidden within the pendant’s hollow core. Glance up, and all your eyes will see is a soft, retina-friendly glow. (eurekalighting.com)
A Handmade’s Tale
You have to hand it to Spain. That country has long possessed a unique sense of style and colour, thanks to its Southern European/Moroccan heritage. IIDEX’s Interiors From Spain display, curated by the renowned Belén Moneo of Moneo Brock Studio, showcased this with a series of products, including furnishings from Barcelona Design and Expormim, pendant lighting by Bover, and a conveniently situated (and well-stocked) wine fridge from Fagor.
“We’re not afraid of challenging designs and colour,” Moneo admits, pointing to a set of open-weave, stainless steel stool/tables in bold primary hues, crafted by Valencia’s Gandia Blasco. The same firm’s Silai Collection provided the booth’s decorative woollen cover in “old grandma’s cross-stitch” for a black PVC cube – an ottoman cozy, if you will – that speaks to the charmingly atavistic international trend towards handmade objets. (gandiablasco.com)
Interface presented three new indoor carpet tile designs based on abstractions of exterior natural and manmade phenomena. “Narratives” employs raised, foliage-like forms; “Near & Far” pairs softly shaded close-ups with vistas that could be read as an artistic rendering of a landscape; and, our particular favourite, “Equal Measure,” reads as a cobblestone street, a coolly ironic Old World touch for today’s modern workspaces. (interface.com)
Speaking of modern workspaces, Quadrangle’s GoAway! Best of Workplace display offered visitors an island of calm in the midst of IIDEX’s busy exposition floor. Curtained off from the crowd, the 2,000-sq.ft. area provided a showcase for office furnishings by Steelcase, Keilhauer, Teknion, Haworth and more, featured on a rotating basis. Standout pieces on our visit included a Wheels stool by Keilhauer – part of a mobile office grouping designed with spontaneous meetings in mind – and the modular cluster of elegant, curved-back privacy chairs of various heights from Teknion Studio’s Fractal Collection. Then there was the plug-in phone booth from Finland’s Framery. That’s right – a phone booth. In today’s open-concept offices, where privacy is at a premium, it seems we are obliged to fall back on the now-ancient concept of a small, glass-enclosed box where one person can communicate with another without the whole world listening in. Plus ça change…. (frameryacoustics.com)
Ash You Like It
We always leave the perennial favourite Woodshop to the last on our tour of IIDEX – simply because it does our heart good to commune with nature, and to see the good that designers are creating out of trees felled before their time by the insidious ash borer beetle. Prototype ashwood products here included the ingenious “Sewing Lamp” by Japan’s Kunikazu Hamanishi, made from pieces of composite veneer-and-acrylic material sewn together into pendant lamp shade, and the sculptural urban Bike Hook by Toronto- and New York-based Facet-It. Special mention also goes out to two steamed-wood benches – the curvy, commodious Fluyt Bench by Vancouver’s Willow & Stump, and the low-profile Leather Bench, a beautifully fitted together combo of shaped cowhide and ash, built by Toronto’s Jake Whillans. (hamanishi.net / willowandstump.ca / jakewhillans.com)