Design brief(ly)

A boxing gym. A car dealership. A Polish bakery. A parking lot. A storage locker. Who knew they could all make for great party locations? Well, apparently the clever, fun-loving folks at RAW Design did, and thank the heavens for them.

To be fair, I’ve got nothing against the more typical client-and-friends-appreciation fête, usually held in a firm’s office or signature project. Free food and booze – what’s not to love! But to my mind, if your stock-in-trade is design, then you should look at every event as an opportunity to show off your skills and creativity, which RAW has been doing wonderfully for the last eight summers.

Each for different reasons, the gamut of single-named events all stand out in my mind. But the one that pops up a lot during conversations is Rising, when the firm toasted (ahem) the design community back in 2011in one of Toronto’s oldest operational bread factories, and then turned the space on its ear by exploring interactive design technology. “One aspect of our business that we are particularly fascinated by is extending the city,” said RAW founder Roland Rom Colthoff, at the time.

This is a firm that has been continually pursuing that philosophy, as evidenced by their skyline-punching contributions to Toronto’s famously expanding condo scene, with projects such as Cube, Eleven Superior, Motif Lofts, Bellefair Kew Beach Residences, Cabin and more. So not surprisingly, their not-to-be-missed summer events push those same boundaries. In 2013 it was a people-powered installation on top of a parkade (Energy), celebrating the notion that human ideas and power are behind the transformation of cities; in 2014 it was an exploration of basic building materials such as wood, masonry, glass, metals and even fabrics (Material) in an industrial turn of the century brick building turned storage facility; and last summer transforming a derelict building on Toronto’s waterfront into a 30,000- sq.-ft. pop-up gallery (Canvas), with the building itself becoming a forced nexus of art and architecture.

The architecture and design community is notoriously hard to ‘wow,’ but RAW’s consistently provocative events should not only stimulate their senses, but also challenge other firms to put more design effort into anything they want us to “save the date” for.

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