RAW SHIFT transforms gutted Queen St. storefront

Flash Architecture in-flux, RAW SHIFT opened shop in a gutted Queen St. storefront, provoking discussion on the future use of Toronto’s buildings

Hundreds of Toronto’s design crowd descended on Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood last week for RAW SHIFT, a one-night-only flash architecture installation. Hosts RAW Design, known for their annual design stunts, transformed an empty storefront on Queen into a thematic exploration of the fluid nature of built spaces and how a building’s use evolves over time.

Blanketing the vacant computer shop with a series of modular cardboard installations, the entire space was staged to evolve as the evening progressed. As is the case with all RAW events, the theme was woven throughout each experience through an origami-inspired backdrop that shifted to support the ever-altering aesthetic, sound, lighting, food and mixology.  Nothing was static.

“We were happy to see the crowd use RAW SHIFT elements as they pleased, customizing their experience and space as friends and colleagues came and went. We wanted to encourage their input to create larger and then more intimate spaces, reconfigure seating and change ambient lighting,” says Marnie Mosher, RAW Design.

Guest weaved in between a towering forest of movable 12 ft. Sonos Tubes set out on a fixed grid, while others bravely ascended the stacked Cube Mountain. Meanwhile a series of illuminated panel sliders were suspended on multiple tracts throughout the space, providing partygoers with endless possibilities for ‘space-shifting.’ Each installation was morphed and manipulated into something entirely new, a playful nod to the shifting nature of Toronto’s architecture.

“As a firm, we’ve worked on numerous adaptive reuse projects over the years. Courtrooms become office spaces, factories become studios, churches become new homes. These conversions serve as a signpost for us. Our lens cannot only focus on the current function of a building but must also anticipate the potential for it to shift its purpose over time. As architects, we must allow for opportunities in the future while addressing the needs of the present,” adds Roland Rom Colthoff, founder of RAW Design.

Libations on offer included boutique winery Trail Estate from Prince Edward County, 13th Street Winery from Niagara, premium craft beer brewer Muskoka Brewery and eco-conscious water brand Flow Water.

Sublime Catering’s head chef Michael Tong served up cuisine that shifted into entirely new culinary experiences highlighting beef, beet and mung bean as elemental ingredients. Meanwhile Death in Venice Gelato Co.  jolted the senses with their pairings of unexpected flavours including mustard, boozy pear and walnut along with peanut and roasted croissant.

RAW SHIFT, the ninth installment of RAW’s annual and highly-anticipated summertime event, served as a natural progression in Toronto’s ongoing dialogue about built form and the urban landscape. For RAW, the event series also serves as a genesis for the studio’s celebrated public-art installation work across the country. RAW’s installation portfolio includes Prismatica as part of Luminotherapie in Montreal and their Nuzzles design for Warming Huts in Winnipeg. RAW is also the co-creator and a key organizer for the annual Winter Stations competition in Toronto.