25th Best of Canada
A survey of this year’s entries is like a splash of cool water on our face, showing us that truly gifted Canadian design leaders are bringing their A-game to what feels like an emerging new era for the built environment.
The human mind is programmed to look for patterns in seemingly unrelated information. Known in scientific parlance as patternicity or apophenia, pattern recognition is an integral element in the learning process, particularly because it comes in very handy when trying to predict what outcomes to expect when faced with new situations. Every year during what I call my Best of Canada phase (beginning with submissions and ending with printing the Awards issue) I try to dial up the pattern recognition parts of my brain to see if any noticeable ones present themselves. Of particular interest this year was the number of entries completed during peak COVID-19 (a sizeable number, with roughly a fifth of submissions completed in the first half of 2022 alone) and I was curious to see how many designs would exhibit a telling response to the pandemic by potentially reimagining a space’s role post-COVID.
As it turned out, surprisingly few projects fit that expectation. In fact, projects that caught the judges’ eyes and survived through various levels of cutting showed different pattern sets: interior environments with defined yet sober aesthetics; delicate treatment of materials and details; the right balance of light, texture and proportion; and a clear, well-balanced vision that placed users’ quality of life at the forefront. It was immensely reassuring to see these fundamental design doctrines employed and then elevated to such a degree in the 25th annual Canadian Interiors’ Best of Canada Awards, the country’s only design competition to focus on interior design projects and products without regard to size, budget or location. Interior designers, architects, decorators, and crafts persons form the community of design leaders shaping our built future, and the quality of their submissions illustrate that the pandemic has not knocked them off track.
As always, the two categories of Projects and Products require distinct judging exercises, which were held on separate days, both at the Teknion Toronto Collaboration Hub and with Teknion’s support. A kinetic group of design professionals heeded the call and shouldered the burden of reviewing submissions and selecting this year’s cream of the crop. For Projects we enlisted: Beverly Horii, managing director and principal at IA Interior Architects; Greg Parsons, Interior Design Director at DEXD; Arnaud Marthouret, founder of Revelateur Studio; and Barbora Vokac Taylor, principal of Barbora Vokac Taylor Architect Inc. On the Products side, three judges with decidedly different perspectives on the design profession put their expertise to work analyzing material from an impressive list: David Correa, Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and a partner at experimental design collaboration llLab; Jonathan Nodrick, founder, CEO and creative director of custom wallpaper company Rollout; and Duane Lucas, business development manager at Black Bread + Jam.
Ultimately, a total of 27 winners were chosen, which include four Products and 23 Projects representing a cross-Canada spectrum. When it came to selecting Project of the Year, the judges debated vigorously and at length until finally nominating the Mouvement Desjardins Executive Floors at the Complexe Desjardins, a project that “deftly addresses what matters most right now in the workplace: diverse spaces that offer a variety of experiences for people to independently and collaboratively perform at their best,” enthuses Barbora Vokac Taylor. “The design intent is strong and responds sensitively to the needs of the current moment. The execution of the project is both skillful yet subtle; using thoughtful details to create an inspiring atmosphere in service of the people that use the space.”
The Best of Canada Awards also continues to celebrate the exceptional work of Canada’s interior product designers, with the honour of Judges’ Pick going to Appareil Atelier for Chaise Elsie, made in collaboration with l’Autre Atelier for Les Jardins de Métis. “Elsie is a deceptively complex chair that keeps all of its hardware discreetly unseen,” mused Jonathan Nodrick. “Elegant, clean lines curve comfortably into any commercial or residential setting, indoors or out, and the solid wood construction welcomes a range of stains and finishes. In short, a very self-assured seat that makes great design look effortless.”
Congratulations to all 27 winners!