November/December 2023

26th Best of Canada

With an unwavering focus on innovation and originality in design thinking, this year’s results present a sumptuous banquet of creativity, inspiration, and knowledge that are a testament to the dynamic spirit and ingenuity coursing through the veins of Canadian design, heralding a vibrant future for the aesthetic landscape.

Managing an awards program is grueling, but I never fail to be impressed when the dust has settled and I retreat a few paces, I see a consistent feature: that awards produce honest results. I’ve heard critiques that design awards are totally subjective. While this may carry a kernel of truth, it’s a truth that, paradoxically, underpins the validity of the results. While each design could be measured differently by a different jury, over time, the results are consistent. A retrospective gaze at the illustrious history of the Best of Canada Awards underscores this phenomenon. Even when I broaden my view to encompass other A&D awards, the same pattern unfolds: certain projects traverse the circuit and receive just accolades. This principle extends to design teams; if you’re good, over time the results are there and consistency is rewarded. I’ve been doing this long enough to see design teams elevate their design prowess while also perfecting their capacity for astute articulation. I recall a remark from a Best of Canada juror emphasizing that the jury is not merely endorsing aesthetic beauty but also meticulous exposition of processes and aspirations.

Another remarkable facet of design competitions lies in their capacity to level the playing field between big firms and fledgling enterprises. The Canadian Interiors’  Best of Canada Awards stands as a beacon in this regard, a realm that celebrates interior design endeavours without prejudice to dimensions, budgets, or locations. Here, it’s the innovation and novelty in design thinking that reign supreme. The results mirror this principle. Speaking of results, we present again a feast of creativity, inspiration, and knowledge as embodied in the most innovative and captivating interiors of the past 24 months.

As always, the two categories of Projects and Products require distinct judging exercises, which were held on separate days, both at the showroom of Black Bread + Jam and with their generous support. A dynamic and entertaining group of design professionals shouldered the burden of reviewing submissions and selecting this year’s crème de la crème. For Projects we enlisted four judges whose involvement in the design profession brings a tapestry of perspectives to an impressive list of submissions: Joanne Lam, principal and co-founder of Picnic Design; Fraser Greenberg, owner of Milky’s Coffee (itself a Best of Canada winner in 2021) and marketing director of flooring company Relative Space; Viz Saraby, professor and Coordinator of Interior Design at George Brown College; and Paul Sapounzi, president and managing principal at +VG Architects (The Ventin Group Ltd.). On the Products side, three judges put their in-the-trenches expertise to work analyzing material: Reza Aliabadi, founder and principal of Atelier RZLBD; Heather Dubbeldam, founder and principal of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design; and Jimmy Rogers, principal of 39 Design + Engineering Inc. and president of the Association of Chartered Industrial Designers of Ontario (ACIDO).

Ultimately, a total of 28 winners were chosen, which include four Products and 24 Projects representing a cross-Canada spectrum. When it came to selecting Project of the Year, the judges spoke in unison when nominating the Centre Culturel Desjardins, the transformation of a performance hall that represents a harmonious blend of poetic expression and practicality, where form and function engage in a dialogue akin to the moralizing of Aaron Sorkin peppered with the wit of Noël Coward. “The Centre Culturel Desjardins is a visually striking project that is the result of a thoughtful, principled approach to the restoration of a theatre,” said Fraser Greenberg. “This project manages to take a program that is very specific in its requirements and elevate it. The seemingly simple moves belie the obvious thought and care behind the scene,” enthused Joanne Lam. “The colour blocking in the different areas is striking and impactful, with the more muted black and white opening into the stunning red. Extending the traditional red colour of theatre seats to the entire mezzanine unifies the space and makes it into a floating element. Not only does it make a strong statement but it also makes you look at the heritage details in a new light, re-interpreting the theatrical experience.”

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 Creators of Objects for the Oort Collection. Although inspired by theoretical astronomical bodies orbiting just beyond our solar system, “They bring to mind a sand-polished glass fishing float washed ashore,” mused Jimmy Rogers, tapping into the spirit of plucking objects found adrift in unpredictable seas.

Congratulations to all 28 winners!

See each of the Award Winners in the 2023 Best of Canada Awards Section of this website

Project Judges (clockwise top left): Fraser Greenberg; Joanne Lam; Paul Sapounzi; Viz Saraby

Product Judges (l to r): Heather Dubbeldam; Reza Aliabadi; Jimmy Rogers