Open for lunch service, the existing restaurant at the Gardiner Museum was relatively unknown, attracting mostly elderly patrons. Upon entry, spectacular city views were overshadowed by a cold, uninviting aesthetic, and the narrative of Canada’s National Museum of Ceramics was lost. Many people knew the space for its quality event service; with the ability to clear the space and create a spectacular setup for events with off-site rentals.
The new restaurant partner – The Food Dudes – provided a clear mandate – create a space that can easily convert between daytime restaurant service and evening events, and engage a new demographic while keeping the existing patronage happy.
Our goal was to provide the flexibility of multi-purpose with the aesthetic of a fixed-in-place restaurant.
The new design reconnects the space to the Museum’s focus while paying respect to the building’s architectural features. This meaningful concept influenced all aspects of the restaurant from the food and plating, to the branding and name. Clay itself is at the root of every detail, with inspiration taken from its properties and the process of clay making.
The minerals of clay tell the colour story, with rich terracotta hues, stoneware neutrals, and vibrant porcelain whites. Turned wood furniture and organic forms make subtle reference to the artifacts and tooling typically found inside a ceramist’s studio.
Perhaps the most compelling addition is the custom bar. The front bar is clad entirely in durable commercial grade porcelain slabs, while the back bar integrates display opportunities to further extend the museum’s shop offerings – both a sales tool and an aesthetic choice. Smart planning decisions were implemented to create an optimal layout for the restaurant that could easily adapt to events. Modularity and compactness were key considerations due to the strict one-hour conversion timeframe. Existing storage was limited so locking storage solutions were integrated into the bar millwork.
Furniture and custom elements were strategically selected for optimization of storage space and efficiency of the teardown process. Folding dividers and mobile planters act to provide privacy and delineation within the space without the permanence of fixed partitions. Soft seating in vibrant hues define the bar/lounge area, while a more muted palette is used in the open dining area.
All chairs stack on dollies, tables are flip-top with nesting legs, and the host and services stations are mobile on casters. These pieces adapt well for use during cocktail parties, lectures, and wedding receptions. It was important to have the functionality of multipurpose furniture, without the mundane aesthetic. The end result is a remarkably versatile space that does not compromise on design.
Situated on Dubai’s waterfront, the Etihad Museum honours the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) conception story. Comprised of the curving Pavilion above ground and a subterranean Museum, the building is adjacent to the historic Union House, where the nation’s Constitution was signed in 1971.
Interior Designer: Chen Cohen, ARIDO
Design Firm: Moriyama & Teshima Architects
Project Photographer: Victor Romero, Felix Loechner
The museum makes an impact with its unique scroll-like form which mimics the parchment paper of the UAE Constitution. The Pavilion’s entry features bronze metal text of the nation’s founding philosophy that seems to rise from a page of marble. Rows of embossed bronze columns recall pens in motion, referencing the signatory act that formalized the Emirati unification.
A grand staircase and ramp that echo flowing lines of Arabic script takes Pavilion visitors underground. Once descended, visitors encounter the familiar circular form of Union House through a curving foundation wall, clad in dune-like carved stone. This familiar element becomes the central organizing feature of the museum, a constant reference point for visitors as they navigate the massive permanent gallery and its surrounding spaces.
The flow of movement is further highlighted by billowing white ceiling planes that represent the rippling patterns of the Bedouin winds in the desert sand. Movement is further accentuated by carved wood columns throughout the space.
The museum houses permanent and temporary galleries, a theatre, event spaces, and archival facilities, and the design team placed these rooms strategically, as they have no need of natural light. Meanwhile, two spacious sunken courtyards and four large skylights connect to the ground level plaza, flooding the sub-terranean classrooms, research library, administration offices, prayer rooms, and café with natural light and prevent visitors from feeling stuck underground.
The design team worked to ensure the museum is a space that represents the UAE’s past while creating a site for learning and exchange in the present, and progress in the future.
On the western edge of Peterborough, an hour and a half east of Toronto, Fleming College’s Sutherland Campus was established in 1973 with a collection of buildings designed by Ron Thom in collaboration with Thompson Berwick and Pratt and Partners within a 200-acre, terraced, park-like setting. Almost 50 years later, the college commissioned our team to revitalize the outdated 76,000 sf A-Wing, which serves as a campus gateway and classroom facility.
The design strategy was to transform the dark, heavy, and inefficient building into a contemporary one that meets the standards of 21st century learning, sustainability and accessibility. This all needed to be delivered without demolishing and rebuilding at the same time as it was fully occupied.
We began by shedding the building’s dark brown aluminum envelope back to its steel frame, and recladding it with alpolic aluminum panels(LINK) – a readily available and lightweight material conventionally found on gas stations that instantly gives the building a modern, clean and luminous appearance. Arranging bright coloured panels in one of the College’s brand colours at various angles captured natural light in different conditions, giving the illusion of a deeper colour palette. The colour palette continues inside the building, with interior finishes carefully selected to complement the exterior of the building. Lighting, furniture, and fixtures enhance the modern expression of the A-Wing.
The white and yellow panels that transform the existing facade were carefully chosen to integrate the space with the original brown campus buildings and a new Corten-clad neighbour. To break down the A-Wing’s solidity, we re-crafted the building’s form by applying some panels with “accordion folds”, and adding perforated versions over the windows. The overall effect is uplifting and playful.
Each entrance and key circulation space is demarcated with a glass pavilion and a transparent central hub that serves as a meeting space for socializing and informal learning. This node also includes a skylight that draws light downwards over multiple storeys.
A new roof, energy efficient glazing, LED light fixtures with occupancy sensors, and building components made of recycled materials provided a much needed updated to the building. Several accessibility upgrades helped establish a more inclusive space. In particular, barrier-free washrooms feature wall-mounted, floating sinks for wheelchair access, sensor operated dispensers and hand dryers as well as the appropriate spacing turning space in stalls and enclosures. We also introduced gender-neutral washrooms that can be used by all students, regardless of identity.
As a design team with extensive experience in hands-on learning environments we introduced several upgrades to the classrooms for the Health and Wellness, and Justice and Community Development programs which simulate contemporary hospitals, ambulances, and courtrooms. Replacing solid classroom and office walls with glazing, the design invites light to further permeate the interior, while also treating passersby to glimpses of the learning taking place within.
Renovations to the A-Wing took place while the building was fully occupied. We worked closely with Fleming College to design the project to phase construction in a sequence that would allow continuous delivery of some programs with minimal disruption. A portion of the construction work such as sprinkler work, took place after hours, the remaining renovations were delivered in two phases by area.
The original bold, 1970s graphics which denote each building wing has been retained as a tribute to the building’s original architect, Ron Thom – who was influential in shaping the design of Canadian post-secondary buildings. Our appreciation for this bold branding inspired us to select tile in complementary yellow and orange colours, which are used throughout the A-Wing for additional passive wayfinding. Bold colours, dynamic geometric shapes, and oversize typography animate the space, creating progressive differentiation between various areas of use.
Design features include flexibly patterned wall and floor tiles that create abstract wayfinding within public corridors. The tiles were used to cleverly and intuitively define zones separating student lounge areas from the corridors without the use of wall. Elongated wall tiles were patterned to form a bright mosaic featuring warm yellow, grey and white tones. The tile mosaic creates an uplifting look – brightening a space that was deep in the building floorplate, with relatively low ceilings and limited natural light.
One change we facilitated was the move to shared faculty offices. The design team developed a strategy for the layout and planning of this space to meet the client’s objectives. Over the course of several presentations the design team was able to underscore the virtues of minimizing private space and optimizing shared space. The solution is completely unique to this College and the Faculty were pleased with the results.
The project is a continuation of the energy conscious revitalization of Fleming College’s Sutherland Campus. By inventively working within the building’s original steel frame – breathing new life into the A-Wing, instead of rebuilding – we were able to achieve a modern building for a fraction of the cost to the College, and a lower environmental footprint. This adaptive reuse approach was a sustainable choice as it minimizes the adverse environmental effects of new construction, by reducing waste and energy consumption from demolition, and resources used during construction.
We also performed life-cycle costing to measure the lifetime costs of operating the A-Wing. This analysis allowed us to identify necessary performance upgrades that would sustainably extend the building’s life cycle. Supporting Fleming College’s goal of improving its energy efficiency, the design team outfitted the A-Wing with performance upgrades including new roofing, energy efficient glazing, LED light fixtures with occupancy sensors, low-flush plumbing fixtures, and building components with low environmental impact and recycled content.
Equity, diversity and inclusion was incorporated into the project as both a directive from the client and an expression of our firm’s core values. Fleming College promotes a welcoming and inclusive environment for students, staff and guests from the community. The A-Wing revitalization demonstrates commitment on an on-going basis to removing barriers and actively evolving a culture of respect, recognition, accommodation and celebration of each other’s unique contributions to Fleming’s learning and working environment.
Project Location: Peterborough, ON Project Completion Date: November 2018 Project Square Footage: 56,000 square feet
With a vibrant façade and a warm, light-filled interior, this revitalized Toronto Public Library branch is one for the books. Albion Library is much more than a place to house reading material. Located in Toronto’s Rexdale neighbourhood, the library functions as a social epicentre for the surrounding community. Albion Library provides a broad range of services for a diverse demographic, including many recent immigrants, in one of Toronto’s Neighbourhood Improvement Areas.
Interior Designer(s): Joanne D’Silva
Design Firm: Perkins and Will
Photographer: Doublespace; Rodrigo Chavez; Toronto Public Library Staff
When we took on the project, it was apparent that the branch required a major upgrade. The ageing building (which dated back to 1971) was run-down and far from meeting the community’s growing needs. Our design solution needed to address deficiencies in the existing building and the community’s concerns around inclusivity, accessibility, wayfinding, public safety, and access to light and nature.
While our initial plan called for an addition to the existing branch, community consultation quickly revealed that the proposed two-year closure would negatively impact the Rexdale community. In response, our design team worked with Toronto Public Library to develop a different approach. Designing a new library on the adjacent, underutilized parking lot allowed the existing facility to remain open during construction. When the new library opened, the pre-existing library was demolished and a multipurpose urban plaza for community events, markets, and visitor parking was created in its place.
Programmatically, Albion offers neighbours and patrons a wide range of services that go far beyond lending books. The library serves the surrounding area by facilitating programs related to cultural orientation, social integration, and employment skills (as well as providing access to technology and knowledge). For the Toronto Public Library, success is measured by the degree to which they can meet and respond to the changing and unique needs of their communities while innovating their services. As a space that puts users first, Albion Library has become a place of transition for newcomers and a haven for the community at large.
Inspired by the aspirations of the community, we used the concept of a walled garden to address the need for a safe space and respite from the car-dominated context. A coloured scrim of terracotta ribs wraps the building, evoking a garden in bloom and mirroring the diversity of the community. The scrim lifts to articulate the entry, creating a colourful and dynamic form that ushers visitors inside the cheerful space. The building also includes three landscaped courtyards which subdivide the large 2,694 square meter plan into distinct program zones, providing acoustic separation and the programming of different activities.
Internally, the library is dominated by a folding timber roof that slopes towards the courtyards. The warmth of the wood structure plays off the lush texture of the courtyards—which are visible from every corner of the building. The neutral backdrop (cultivated, in part, by dark carpet and white oak millwork) highlights colourful and playful furniture items, light fixtures, and a striking mural by Jacob Hashimoto at the front service desk. High-level sustainable design features include a rooftop photovoltaic array, sloping green roof, daylight harvesting, and the selection of healthy materials. Occupant well-being is supported by proximity to nature and abundant access to light and views.
We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Rexdale community as they venture into this new chapter at Albion Library.
Established in 2004, the Nicholas Metivier Gallery has become one of Canada’s most distinguished contemporary art vendors. With business growth, the Gallery required a significantly larger display space and the opportunity to host more than one exhibition at a time. The design challenge, however, was to transform a derelict auto shop into an evocative spatial experience. This project was completed in 2018.
Interior Designer: Stella McTernan, ARIDO
Design Firm: McTernan Design Associates
Photographer: A-Frame Inc.
The interplay of the building’s perimeter glazing and interior structural grid ultimately informed the layout. The original overhead garage doors were removed and replaced with new windows, consisting of a central clear glass panel, flanked by two slender translucent side panels that obscure the view directly in and out of the Gallery while leaving intriguing oblique views. Floating drywall panels mirror the centre windows and establish a unique display opportunity that connects the street and gallery environments, and diffuses natural lighting throughout the gallery interior. The formal symmetry of the gallery space gains a relaxed edge from the gritty characteristic markings of the original concrete floor, a patina now activated by a polished finish.
Fire-rated structural columns and overhead trusses, remnants of the garage structure, are embedded within the walls, which informs a sense of flow and creates three distinct yet interdependent gallery areas. Taking advantage of the depth of these walls, the design team saw an opportunity to add concealed storage spaces at each end. A recessed track and rod hanging system, which permits sleek staging of exhibitions, creates a greater range of adaptability within the Gallery space. A track lighting system with exceptional colour rendering capabilities and flexible beam angles acts in unison, providing optimal lighting and flexibility to best show off the works on display.
In planning the space, the intention was that the Gallery would separate office work and Gallery areas so that entry into the Gallery space becomes a pure experience. As such, staff work areas are easily accessible, yet unobtrusive. As the space narrows towards the back of the gallery, the design signals the more private areas of the Gallery. The Viewing Room and office are located with direct access to the Art Storage Room. On the opposite side of the gallery, concealed by an oversize sliding door, are the receiving area, coffee bar and accessible washroom.
The design solution considers the needs of all end-users; owner, staff, clients, and artists. The owner noted, “I feel proud – it is a beautiful space. I get relentless acknowledegment from clients. My artists are ecstatic – they think the lighting is fabulous. The Viewing Room is brilliant and clients really like it. It is very private and has a different vibe. When I meet with people there or in my office, they are relaxed so they can be open to talking about art. Sales increased significantly over the same time last year.” The gallery display space is open and inviting with a clear sense of orientation that makes people feel relaxed and welcome.
The design solution can be best understood as an exercise in confidence and restraint, a neutral yet inviting space that allows the architecture to sit back as the artworks move forward in visual prominence.
Artscape Daniels Launchpad is a not-for-profit space for creatives, a marketplace of ideas, and resources where members may build connections, and launch their practices in an inspiring and dynamic environment. Having purchased a 33,000-square-foot commercial condominium space within the new Daniels City of the Arts complex on Toronto’s waterfront, Artscape tasked the design team with creating a facility that would inspire both creativity and professionalism in equal measure. This project was completed in 2019.
Interior Designer(s): Caroline Robbie, ARIDO
Design Team: Tor McGlade, ARIDO, Stephanie Wiebe, ARIDO
Design Firm: BDP Quadrangle
Photographer: Adrien Williams, Bob Gundu, Catherine Ryan
The design team began developing a plan to coherently organize over ninety unique rooms, suited to an array of wildly different functional and aesthetic needs of Artscape. Accommodating workshops for jewellery, textiles, woodworking, digital prototyping, and black-box studios for photography, audio, video recording, VFX, and editing suites, the commercial condominium would also house meeting rooms and classrooms, a social commons, an event space, and Artscape’s workplace headquarters.
Tackling the complex program within an awkwardly shaped interior, the designers strategically situated the sound and vision spaces at the centre of the floor plate to support black-box and acoustical separation, thereby establishing a central spine or ‘street’ which formed a clear north-south connection for organizing services such as data cabling, power, lighting, and air. The street links all workshops, workplaces, and event spaces together, bookending them by the Artscape offices and commons at one end, and the Sugar Hall event space at the other. Along its length, the design team distributed maker spaces with cold-rolled steel-framed glass storefronts at the entrances, drawing light into the heart of the floor plate, and offering views of the variety of items being made as open ‘house’ booths activate the street and encourage easy connectivity between members.
Minimalistic, yet purposeful, interventions leveraged the industrial concrete and lighting to lend a raw tabula-rasa effect while mixing in pops of colour and pattern. As seen in the salvaged gymnasium flooring repurposed in the ‘boardroom’, and warm natural materials where one comes into contact with surfaces such as the hand-painted porcelain kitchen tile.
With such a variety of requirements, the designers clustered spaces around function and imbued each with a distinct sense of personality and character. Light-filled studios boast professional quality equipment, as witty and colourful meeting rooms support networking, professional integrity, and calm simple spaces that are interjected for quiet, focused work.
Glazed meeting rooms have unique personalities as well, with a huge wall of flowers, a luxurious cork and brass cocoon, a crisp black and white design for Launchpad’s partners, HXOUSE. The Commons is comfy, filled with an eclectic mix of modern and reclaimed furniture, even including a mobile faux fireplace, all of which can be easily reconfigured for different purposes, helping the users to feel at home.
With an understanding that oftentimes artists and creative entrepreneurs are accustomed to working in older, repurposed spaces that may not ideally support their practices, the designers acted to elevate the design through a familiar eclecticism within the newly constructed space. Deliberately establishing an environment that blends ideal working conditions with seemingly ad-hoc and playful elements, as splashes of colour and reclaimed furniture economically create memorable interior focal points that make the creative community feel relaxed and at home without distracting from their work.
The Museum of Illusions was opened in late 2018 and is the biggest permanent tourist attraction to open in Toronto since Ripley’s Aquarium in 2013. Located at 132 Front St. East the space is more of an interactive art-gallery and exhibit space than a traditional museum.
Interior Designer: Nick Goddard, ARIDO Design Firm: Portage Design Group Inc.
There are eight major exhibit rooms such as The Vortex, The Ames Room and the Infinity Room as well as over 70 themed installations ranging from toy displays to visual perspective art.
The first Museum of Illusions opened in Zagreb, Croatia in 2015 and was discovered by our client while on her annual summer vacation. Being of Croatian descent and knowing a good thing when she saw it our client quickly secured the rights for all of Canada and set about the process of finding a location in Toronto. After several frustrations, a 4,500 square foot ground floor retail suite became available in a former condo showroom.
The European franchisors provided specific details about the kit of parts that make up the installations. These are basically the same in each location worldwide. Portage Design Group was retained to provide drawings for Building Permit Application, space planning, coordinate local engineering firms and design services for all elements that were not exhibits.
The point of entry was a major factor in the design. The ticket counter and cash desk are housed behind a gleaming white marble slab. Retail shelving for the gift shop are custom designed, oversized hexagons. Overlapping circular pendant light fixtures provide a welcome relief from the crisp lines of the shelving and architectural context. The interior of the museum itself is a white, teal and dark grey themed thrill ride where the emphasis is not simply entertainment but also a learning experience. Each exhibit is labelled and explained so school groups, leadership seminars and team builders can provide a more comprehensive experience.
Quartat Lifestyle Management provides well-heeled clients with traditional training in the art of charm and etiquette so they may advance in modern-day business. In this redesign, they sought a modern, inviting space to express their mission, and host a range of etiquette courses, including dining etiquette, personal style development, and social networking skills, with a hint of traditional flair.
Interior Designer: Sue Bennett, ARIDO Design Team: Janet Ho, ARIDO; Jennifer Torok, ARIDO; Andrea Doak, ARIDO; Riley Short, Intern, ARIDO Design Firm: Bennett Design Associates Project Photographer: Jim Sandik
Quartat provided program descriptions which informed the basis of the design team’s concepts. The space was tailored to align with the functional requirements of each course. In this cozy learning environment, students are welcomed at the main entrance by an eye-catching custom millwork element embellished with the company logo.
From there, an open classroom leads into an elegant and modern dining area with glazed partitions that mimic the glass backsplash tiles in the kitchenette.
Technology was integrated throughout to display any course materials. The furniture was selected to the client’s personal taste yet reflects the designer’s vision for the overall design concept: high-end, elegant, and versatile and fun. The client has hopes of expanding their space in future, and the design team’s use of an architectural wall system allows possible relocation of all offices.
Ryerson University’s Podium Building, built in the 1970s, houses both the Archives – the university’s institutional memory, with records spanning 200 years – and Special Collections, a treasury of photography, film and cultural history objects. These precious collections formed a single administrative unit, but the spaces were windowless, poorly lit, haphazardly organized, and split between two floors. Similarly, the Library’s Information Technology Services (LITS) group occupied several small, outdated offices.
To realize the potential of these collections and services, Ryerson sought bright, dynamic spaces that would invite people in and facilitate research and engagement. For the Archives and Special Collections, they wanted an integrated space with a ‘storefront’ opening, showcasing these previously hidden resources to the community. Some existing finishes and furniture, such as Egerton Ryerson’s original desk, were to be retained.
LITS’s activities were also to be concentrated in a single large location, linked by a bridge and a new entry to Ryerson’s Digital Media Experience in the Student Learning Centre (SLC) and enhanced with new state-of-the-art equipment.
The design team created a bold and coherent visual identity for these facilities, consistent both with Ryerson’s branding (yellow and blue school colours), and with the sense of historical continuity appropriate for a major archive. We created an integrated work and display space for the Archives and Special Collections, providing room for growth and space for experiential learning activities, and the Collaboratory, a flexible work space, maker-space, and staff work area facilitating research and experimentation.
To counter the scarcity of natural light, we used a vibrant colour palette throughout -highlighting Ryerson’s brand colours of yellow and blue. Extensive patterned glazing encloses interior spaces and provides a solution to the project’s limited budget.
Passersby approaching the Archive and Special Collections are greeted by a blue metal panel ‘storefront’ design, with angular geometry framing a view of the displays and activities inside and provides a place to sit. Graphic film on the windows references archival coding systems and the dates of significant historic Ryerson events. Inside, heritage furnishings and finishes, including exposed brick walls, were integrated into a clean, efficient layout. An open area was subdivided to create a quiet study area with black LED pendant lighting, multipurpose teaching/event space, a staff work area, and a customized storage vault.
The Collaboratory – the Library’s newest interactive maker space, with state-of-the-art technology and equipment, facilitates experimental graduate media projects and events. The future-forward facility is designed with sustainable materials and strategies, and boasts the latest presentation technology, mobile whiteboards and tables with writable surfaces, workbenches, and storage lockers for use by research teams.
The first and second floors of the McLennan Physical Laboratories were alienating, institutional spaces, harshly lit with overhead fluorescents. In the classrooms, students sat crowded along long tables; the setup was so inefficient the department was turning away 100 students from a popular course each term, due to lack of space. The space needed to introduce the greater university population to the physics community and showcase science education in the best possible way.
The interior design team responded with a complete reimagining of the space, incorporating the latest in collaborative technologies, styled in a sleek new visual identity that, topically, draws from quantum physics. In crafting its visual identity, the design team was inspired by the Davisson-Germer’s experiment, which confirmed that particles of matter can have wave-like properties – a major advancement in the development of quantum mechanics.
In its new form, the McLennan Physical Laboratories project becomes a hive of activity, and a site for greater student engagement. Visually, the vivid colour palette, in a previously monochromatic environment, has become strong brand marker for the department.
At the heart of the new space is the Physics Cafe – a vibrant work/study area with a multi-use video wall, full-height writable wall surfaces, and a felt-wrapped column for posting notices. A feature ceiling below the existing exposed concrete gives the space a more intimate feel. Oversized ottomans can be moved into clusters or rolled away for breakout discussions. Acoustic drywall, rubber flooring, and plaster ceiling tiles all dampen sound for a quieter study environment. Vertical bands of transparent coloured film add a liveliness to the space, while providing privacy for students at work; and are inspired by the particle wave interference of the Davisson-Germer experiment.
New teaching labs facilitate collaborative learning with informal breakout spaces, smart boards, and writable wall surfaces – all encouraging student interaction. A foldable partition allows a classroom to expand and contract as needed, while Corian surfaces ensure durability. The waiting and study spaces that line the corridors now feature seating alcoves for individual students or small groups. Plug-in points for charging devices help make this a good spot to stay and work; pin boards and well-lit chalkboards encourage the sharing of ideas and information.