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Get ready for DesignTO 2023

Check out our must-see events and installations

By Catherine MacIntosh

DesignTO ignites the city once again with ten days of design-focused exhibitions, talks and events. This year the festival is bigger than ever with hundreds of events across the city. From window installations to a big ol’ party at the ROM, this year’s edition of DesignTO promises to be vast and spectacular. We will be out every day giving out Designlines DL Love tags to our favourites at the festival and the Interior Design Show, which is running January 18 to 22 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. And, even if you can’t get out in person, you can still participate in DesignTO with its many online events. Check out DesignTO’s website for the full schedule, but here are the ones we are extra excited to take in.

DesignTO Project: Territories 2.0

January 20 to April 2
Sugar Beach Park

Territories 2.0 exhibition at DesignTO 2023
‘Territories 2.0’ by Olivier Roberge, photo by Geneviève Moreau

Take a walk down to Sugar Beach to enjoy artist Olivier Roberge’s installation Territories 2.0. It’s an artwork that you can immerse yourself in fully by walking through its pavilion structure. With miniature landscapes encased in the dark cube, the otherworldly exhibition shows, in beautiful form, how humans have affected the natural world. A light in the darkness, the work is perforated with stars drawing the viewer in. Nature and city collide with the Quebec artist’s satisfying miniatures showing urban grit and poetic expression using signage and graffiti alongside the natural environment.

DesignTO Tours: Wellington Destructor

January 21, 2023, 1 pm
165 Niagara Street

Rendering of the Wellington Destructor Toronto
Rendering by SvN

Touring a garbage incinerator has never sounded so engaging. Toronto loves to transform its old, industrial spaces into something humanscale, sustainable and creative. The Wellington Destructor is no exception. Set to become a new community hub, this DesignTO tour and talk will explore “design approaches to existing buildings and sites through the lens of culture and sustainability, such as adaptive reuse, repurposing as reimagining, and establishing programmes for existing structures and sites.” Speakers included SvN Principal Sam Dufaux, public interest designer and strategist Zahra Ebrahim, and artist and creative placemaker Christina Zeidler.

Exhibition: Democratizing the Creation of Furniture

January 20 to 27, 2023
DESIGNwith 220 Yonge Street, Toronto (Level 2, North Corridor next to Marks and Canadian Tire)

Democratizing Furniture at DesignTO 2023
photo by Katy Koroscil

What we love about DesignTO is often the unique pairings and collaborative efforts. This exhibition shows off the end result of an incubator lab that brings together the corporate and academic worlds and the community at large. DESIGNwith is a creative collective with an eye toward social innovation and the circular economy. In this exhibit, a modular furniture collection designed with little barriers: all can be easily assembled using readily available materials, tools and fasteners. In partnering with Cadillac Fairview and OCAD University, DESIGNwith says it aims to “democratize the creation of objects through knowledge and skill sharing.”

DesignTO Symposium: Trash Talk

Online, January 25-26, 2023 6-8 pm

Trash Talk symposium at DesignTO 2023
‘Crisis of Convenience [w.a.s.t.e]’ www.wearesavingthe.earth by Norwin Anne. Photo by Steven Meyers.

The DesignTO 2023 festival is a great time to take in new ideas and hear experts and visionaries in their fields, including artist-designer-educator JP King. For Trash Talk, a DesignTO online symposium, architects, artists and academics tackle the problem of waste as it relates to the global climate crisis. Divided into two sessions running online, the talks will also be made available afterwards to ticket holders. The discussion will cover topics such as inclusive, zero-carbon exhibitions, radical reuse of building materials, food and textile waste, discard culture, place-based design, cultural heritage, and de-growth.

Exhibition: Redacted City

January 20 to 29, 2023
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street

DesignTO 2023 City Redacted exhibition
‘House of Lords Redacted’ by Henry VanderSpek

Take a day (or several) to visit the hundreds of art exhibits and window installations during the festival. We are excited to see Henry VanderSpek’s Redacted City at Artscape Youngplace on Shaw Street. The photo exhibit features Toronto street scenes, familiar to many, but captured with an artistic eye. With a focus on words that have been removed, covered up or taken away, the photos capture happenstance and, more often, the work of street artists expressing themselves using the letters and buildings available. The images span a ten-year period, so it’s easy to see the transitions and omissions of this ever-evolving city.

Tour: Built-In: A Tiny Living Case Study & Tour

January 21 to January 29, 2023
By appointment only

DesignTO 2023 A Tiny Living Case Study and Tour
A Tiny Living Case Study & Tour, DesignTO 2023 by Studio Hand

Studio Hand, an architectural millwork design and fabrication shop in the Junction builds a 450-square-foot case study. Studio director Ryan Wilding, an industrial designer, poses the question if living in this tiny space can indeed be comfortable. By carefully maximizing the use of built-in cabinetry, without overwhelming the small rooms, Wilding crafted a condo rumoured to be both efficient and peaceful. The case study for DesignTO 2023 is a real-life condo built for a client who gained not only practical space but beautiful space, too, with decorative panels and high-quality finishes. We can’t wait to have a look!

Window installation: Dementia Miniature Suite

January 20 to February 3, 2023
Augustus Jones, 33 Davies Avenue

Dementia Miniature Suite by Roxanne Brathwaite (Suite City Woman)
Dementia Miniature Suite by Roxanne Brathwaite (Suite City Woman)

In this intriguing window display at furniture showroom Augustus Jones, a miniature world emerges that addresses living with dementia. After moving her mother into a retirement home, creator Roxanne Brathwaite (Suite City Woman) wished she could have given her a place with a larger kitchen. “I ended up choosing a place where my mother would at least have a kitchenette. This miniature room box represents the full-scale kitchen I wish I could have given her. A space big enough for friends and family to drop in, lots of plants, and of course a place to cook⁠ — something she could no longer do with the only appliances now being a microwave and fridge.” Brathwaite replicated items salvaged from, or inspired by, her mother’s original home.

Exhibition: Purpose & Play

January 16 to February 5, 2023
Umbra Concept Store, 165 John Street

Purpose & Play DesignTO 2023
Duckies by V/V

DesignTO 2023 brings another fun and creative instalment of Purpose & Play at Umbra. The exhibition features new prototypes by eight Canadian designers and studios: Jeremy Labelle, Christopher Li Sheung Ying, Melissa Lui and Kathleen Cayetano, Plural, Ricostudio, V/V, and Etienne Vernier. The contemporary domestic objects, whether lights, tools or decorative items, address questions of use and need, with some arising as a result of the pandemic. The designers revamped objects that are often overlooked in our homes and offices. A jury will award the Best Product and visitors to the show can cast their votes for fan favourite.

Talk: How Do You Design A Feeling?

January 24, 2023, 7:30 to 10:30
Ace Hotel Toronto, 51 Camden Street 

Ace Hotel Toronto
Ace Hotel, Toronto

How do you design a feeling? It’s a good question. We all know what the answers are when a space elicits a specific feeling, but we don’t know how to show our work, so to speak. In this panel discussion led by Sarah Di Domenico, co-founder of creative brand agency Wedge at the Ace Hotel Toronto, Canadian architect Brigitte Shim, co-founder of Shim-Sutcliffe Architects shares her unique vision. Shim, who can expertly convey visual ideas in a way that’s engaging and conversational, is joined by chef and artist Fernando Aciar, Anna Polonsky of hospitality studio polonsky+friends, and emerging textile artist Justin Yong. The discussion will delve into the hows and whys of emotion in interior design, which definitely feels like a must-see event.


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