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Toronto urban grid coaster - National Design Collective

Putting Toronto under your latte is an idea that’s bound to catch on, no matter who’s in charge at City Hall

By Todd Harrison

In 2011, the National Design Collective unveiled a coaster that pays tribute to Toronto’s urban grid and hints at how to link it to the ’burbs. The laser-cut, maple-veneer accessory is one in a string of city-themed works by up-and-comers Scott Bodaly, Jessica Tien and Heather Lam – industrial-design grads who collaborate in their spare time.

They’ve tapped into something big; putting Toronto under your latte is the latest manifestation of an emerging love for urban forms, reflected in everything from tables engraved with graphics based on aerial views to giant stencils replicating subway-station tiles. Maps are central to this obsession, and for good reason: they provide a simultaneous wide shot and close-up of the city. Even when reduced to coaster size, with only the main drags depicted, Toronto’s grid is instantly familiar.

But hang on, Where are the suburbs? Where is Etobicoke, or Scarborough? “If you mapped out all of Toronto, it would look terrible on a coaster,” says Bodaly. “Kind of long, like a big smile.” But as Tien reveals, the trio has a plan to rectify that. “We’re thinking of doing a set of coasters that connect as a giant puzzle.” Adds Lam, “Like the neighbourhoods coming together.” Here’s hoping that the people working in that clamshell at Queen and Bay streets can someday arrive at such an elegant solution.

Browse through the entire National Design Collective collection of cities and pick-up a set through their online shop, here.


National Design Collective

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