Tag Archives: design

Nuit Blanche: Toronto’s all-night exploration and celebration of art

Nuit Blanche_Toronto 2014

It is art, collaboration, dialogue, and discovery. For one night only this Saturday October 4th from sunset to sunrise, Toronto will once again become the hive of activity that is Nuit Blanche. City spaces and neighbourhoods will be transformed by temporary exhibitions, installations, design, film, performance, and live talks.

Nuit Blanche was conceived in Paris in 2002 in an attempt to make contemporary art more accessible and engage the audience to examine its impact on public space. Toronto was the first North American city to fully replicate the Paris model. The international success of the festival has expanded its reach to sleepless cities around the globe – from Riga to Melbourne, Kyoto to La Paz.

Now in its ninth edition, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche showcases more than 120 projects created by over 400 local, national and international artists. Below is a small sampling of what you can discover…

Piece by Piece

Clare Twomey

Installation 'Piece by Piece' by leading ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Installation ‘Piece by Piece’ by ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Internationally renowned for her interactive interventions in prestigious British and American museums, Clare Twomey creates a spectacular commissioned performative installation about making and collecting, to honour the Gardiner Museum’s 30th anniversary. Piece by Piece features an army of over 2,000 ceramic figurines – inspired by the Gardiner’s rare Commedia dell’Arte Harlequin collection – that demonstrate the conflicting emotions of everyday life. During the exhibition, her Canadian premiere, an on-site artist/maker will create more statuettes to add to the ever-growing ghostly white world.

The Garden of Renova

Luigi Ferrara and The Institute without Boundaries

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova_3Renova’s coloured and scented toilet paper line is the raw material in a temple-like environment reminiscent of a garden of earthly delights. Using the bathroom tissue over substructures, the installation features a labyrinth, hedges, poppies, garden ornaments, and a 3D-printed fountain. Creator Luigi Ferrara, Dean of the Centre for Arts and Design at George Brown College, and his team at IwB invite the public to interact with the paradise surroundings.

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova


Multiple Artists

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-LandMarkCurated by Exhibit Change, LandMark is an interactive photographic installation focused on the dynamic nature of community engagement and city building. Large-scale photo essays showcased throughout St. James Park share stories of some of the city’s unsung heroes and reveal the many layers of Old Town Toronto’s history. The initiative seeks to strengthen community partnerships in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

Walk among Worlds

Máximo González

Walk among Worlds_2013-UCLAIn this immersive installation Argentine artist Máximo González explores the effects of light and lightness, while reflecting on the political divisions of the world. The piece is composed of 7,000 beach balls printed to resemble globes; each representing one million of the inhabitants of the planet. The globes, made of a petroleum derivative, require the introduction of human breath to give them their geoidal shape. They come in three different sizes, alluding to the concepts of “first” and “third world.”

Good News

Antoni Muntadas

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014_Antoni MuntadasBarcelona-based Antoni Muntadas is considered one of the pioneers of media art and conceptual art in Spain. This installation examines the duality of media as a source of information and an instrument of manipulation. The piece displays a wide range of headlines in order to incite the viewer into rethinking the meaning of the messages, creating a defiance in the uniformly constructed “media flow”. A stream of information engineered by advertisers is to be consumed as a whole.

Melting Point

LeuWebb Projects

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Melting PointIn the sound and light installation Melting Point, Fort York’s two south-facing cannons are stocked with “an artillery of glowing good feelings”, pouring forth “sparkling tributaries of light”. The work reflects on the drivers, both cultural and natural, that have shaped the historic site – a preserved battlefield surrounded on all sides by condominium towers, raised freeways and train lines. Accompanied by the immersive sounds of rolling waves and trilling harps, LeuWebb‘s project lays a defense against the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light.

Solar Dehydrator

José Andrés Mora

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Solar DehydratorToronto Hydro searched for artists to submit proposals for a contest to repurpose an old fridge, in support of their Fridge & Freezer Pickup program. Mora’s winning design, inspired by the appliance’s already existing insulation and components, transforms the refrigerator into a solar dehydrator.

Project REACH

Student artists from the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Project ReachProject Reach is a collaborative installation authored by students from 201 TCDSB schools across the GTA celebrating the value of charity and how it transforms lives. Visitors are greeted with hundreds of human hands – symbol of our ability to reach out and change the world. They beckon us to come closer to discover what these students want to communicate through personal messages, imagery, and found objects.

Implied Geometries

Valerie Arthur

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014-Implied GeometriesIn Implied Geometries, Valerie Arthur seeks to uncover the otherwise invisible characteristics of a place. By simultaneously recreating all of the flight paths in a series of tennis games it will reveal the space within the court as much more than an empty void. The court will become a web of movement and speed, exposing the underlying forces that truly define it and inviting the audience to experience moving through the courts in a new way.

Wisdom of the North: Moose Cree and Attawapiskat

Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Johan Hallberg-CampbellThis exhibition presents a photo essay documenting the time artist Johan Hallberg-Campbell spent alongside the Canadian Red Cross, photographing volunteers working in the communities of Moose Cree and Attawapiskat. These images include engaging large portraits, vast landscapes and touching personal moments captured by one of Canada’s leading photographers.

Global Rainbow

Yvette Mattern

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Global RainbowThe high specification laser light projection Global Rainbow will blaze through Toronto’s night sky. From Chinatown to the CN Tower, it will cast beams of colours up to 60 kilometres. Created by New York- and Berlin-based artist Yvette Mattern, it has been displayed in cities around the world since 2009. It literally “paints the sky” with seven simple but distinctly powerful lines of colour representing the rainbow spectrum to create an artwork that is performative, sculptural, painterly, and minimalist in form. As a powerful and luminescent symbol of peace and hope, it embraces geographical and social diversity.

June Callwood Park


Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Amongst Nuit Blanche’s one-night-only discoveries is the opening of a new permanent space in the city, the June Callwood Park. The gH3-designed park slots trees in amongst pavers, garden strips, and high-tech cushioned pink surfaces all laid out in the waveform of journalist and activist June Callwood speaking the words “I believe in kindness.” Montreal artists Steve Bates and Douglas Moffat created the accompanying sonic public art installation, OKTA, transmitted by speakers arrayed throughout the grove.

This year, organizers have expanded the event into new neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, Fort York and Roundhouse Park. The festivities kick off at 6:53pm. For the full schedule of events, see www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca

My exploratory trip to the Tdot (a.k.a. Toronto)

A taste of Toronto, soon-to-be my new home.  So as not to be utterly overwhelmed by the novelty, I kept a mission list to a minimum in this, my first exploratory trip.  Leaving my adopted city of Boston is going to be tough – roots have grown deep over these past 11 years.  I came very close (within inches, really) to moving to the ‘Tdot’ 4 years ago but it didn’t pan out because I was not ready to separate myself from the likes of ‘Beantown’.  Over the course of my life, I have resided in and made a couple dozen trips to Europe and yet, scandalously, I have rarely visited Toronto, a major pulsing city a measly 4 hours away from where I grew up:  Ottawa.  I cannot complain, though….hello, Europe?! But unbeknownst to me, a megapolis was growing, evolving, and drawing people from all corners of the world.

Whilst hitting the streets during my 5-day stay and polling friends and strangers that live there, I discovered that Toronto is indeed a wonderful and liveable city.  Naïvely, I thought it was solely a field of skyscrapers.  Of those glass high-rises there are aplenty, many having sprouted in the past few years to meet the burgeoning condo demand of downtowners.  But there are so many plays of scale there.  I was pleasantly surprised to find numerous neighbourhoods or, dare I say, arrondissements, with different qualities, some with a small village feel:  you’ve got your industrial-turned-art district, hipster, bohemian, trendy, and posh areas, the financial and entertainment zones, the beaches and so on.

As the world’s most ethnically diverse city, Toronto also has distinctive shopping districts and markets that offer a wide range of unique experiences: vibrant retail areas that’ll disorient you and make you think you’re elsewhere.  Ok, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch to say but the Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Indian, Chinese communities, to name but a few, are each a ‘country’ in itself.  I came across scores of teenagers seamlessly flipping back and forth between English and foreign languages, presumably their family’s native tongue – something I can relate to.  And it is no surprise to see many business owners from Europe setting up shop there, benefitting from opportunities that they cannot get on the other side of the pond.  Toronto is home to heaps of independent shops, galleries and restaurants, suave Internet cafés sandwiched between tattoo parlours and Shawarma eateries.  Personally, I was all over the mid-century modern venues stocked with Scandinavian furniture and décor.  Put me in front of anything with the ‘Design within Reach’ label (a knockoff of a classic, rather) and look out!  I’ll covet it like a treasure trove.  The highly acclaimed Toronto International Film Festival may have helped put this city on the cultural map but it goes far beyond that – it has become one of North America’s most dynamic arts and design communities.

People in Toronto have a sense of humour. You can do what you want here (generally speaking) and be whomever you want.  (And frankly, coming from Boston, it’s refreshing). You can find everything and anything here.  And in my walks I encountered distressingly attractive and stylish people… another bonus to relocating. 🙂  Like anything, there will be pluses and minuses, I’ll give up some things and gain others.  But I’m ready for the new adventures a metropolis affords.  Word on the street is that initiatives are in place to make Toronto into a New York.  I can believe that.  With neighbourhoods on the upswing, a booming real estate market (almost as if there was no recession), and an established major banking center:  these all bring serious cashola to the once ‘Big Smoke’.  It may not have a reputation of being the prettiest of cities (note aforementioned nickname ‘Big Smoke’) but it’s getting better at creatively filling in the blanks.  Concrete Toronto is in a form of continuous development.

I woke up with the sun rising over Lake Ontario, a body of water so enormous it might as well be a sea.  And as if there wasn’t already enough happening, there is also a massive ongoing revitalization of Toronto’s harbour front.  Development plans to strengthen the ‘blue edge’ are still much in the works but I saw various projects already constructed:  flexible public spaces and facilities, wave decks, bridges, parks, and beaches, all contributing to create a destination that connects people to the water.  The open/green space encourages year-round use so I strolled the waterfront, sans dog, liking the wind-catching willows that create a soft buffer and scoping out informal beach furniture scattered across the south end of the site that transforms it from an urban park to an urban beach.  Naturally, being mid-winter, it wasn’t particularly animated (i.e. dogs few and far between) so I’m psyched to see it come spring.  While we’re on the topic, let me take this opportunity to clear up the common misconception of foreigners that Torontonians are trudging through snowdrifts in a barren northern climate.  They aren’t.  If the cityslickers are wearing fur-lined parkas, it’s for stylin’ reasons because those jackets are all the rage!

I saw but a fraction of the city on this short trip, but enough to already come to some conclusions.  Toronto is ‘the new black’, at least for me.  So stay tuned.   In the meantime, be sure to check out what’s happening in Vancouver, a Canadian city with international attention because it is hosting the winter Olympics in just 2 short weeks…

International woman of mystery

Last Saturday night I attended my party and I think I can speak for others in saying it was a smashing success.  I had rounded up some close friends for a little gathering entitled ‘All about me’.  The reason for the event was that I will be taking one foot out of Boston starting early November.  I’ve been living and working here for 11 years and now I’m making a slow & easy transition out.  I’ll be taking said foot and putting it back into Canada, where I am from.

Now, before I go further into the details of my partay, I’d like to give a bit of a framework, as well as to explain why I see fit to include it here, in my Travel Photo Blog.

After graduating from university in Canada, I moved to Boston, a city that both my father and uncle had studied in years ago but where I didn’t know a soul.  Thanks to a social invite by a Sicilian friend of mine, I went to a European Club pub tour one Thursday night and, having had a surprisingly great time, found myself repeatedly going week after week, month after month.  It was a great way to meet people and my circle of friends and acquaintances grew exponentially.  To this day, most of my friends, the ones I’ve gravitated towards, are also foreigners.  Frankly, I think it’s interesting that it’s mainly the European Club that kept me, a Canadian in the USA – second only to a career I grew to like more and more.

Most of my friends here are scientists.  There’s a good chance of that happening when you live in a city like Boston – where there’s a high intellectual capital and two of the leading scientific schools in the world.  Their work is humbling:  cancer research, neuroscience, drug development, etc.  With PhDs abounding, where once I used to be so impressed, now they’re getting to be almost commonplace.  It’s been thrilling for me to be a part of their world, even if only by indirect association.  And although it seems so foreign to mine – architecture – a thread that I see linking our fields is creativity for there’s a large measure of it in Art/Architecture and Science.  I also like scoping out the visiting medical professionals gathering in Boston for frequent conventions.  When they aren’t ‘convening’, they troll the downtown, toting their labeled canvas totes and registration badges.  This summer it was the Thoracic Surgeons who did their thing and at present it’s the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases that’s hosting what I imagine to be a rousing ‘Liver Meeting’.  But of course, it’s not just the scientists that impress me.  I love being surrounded by people that have come from or traveled to places that inspire, intelligent people, cultured people, and people that challenge me, that bring me another point of view.

After digressing so boldly, let’s parlay back to the Big Night, shall we?  The friends I invited are from:  Spain, Australia, Armenia, England, Sweden, Russia, and Poland, with a few American friends sprinkled in.  Unfortunately my Ethiopian, Italian, Brazilian, Indian and Turkish representatives couldn’t make it.  For this last Boston gathering ‘en masse’ for the foreseeable future, I had preferred a location more special than a restaurant or bar.  What I had in mind was Casa Bobonis.  Let me explain:  a friend adining roomnd fellow architect/co-worker is also a talented chef who recently started this business, in which he hosts parties at his lovely home, as a complement to the professional catering that he and his wife do.  The way I pitched it to my other friends was “I aptly called this gathering ‘All about me’ but, in truth, the party is all about YOU, my dear friends.  I want you to have a really good time and I think this will be super cool and unique.”  And that’s what this event promised to be:  a celebration of friends in a lively setting, relishing a gastronomic fusion of Latin American flavours – the result of life and travel experiences.

This is how the evening played out:  upon arriving, we were greeted by a porch decorated with Hallowe’en props.  The home’s sense of space and decoration is like a clipping from a modern interior design magazine. Once you get past the ‘bouche bée‘ sensation, which frankly never left me all evening long, place settingswe were served with tantalizing appetizers.  Little by little, everyone made their appearance, and at around 21h30 we were warmly herded into the living room which had been transformed into an intimate setting of candles, white chairs and tables with small flowers and slate centerpieces.  The menu was customized to take into account my invited guests’ food allergies and, what was no doubt more of a challenge, the list of my food dislikes, which, as my friends know, is not short.  Accompanied by sangria all night long, ‘Stephanie’s Tapas Night’ menu consisted of 5 courses – so brace yourselves:  1) Pumpkin soup with Colombian cheese fritter; 2) Patatas Bravas and Aioli Potatoes; 3) Garlic chicken, Garlic mushrooms and Garlic shrimp (this ’round’ was my fave); 4) Puertorrican pot roast with yucca gnocchi on a sage brown butter sauce; and for dessert, 5) Warm coconut custard with a guava puff pastry.  The latter was ever-so-delicately decorated with my initial ‘S’ in chocolate powder – a lovely touch.  I hope for your sake, dear Reader, that you are not reading this on an empty stomach because I’d surely be chomping at the bit at this point.peepsajillo

pot roast

work surface

Did I forget to mention that the hosts’ 2.5 week-old baby boy made his début at my party?  Their latest creation was propped up on the kitchen counter, amidst the hustle and bustle of activity – he looked good enough to eat.  It was a great night except for the fact that, like most of Boston, the females outnumbered the males somewhat.  Certainly, I had hoped for a matchmaking opportunity for my friends because I like to bring people together.  Unfortunately, as I had to point out to them in advance, “some of you know each other already so if you didn’t ‘like’ each other before, chances are you won’t feel any different meeting them once more but again, people, focus – let’s try to remember that the party is about ‘me.'”:)


tio pepe

crema de coco

puff pastries

NYC & all things ‘Design’

It seems that whenever I visit New York City, it’s a guaranteed good time.  This particular trip revolved almost exclusively around Design:  design shops & galleries, design events, and a stay in a boutique hotel to boot.ace_lobby

The Ace Hotel, located in the gritty wholesale district, opened in May and it seems, has been covered in every (design) magazine.  Though perhaps not defined by any specific time period or style, it’s a remixed Americana, visible in the interiors’ mélange of furnishings, lighting and finishes, reclaimed pieces, and vintage finds.  In contrast to the layered and historical lobby, our room was very efficient and kind of quirky.  We appreciated the turntable, the jersey robes, and the wooden hangers labelled with affirmative words:  “You look good in this.”  Custom-designed furnishings like the desk and coat rack curiously used plumbing pipes, demonstrating how stock materials can be re-appropriated to make something elegant but simple.  Overall, we were impressed to see how consistently the brand is carried through every single thing in the hotel.

I let my friend Traci orchestrate the trip.  I happily went along with her splendid suggestions, knowing full well I wasn’t taking a risk since we like much of the same things.  We wandered from one design node to another, Google maps on iPhone guiding us through the city.felt exhibitfelt wrap

First on the itinerary was a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum to see, in particular, the exhibit ‘Fashioning Felt’.  We went because Traci has an ‘unnatural’ interest in felt.:)  In fact, she is co-owner of Filzfelt, a Boston-based company which sells industrial felt imported from Germany for a range of purposes:  product design, architecture and home furnishings.  The exhibition showed firstly historic examples and continued with innovations in the handmade felts, and explored varied contemporary uses of this ancient and versatile material.

Organized by The Nature Conservancy, the other noteworthy exhibit ‘Design for a Living World’ showcased sustainable projects by ten leading designers.  They were commissioned to develop new uses for harvested materials “in order to tell a unique story about the life-cycle of materials and the power of conservation and design.”  The featured designers and places included:  Maya Lin using certified wood from Maine, Yves Béhar’s cocoa tool in Costa Rica, and Isaac Mizrahi fashioning pieces with Alaskan salmon leather.  I enjoyed viewing the prototypes, drawings, and finished products created by the designers.elevated path

Next up was a stroll on The Highline, of which the first completed sections opened in June.  Emerging from an open ideas competition soliciting re-use proposals, architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro collaborated with other visionaries to create a public park on the old elevated freight train infrastructure.  It called for huge site prep:  before the landscaping could take shape, everything on the structure (rails and all) had to be removed and rehabilitated prior to returning the pieces to their original location.  This ‘signature landscape’, which floats 30ft above the ground, consists of  a walking surface of smooth concrete planks that taper into the surrounding native plantings which push up through seams, fixed & moveable seating, and energy-efficient LED lighting elements.  Everything is just so beautifully integrated, with such attention to detail.  But after all, isn’t that what they say: “God is in the details?”





the standard

water tower

I retrace our next steps:  a visit to the Young Designers Market, Droog, Housing Works Bookstore Café, as well as some shopping in Uniqlo, MOMA, Marimekko, and Matter in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Park Slope.  In the name of Design, fashion in this case, I endured a truly nightmarish scene as hawk-eyed shoppers combed the racks at the lavish Barney’s New York Warehouse Sale.  Posters on the walls read:  “You’re not done yet.  Buy more!”

All weekend long we explored the power of Design.  If you appreciate good design, regardless of whether it’s at a large or a small scale, you see the value and are more likely to pay for it.  Only two of our stops didn’t quite resonate with the theme of (high) Design.  For one, we had dinner at Hill Country Barbecue Market – a ribs & live music kinda place where you carry your meal on a tray.  Secondly, we inspected the items of the Soho store Evolution, with its framed bats, anatomical models, fossils, tribal masks, larva paperweights, and freeze-dried mice.  One might argue – Natural Evolution – that’s the most perfect design of all!!graffiti

All White Party

ramp up

Friends of mine hosted their annual All White Party at their fabulous home in Eliot (Portsmouth), Maine.  Now hold on – it’s a stringent all white dress code I’m referring to – not segregation in full swing in the Pine Tree State (oft referred to as Lobster State). 🙂  As an architect, it was particularly thrilling for me because Jim and Rui live in an LVL home, a metal and glass house on a stunning watery site.  metallicCustomized to fit their wishes, it’s based on a standard design by Rocio Romero, the first designer to bring modern design to U.S. prefab (kit) homes since the 1950s.  The efficient and minimalistic design combined with the practicality of the simple manufacturing and construction made it economical.  I liked the airiness, the abundance of natural light, and the clean lines of the interior and exterior.  The owners furnished the interior with classic pieces of furniture, the latest fixtures and gadgets, and friends’ original artwork.

The swanky affair’s 60+ guests delighted in sweet and savoury dishes that seemed to effortlessly replenish themselves, summery drinks, white chocolate-covered strawberries and countless vanilla cupcakes.  Dancing was an all-night event with lots of 70s-80s music and a projection screen blasting images.  It was quite a sight:  bodies, dressed in white Capri pants, tees, tank tops, mini skirts, and pearls flung themselves all over the dance floor.guests In stark contrast, a few pairs of black leggings did show up to the party – those who dared to wear such atrocities were (well, just short of) raked over the coals and sent home with forewarnings regarding their attendance at next year’s event.

Walking the site, taking in the full moon’s reflection on Spinney Creek, I regarded with delight the glowing light box full of friends.  A bedazzling sight!




light box