In 2016, Toronto’s Design Exchange issued a challenge to a handful of design firms, asking them each to create a memorable dining experience in a 12’x12’x12’ space, with proceeds from the resultant Monogram Dinner by Design charity fundraising event slated for AIDS hospice Casey House. Gensler, a global architecture, design and planning firm, put together a team from its local office, headed up by designer Valerie Cardozo and project manager Michelle Park. It took three months to fully conceptualize the piece, but only a day for industry volunteers to do the build. The result was stunning in its simplicity.
Gensler’s exhibit in its new Waterloo home, designed by RAW
Riffing on the idea of a Möbius band, the design team produced a never-ending dinner setting, with table connecting to floor, connecting to wall arches that merge into an overhead “ceiling” strip that runs back to the table, all illuminated down the centre by softly diffused LED lights. The inherent energy of the piece is heightened by its stark, all-white emergence from a shadowy, black lacquered box. A more practical-minded addition to its futuristic effect is the Corian tabletop’s built-in capacity to charge electronic devices. A minimalist masterwork, Gensler’s exhibit went on to win a 2016 Best of Canada award from Banggiagoldmark.
A closer look at the design
Temporary exhibits, by their very nature, have a limited shelf-life. How fortunate, then, that Waterloo’s Communitech Data Hub loved the piece so much they bought it as a permanent focal point for their freshly refurbished office complex. The venerable 1890s heritage structure at 14 Erb Street in the heart of the city’s downtown had first housed an insurance company and then acted as headquarters for the Waterloo Regional Police. After being sold in 2013 to Ophelia Lazaridis, wife of BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis, the 19,000-sq.ft. building had its interior completely remodelled by RAW Architects into a suitably modern, open-concept melange of exposed brick and wood, airy glass partitioning and mullion-free windows. The multi-tenant complex, which opened this past May, offers workstations and creative space to high-tech start-ups specializing in AI, Big Data and the Internet of Things.
To their credit, RAW embraced the idea of installing the Möbius piece, black box and all, in the hub’s core. It works beautifully, in tune with both its surroundings and the visionary minds who utilize the space, acting as a fitting salute to the shape of things to come.