An atmosphere fuelled by stories and history. History of materials, history of people, history of ideas. We recently had the privilege to build a sculptural pergola structure for the post-modern melange of art and design conceived by Martin Brudnizki and the great people at the Drake for the new Drake One Fifty in Toronto's downtown core.
We were asked to design a pergola to create an intimate feel over the dining space, at 14m long by 6m wide, the view of every angle is unique and tells a different story. The structure consists of 7 species of wood, all of which were either salvaged or reclaimed. White oak, red oak, maple, black ash, and white ash salvaged out of Georgian Bay make an appearance. These logs were deadheads from forestry in and around the great lakes over a century ago. The rare old growth trees retain their durability, their tones transformed from the mineral deposits of the muddy lake bottom. Some of the other woods are grey/green gnarly posts salvaged from the Muskoka river where they were beams in the pier that supported a former wood mill. There’s also walnut from a Toronto felled tree, an example of the beauty to be found in our city's urban canopy. We played with the tones and colours of the woods, radiating inward like the rings of a tree from dark on the outside to light in the centre. All woods kept their natural hue with the extra dark shades brought enhanced with iron reacting with the already present tannins in the wood.
Another layer of the story involves beam support from repurposed discarded furniture elements. A history of furniture design moves from north to south. Starting with traditional forms including a Thonet Chair found on the curb, and a century old walnut table leg, we move along the pergola and find mid-century pieces skewed and bolted for structure and form. Designs by Charles and Ray Eames, Danish designers Arne Vodder and Kai Kristiansen and Canadian designer Russell Spanner. The centre posts were peeled away and curved up into the beams, a nod to Alvar Alto and his groundbreaking work with wood in the 1940s. The south end of the pergola moves into post-modern ideas as we reinterpret some of our own work with discarded limbs from a city elm tree mixed with the work of contemporary British designer Matthew Hilton. These repurposed elements are taken out of context and exude new forms when used differently than intended. Most of these pieces had lost their usefulness, being too worn or broken by their original use, and have been brought back to life with a new purpose.
We look forward to time spent below this canopy and the ever interesting surroundings it inhabits.
A Thonet Chair supporting a blackened red oak post to a submerged white oak barn beam stained from the minerals in the mud.
Antique anamorphic furniture elements hold together a mineral stained pine post to a pine and oak beam. The century old walnut dining leg can be seen behind.
Kai Kristiansen’s beautiful joinery work supports a submerged bent maple post to a worm ridden maple barn beam.
Aluminum Danish sofa frame pieces mix with a submerged black ash post and beam. Peeling away from the post is a bent laminated arch inspired by Alvar Aalto’s work.
The arm from an Eames Aluminum Group chair is affixed to a submerged maple post and maple and blackened oak beams.
Taken off the remnants of a well used Eames executive chair these side braces fit well on the bent submerged white oak post.
The finger jointed elements from Canadian Russell Spanner’s 1950’s dining chair are affixed to a submerged ash post.