Intergalactic Travel Authority

In early 2012 we embarked on designing and building the unconventional interior of a new children’s writing-centre in Bloordale, Toronto. Working with local non-profit Story Planet the coffee bar and retail space support the creative writing and art centre in the back. The space gives kids and youth the opportunity to hang out and learn from some of Canada’s finest writers, artists and digital story-makers and is inspired by Dave Eggers’ 826 National program.  The front terminal houses the Black Hole Coffee bar offering travellers high octane fuel. There is also a gift and book store to make sure you have everything for your journey including planetary samples.

The concept for the Intergalactic Travel Authority was designed to inspire and revolved around a narrative. It was conceived as a transportation hub for a misplaced martian named 1165 who landed on earth accidentally on his way to Mars in 2000 and has been trying to get home ever since, in the meantime he’s had to make do with materials at his disposal and has managed to assemble a pretty interstellar space in which to get to know his earthling friends. Our approach was to think about a future of creative reuse and resourcefulness. Using elements obtained from the former credit union that occupied the space along with a number of other locally sourced materials we evoked an air terminal of the future. The highlight is the space portal which inspires the children as they go from the store side into the creative work space behind. It consists of programmed LED lights illuminating repurposed blue glass bottles with a steady breathing pattern that switches to hyperspace when the children press the reused arcade button as they cross through the uniquely designed doors. 

Other key design elements incorporated were seating made with remade conveyor apron and repurposed piston rods, scrap wall coffee bar with illuminated chalkboards made with freezer doors and stove ring waste receptacles, along with futuristic shelving made with cut-up radiators. 

This work-in-progress will continue to evolve with the Story Planet organization with future interactive information boards and old punch clock passport verification systems.

We’re longtime fans of Dave Eggers’ writing and McSweeneys, see him tell the whole story about 826′s inspiration, early beginnings, and ensuing momentum in his TED Talk. It’s projects like this that make us proud of what we do and newly energized about the endless possibilities ahead of us.

You'll find more photos and information about the individual pieces we produced for the ITA below, in the meantime stop by 1165 Bloor Street West, have an out-of-this-world coffee, check out their wares and chat with some wonderful people making dreams come true.


This is the place to pick up your ethically harvested Black Hole brew along with muffins and other goodies.


The Bar consists of the counters, lower cabinetry, front panels and shelving. The counters are made out of reclaimed Douglas fir beams that came out of a former rubber plant 2.4km from the ITA. The counters are darkened to live up to the bar's namesake with a chemical process that naturally pulls the tannins out of the wood by dissolving iron in vinegar. The dark toned fir is also used as the front wall of the bar that is made up of scraps from the building of other elements of the ITA. The garbage tele-porters are repurposed stovetop rings below each is the intended use cut into the wood with a CNC (computer numerically controlled) laser beam. Supporting the raised bar is a repurposed aluminum glass mould blank. Upon the bar sits the vintage refurbished Gaggia espresso machine that produces the specialty brews.


Behind the bar the shelving is made out of fir with up-cycled aluminum pallet risers cut up to make the shelving dividers and support.


Above the shelves are the information boards repurposed out of a fridge door and a section of aluminum garage door into chalkboards with LED strip lighting within.


Above the bar are rough slices of Douglas fir with rotating Eyeball lights protruding from the ceiling using long lasting dimmable compact fluorescents.


These benches are the future, repurposing elements and using what material is available. There are two sections of this bench, one is 6 feet long and the other is 4 feet long. Each bench consists of two halves. The main surface of the 6 foot bench is made out of reclaimed beech wood from a defunct furniture manufacturer in Toronto while the 4 foot bench has slats made from old church pews out of a church in Toronto's east end. The slats are riveted to sliced up conveyor belt repurposed from an old glass manufacturing plant. These slatted seats mimic old style wood conveyor apron. The frames of the benches are made out of red oak reworked from the former trim of 1165 Bloor. These wooden elements are affixed to each other with repurposed piston rods salvaged from a former engine repair shop on Ossington and allow for change of angle within the bench. Each half of the bench can be put back to back in airport style seating or be turned around to face each other or used along a table. The slatted seating allows for sway and movement for added comfort.


The portal consists of 4 parts which are the slats, the frame, the lights, and the door.


Forming the main structure of the portal are red and white oak slats created from the former trim that surrounded all of the doors and windows of the original space at 1165 Bloor. Using machine hardware, some of which was salvaged, we affixed the slats to the frame.


Bent laminated beech wood arches support the slats to create the full structure. This beech was reclaimed from a Toronto based furniture company that went out of business because of foreign competition. The frame also acts as conduit for the wiring of portal power generation.


Working with Medialab the transition lighting was designed using programmable LEDs that flutter through repurposed cobalt blue bottles from a former Toronto glass manufacturing plant. The LEDs create the effect of hyperspace when the former arcade button is pressed moving from their resting state of steady breathing into an impressive flashing launch.


The sliding door leads the travellers through the portal into Story Planet. It is made using the same reclaimed beech as the frame with panels of frosted plexiglass and white plywood that continue the lines from the portal lights. The door slides on a custom track system made with repurposed components. Surrounding the door and affixed to the supporting fir arch is a continuation of the beech, plywood and plexiglass allowing light to filter through the two spaces.


Used to display the planetary sample collection along with other collectible toys and games. The radiator below works in the winter, the dividers for the shelves were cut out of a radiator taken out of the building. The solid douglas fir shelves are naturally coloured with hemp oil and are from a manufacturing plant that was demolished 2.4 kilometres from the ITA.


This is the place to see all current and relevant information with regards to planetary travel and current events for the ITA and Story Planet. Powered with programming by MediaLab and an iMAC mini computer upon donated screens. Scrap yard steel extra cut-offs were cleverly used without having to cut down to surround the LED display and cork board below for other messages


Starting outside the space and carrying on inside to unify the terminal are white support arches. Painted white, these arches are created using reclaimed douglas fir from a manufacturing plant that was demolished 2.4 kilometres from the ITA. The curves are bent laminated fir attached to solid section. Upon some of the arches inside are repurposed police surveillance lights.


Former mannequin head mounted onto Southern Ontario walnut cut-off can show off the future ITA headwear or wear funny wigs.


The pre-finished walnut veneered boxes complete with trim were cut from well made cabinet doors that just didn't work.


Repurposed crank shafts from cars mounted onto Southern Ontario walnut cut-offs


Reclaimed fir shelves from old manufacturing plant that is 2km from the ITA boxes that divide and expand the shelves are made from various woods.


This table uses an adjustable barber shop stool base to support a piece of live-edge beech wood. Upon the beech is a sculptural chunk of maple showing the alienesque qualities that the natural materials of this planet exude. Protruding from the wood are mannequin hands and there is a plexiglass surface on the top.



All photos by Dylan Macleod

Brand design by Juniper Park

Lighting design + production by MediaLab