RAW to transform Toronto storefront into architectural installation

Source: Roland Rom Colthoff, RAW
Source: Roland Rom Colthoff, RAW

Queen St. storefront to become temporary venue provoking discussion on the future use of Toronto’s buildings

On June 23, Toronto’s design and art elite make their annual pilgrimage to the RAW event. 

Created by one of the founding members of Winter Stations, these events engage developers, city officials, designers, urbanists and artists within an immersive dialog designed to provoke new ideas.

This year the flock heads east to a gutted storefront on Queen for RAW SHIFT—a thematic exploration of the fluid nature of built spaces, and how a building’s use evolves over time.

As one of the most prolific condo markets in the world, the nooks and crannies of Toronto’s urban fabric have served as ideal backdrops for each iteration of these RAW industry events. Venues have ranged from storage lockers to parking lots, boxing rings to warehouses.

Installations are always anchored in overarching themes and concepts, including anointing the architect as an urban superhero (RAW STRIP 2011), celebrating iconic sites just before they are torn down (RAW RISING 2010), examining the intersection of art and architecture (RAW CANVAS 2015) and exploring the human power transforming the city (RAW ENERGY 2013). 

As the ninth instalment of this summertime event, RAW SHIFT will not disappoint. 

Located in a storefront sandwiched between a bank and dollar store – the vacant venue offers a playful nod to the theme of built space transitioning uses – while inside, the multi-functional theme is set to explode. 

RAWSHIFT will feature a complete, modular transformation of an empty Queen Street East storefront into an architectural installation staged to evolve throughout the evening.  The multi-function message is imbedded in a TUBE FOREST set out on a fixed grid and a CUBE MOUNTAIN surrounding a cool centre, as well as a series of transfer plates, suspended on multiple tracts that provide endless possibilities for the massive eye-popping panels.  The space inside RAW SHIFT is intended to change throughout the night and what happens next is dependant on the users/guests that attend.

An interactive party experience that is forever-evolving, RAW SHIFT explores transition in physical space and design, adapting to the crowd and influencing the attitude of the space. With each piece of furniture and art constructed primarily out of paper, the props unfold to reveal dynamic and evocative compositions.

“We hope people will use RAWSHIFT elements as they please, customizing their experience and space as friends and colleagues come and go. We want to encourage their input to create larger and then more intimate spaces, reconfigure seating and change ambient lighting, “ says Marnie Mosher, RAW Design.

As is the case with all RAW events, the theme is woven throughout each experience.  Based on a temporary cardboard materiality, the studio at RAW have designed an origami-inspired backdrop that shifts to support the ever-altering aesthetic, sound, lighting, food and mixology.  Nothing is static.

“As a firm, we’ve worked on numerous adaptive reuse projects over the years. Courtrooms become office spaces, factories become studios, churches become new homes. These conversions serve as a signpost for us. Our lens cannot only focus on the current function of a building but must also anticipate the potential for it to shift its purpose over time.   As architects we must allow for opportunities in the future, while addressing the needs of the present, “adds Roland Rom Coltoff, founder of RAW Design.

RAW SHIFT is a natural progression in Toronto’s ongoing  dialogue about built form and the urban landscape. For RAW, the event series also serves as a genesis for the studio’s celebrated public-art installation work across the country. RAW’s installation portfolio includes Prismatica as part of Luminotherapie in Montreal and their Nuzzles design for Warming Huts in Winnipeg. RAW is also the co-creator and a key organizer for the annual Winter Stations competition in Toronto.