DesignTO Festival

Since 2011, DesignTO has been bringing communities together to celebrate design. Today, DesignTO Festival is Canada’s largest annual design festival, celebrating design as a multidisciplinary form of creative thinking and making, with over 100 exhibitions.

Despite Covid-19, this year’s DesignTO festival is still on. It will look different than in year’s past, with a wide range of programming that can be experienced virtually, or in-person at a distance, by appointment or from outdoors. To get you started, here are our top 6 picks for 2021.


A Chunk of Silver and Some Mud

Former classmates Nicolas Soni and Gillian Maradyn-Jowsey use their immeasurable appetites for objects and food to cook up a dinner service to feast one’s eye upon. This service will consist of cast and forged silverware made by Toronto-based sculptor Soni, and handbuilt ceramic dishes made by Lunenburg-based ceramicist Maradyn-Jowsey.

Robust in form yet soft in sensibility, these ceramics are made for everyday dining and special occasions alike. The cutlery draws from Early-Modern English flatware and carpentry tools, emphasizing intuition and playfulness. These implements have been made so as to consider their material heritage while reimagining the conventions around them.



Out of a need to leave her place and explore, artist Lisa Stuve started to document the typography of various older apartment buildings.

“It became a treasure hunt of unique discoveries, some I happened upon while others I tracked down online. The charm and character from decades past led me to daydream of what these apartments must look like inside, or how they appeared in their prime. These signs show a lost typographic art form, one I wish that new developments in the city would bring back.” – Lisa Stuve


Le Plus Habité

Le Plus Habité is a term coined by architect Augustin-Charles d’Aviler in the 17th century to describe rooms that were meant to be the most lived in, to differentiate them from display rooms. In this piece, the term gains a new meaning, as the viewers are pushed to question the purpose of the space and its livability.

The scale, names, and utility of the domestic space have routinely transformed to reflect human needs and desires. The living room has been used as a display of status, a space to entertain visitors, and at times was used for the temporary keeping of the dead. Through the installation, Brandon Latcham and Shira Yavor aim to blur the lines between human and non-human environments. A stop-motion film, created in collaboration with Rashmi Baird, echoes this concept, and acts as a dream seeking to bridge the gap between the domestic and organic environments.


Volatile Ecologies: Architectural Apparatuses for Earthly Survival

‘Volatile Ecologies’ is a design expedition examining the environmental degradation in the industrial waterfront of Buffalo, New York, through the lens of scenario planning and prototype making. Since their use in the 1910s, these sites have been contaminated for decades with oil spills, benzene run-offs, coal tars, ammonia liquors, wastewater, and toxic airborne emissions. Bringing together design thinking, technology, and material culture, the exhibition depicts an alternative future of the heavily polluted environment through design apparatuses and speculative drawings.




10490 is a series of seats made as part of an investigation into how objects exist as intricate relations between material, marking, and meaning. Each seat has its own personality, telling a story of a particular time and place.

“The process began with harvesting wood from my family’s property in London, Ontario. For the past year I have made a seat every two to four weeks. These were the ones that made it. The series of seats reflect a learning process, an embodied knowledge that develops when engaging with material. Each object speaks of the time and place in which it was made and embodies the vitality of the trees that made them.”   – Elizabeth Lenny



‘Loom’ responds to concepts of fragmentation, entanglement and impermanence as intrinsic conditions of urban experience. Compiled from a multitude of intersecting conditions, encounters and perspectives, the urban experience has become analogous with concepts of weaving and textile production, with the term ‘urban fabric’ becoming commonplace. Converting this visually rich urban vernacular into a spatial experience, ‘Loom’ plays with concepts of interweaving in both a metaphorical and material way.


This year’s DesignTO Festival takes place January 23 – 31.

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