For the past four years, we have been working with Art Toronto as the lead architects for their annual fair. Each year, the design incorporates approximately 100 galleries, publications, special projects, installations, lounges, dining, and stage areas.
Art is best enjoyed within a cultural and social milieu. The Art Toronto challenged us to synthesize such an environment for four days within the depths of the Metro Toronto Convention Center. The redesign created focal points to foster interactions between visitors and galleries, as well as integrate more intimate and enclosed environments.
We approached the fair as though it was a city – a pop-up art city. The gallery booths form blocks and these blocks frame avenues. Thinking along these lines allowed us to choreograph intuitive pathways visitors could use to traverse the fair. In our earliest studies, we looked at how streets and public spaces interact in cities around the world – such as the avenues of Washington DC or the parks of Savannah, GA – seeking principles for the integration of the gallery booth blocks and the social spaces in the fair.
Our design created a unique ambiance in which people can come together to enjoy a great variety of art. It is a place that welcomes visitors and entices them to explore. Too many international art fairs are monotonous places that herd their visitors down relentless aisles. For us, it was critical that Art Toronto offer its visitors a variety of spatial experiences so that different kinds of art could be enjoyed in unique settings. To that end, the fair is organized into neighbourhoods, where booths are arranged in different ways to highlight different curatorial initiatives
Two long deep lounges bring visitors into the fair. Like great piazzas, they are places where people can rest, socialize and enjoy a coffee. They incorporate special art commissions and vegetation to create two special urban places at the heart of Art Toronto.
While artwork remained the primary focus, the addition of new types of spaces added visual interest and dynamism, and encouraged patrons to linger, explore, and converse.