10 Things We’re Looking Forward To at IDS and DesignTO 2024
While many northern cities have all but retreated into hibernation for the winter, Toronto is an emphatic exception. The city comes alive each January thanks to its two landmark design events: IDS Toronto and DesignTO. Now in its 25th year as the city’s largest design show, IDS returns to the North Building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from January 18-21 with a slick new brand identity to celebrate the milestone in style. And though the city-wide DesignTO festival is a more recent addition to the local design scene, it has quickly become an equally vital part of our calendar.
The 2024 edition is poised to be just as memorable as years past, with over 100 events city wide running from January 19-28. With so much to see, our itineraries are already packed. Below, we round up the 10 highlights we’re most looking forward to at IDS and DesignTO 2024.
Each year at IDS, a large-scale exhibition unpacks a major theme that speaks to the current moment. This year’s iteration, dubbed Future Neighbourhood, is comprised of six installations arranged on a central “street,” inviting visitors to immerse themselves in unique solutions to Toronto’s biggest design challenges. Take BLOKK, for instance, a modular system for affordable garden suites and laneway houses by Noam Hazan Design Studio, which comes as a flat-packed kit with detailed, Ikea-like instructions (assistance from the BLOKK team is also available for those with less construction savvy). SvN, in collaboration with Two-Steps Home and CABN, has also proposed its own pilot program to address the housing crisis. Other highlights include SDI and Q4’s exploration of the future of senior-oriented living, and Syllable’s proposal for an office that promotes well-being.
Rendering of HUTT by CABN
Two of our favourite design topics — pre-fabricated construction and woodsy nature retreats — shack up together in this feature exhibition, which invites IDS attendees to tour a trio of different prefab cabins. The first, by arcana, offers a first look at the hospitality brand’s 23 new rental properties opening this year in Muskoka. Meanwhile, the Backcountry Hut Company will be demonstrating its kit-of-parts designs, which can be shipped directly to cottage sites for ultimate ease of construction. And for those seeking to build a more urban getaway, CABN will be showcasing HUTT: a timber bunkie structure that can be installed (without a building permit, in most cases) as a backyard office or fitness space complete with in-roof solar power.
The Arbor by Emily Peterson, a finalist in the LIV Design Studio Student Design Challenge.
LIV Design Studio
The pandemic brought a deeper appreciation for great outdoor space — but tiny apartment patios are not always easy to put to good use in winter. How can we successfully adapt these spaces into year-round oases? This was the challenge posed in this year’s LIV Design Studio Student Design Challenge, “The Art of Outdoor Living.” Working with a 18-square-metre patio space in a multi-residential unit, student designers were tasked with coming up with ways to better engage with the small outdoor patios often found in multi-residential settings. Harnessing the capabilities of its in-house CGI team, LIV Design Studio then rendered the concepts developed by three top finalists as augmented-reality environments. Attendees at IDS Toronto will have a chance to pay a virtual visit to all three concepts, then cast their vote for their favourite design — with the winner set to be announced at the end of IDS on January 21.
Pendant by Laboratoire Textile
Table lamp by OCH Works
Studio North and Prototype
Studio North has become a must-see feature of IDS, welcoming independent product designers to show off their custom creations — from furniture to ceramics — in a carefully curated showcase. The 2024 edition will feature returning favourites Cyrc, a Montreal brand churning out 3D-printed housewares, and new additions like Modernist Wood, which makes fun and functional wooden artworks and accessories. In particular, the lighting category is shaping up to be a standout, with stunning and sculptural works by Laboratoire Textile, OCH Works, Fine Lumens, and more. Within Studio North, the Prototype section will display new ideas for the residential market by emerging designers.
Candles by LOHN
Candleholders by AND Ceramics
Introduced in 2023, The District brought a new cash-and-carry shopping destination to the show floor. Shining a spotlight on local creatives, this section gives a platform to small businesses and independent makers like artist Rob Raeside, whose colourful and sculptural glass vases caught our eye during last year’s edition. From fashion to homewares, there’s sure to be something for everyone, making it the perfect spot to pick up a gift for your favourite design lover (or yourself), or simply find inspiration in the immense talent Torontonians have to offer.
Built on principles of inclusivity and accessibility, this is the exhibition that cares. Embracing a co-design methodology, Toronto-based design lab DESIGNwith partners with local Regent Park Sewing Studio to showcase their new line of soft goods. A core concept of the collaboration is exploring both traditional modes of creation as well as alternative formats, like human-centred design. This exhibition will explore the idea that inclusive design extends past product to focus on the people themselves, specifically those on the margins of the fabric of society. Come down to 220 Yonge Street and learn about design that cares — all are welcome.
Chair by PRPS Studio. PHOTO: Marc Santos
Side table by Sarah Yao-Rishea. PHOTO: Marc Santos
If you’re looking for talented industry up-and-comers, look no further. A who’s-who of promising designers from Toronto and Montreal unite to share a new round of exciting prototypes. While still early in their careers, many of the featured players have already got our attention with their past projects: Sarah Yao-Rishea’s Alcove vases were a steel standout at the 2022 edition of WantedDesign Manhattan, Julian Gregory’s butterfly-shaped Farfalline pendant was a favourite at last year’s edition of IDS Toronto, and Darius Laprise and Étienne Vernier both delivered extra-inventive takes on lighting at Head Hi’s 2022 Lamp Show. Here, the troupe explore “unexpected and unconventional elements,” giving new meaning to materials or forms that might not typically be associated with design.
Witness the Ace Hotel transform into a bubbly haven of inflatable plastic balloons with this year’s site-specific installation by Studio Rat. Designed by the bubble-obsessed creative practice based between Toronto and Montreal, this carbonated installation plays with softness and surrealism – and a love affair with pneumatics. The exhibition offers a space for free play, curiosity, exploration and above all, the fun of design.
The speakers at the Urban Affairs Forum will include Eladia Smoke, Daniel Fusca, Zahra Ebrahim and Elsa Lam.
Urban Affairs Forum | Shaping Public Spaces: Community Engagement
“How do we ensure the public engagement process is truly meaningful, effective, and democratic?” This is the question that the Toronto Society of Architects seeks to answer through the Urban Affairs Forum, a panel discussion taking place during DesignTO. While public consultations have become the standard in bringing accountability to public projects — and often do offer opportunities to incorporate feedback, answer questions and address community priorities — they are not always effective in engaging the public. Through this forum, the TSA will explore the ways in which this process can be made more meaningful, balancing the perspectives of the community, designers and government in equal measure. This talk is eligible for 1.5 Structured ConEd credit.
How much of our coveted urban space is occupied by parking garages? The answer is a lot. Amanda Large of doublespace photography explores these liminal spaces of in a photography exhibition featuring 34 parkettes throughout Toronto. Inspired by Ed Ruscha’s 1967 book Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles, 34PKGTO explores the materiality, texture and layers of these – often unnerving – transient spaces. As part of the showcase at STACKT Market, 34PKGTO begs the question; what will be the future of the parking garage?