Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //
meet your maker

Toronto architects embrace their contrarian nature

The ‘Echo’ table series is part of the studio’s ongoing effort to push boundaries and alter the perception of materials.

The designer duo of Eiri Ota and Irene Gardpoit are preoccupied with making ordinary materials extraordinary

Looking at the Echo tables, designed by Toronto-based architects Eiri Ota and Irene Gardpoit, the natural reaction might be to think: What is that made of? The razor-thin surfaces look, at first glance, like the off-cut of some celestial object that has crash-landed to Earth. Bits of a glittering meteor, say. Shimmering, metallic edges streak away, revealing the grain of something that looks ancient, like petrified remains.

Looking closer, though, the trick of the table is revealed. The materials are surprisingly prosaic: everyday metal and wood, melding together in a beautiful franken-composition.

"The tables aren't actually other worldly," Gardpoit explains. "The design itself is quite practical; the reason for using the wood and the metal is structural. Part of the wood being embedded in the metal makes for a stronger surface."

Story continues below advertisement

Each of the tables is made from a composite of wood that tapers out at the edges and blends into metal.

Making ordinary materials extraordinary is a preoccupation of the couple, and has been since they started their studio, UUfie, in Japan in 2009 (they later relocated to Toronto in 2013).

Their peacock chair is made from Corian, a common material used for kitchen counters. But rather than look like a giant butcher block, the seat gracefully fans out in a delicate, intricate lattice that is as supple as lace.

The table tops are made in three different sizes and rest on slender legs that emphasize a slightly curved bottom and narrow section in the middle.

"We like seeing the new potential always," Ota says. "Even Corian, which people use for kitchen counter-tops." In their hands, what's solid dissolves into movement.

The proclivity can be seen in their architecture as well. A flagship they designed in Shanghai for Canadian fashion company Ports 1961 is made of glass blocks, but composed in such a way as to almost look diaphanous – like a cloud turning to mist.

The couple often looks to nature for inspiration – even if the results appear uncanny or intentionally contrarian. They designed a cabin in Ontario's Kawarthas region in 2013 that is strikingly clad in jet-black cedar and panels of mirror. It looks nothing like a typical cabin in the woods, but the idea is to connect strongly with the surroundings: the mirrors almost help the structure to disappear into a vision of trees.

The variations in the table top render shapes that are organic, allowing activity and motion around the table to be natural in any space. The tables are made of aluminum, copper, and brass, and feature contrasting gradients of colour as a result.

According to Ota, that contrarian nature helps heighten the appeal of his work. "Playing with contradictions helps bring people's curiosity higher," he says. "With that wooden table in front of you, people start to question what is it. They see both wood and metal. Both realities are very strong, both are real. When you don't have a boundary in between, you start not to know which is real. That's what we are thinking."

The couple's unique perspective has been derived in part by their international past. Ota was born in Paris and Gardpoit in Toronto, but they have lived and worked around the world (they met in Japan while collaborating on an apartment renovation, where "walls" were composed of lace curtains). "It's helped make our understanding of people and the way to live wider," Ota says. "It's given us new ways of communicating, and ideas of what to design."

Story continues below advertisement


Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Latest Videos

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies