MEG GRAHAM, SUPERKÜL, YALE CENTER FOR BRITISH ART, NEW HAVEN, CONN.
When Toronto-based architect Meg Graham first visited the Yale Center for British Art in 2000 with some colleagues, she was left speechless. "I'm not sure anyone spoke for the first 20 minutes, we were so taken in by the space," she explains. While Louis Kahn's final project appears rather boxy from the outside, its interior is filled with soft, natural light, bouncing from the two central courtyards and roof apertures, giving the spaces great depth and a sense of closeness. "The simultaneous intimacy and boundlessness of the building is something I strive for in every project we do. It can take your breath away, a reminder that we are all part of something much larger than ourselves and our every day."
JESSICA NAKANISHI AND JONATHAN SABINE, MSDS, PARKDALE RESIDENCE BATHROOM, TORONTO
While working on a commission to design interior elements for a Toronto residence, industrial designers Jessica Nakanishi and Jonathan Sabine became enamoured with the home's smart spaces, a collaboration between the client and The Practice of Everyday Design. "We were inspired by how simple but uncompromising the space was. Every surface, detail, piece of furniture and fixture has been considered," explains Sabine. The design duo (who contributed a simple ladder rack to the space) was struck by the shower and bath area, a standalone room separate from the toilet functions. "The typical harshness of washroom surface finishes is absent here, replaced by a subtle, irregularly textured tile and matte white fixtures."
LUKAS PEET, LUKAS PEET DESIGN LIVESTOCK, VANCOUVER
While working on the Chinatown Livestock store, Vancouver-based industrial designer Lukas Peet discovered the trials and tribulations of spatial design. It is because of lessons learned in that process that this shop remains Peet's favourite, one that will forever influence his future projects. "With a space, you have to consider the user's whole body as well as the possibility of many users within the space and how the movement throughout the space occurs, as well as lighting, sound, temperature, touch – possibly scent – and taste," he says. "It is these senses that need to be considered in a space, as opposed to a product."
VINCENT VAN DEN BRINK, BREAKHOUSE, HOSPITAL ROOM
Halifax-based architect Vincent Van Den Brink holds a love/hate relationship with a generic hospital room. "This room is my favourite because it reminds me of both the good and the bad in design. It was because of my time in a hospital that I always focus on design with the human emotion in mind," he explains. Van Den Brink cites the sameness of the room type as an example of non-customized design, which Breakhouse strives to avoid, designing everything from buttons to buildings. "Our office designs around a human experience. We want to create places where people belong – places that welcome and support human behaviour."
GAIR WILLIAMSON, GAIR WILLIAMS ON ARCHITECTS, CHAPELLE NOTRE DAME DU HAUT, RONCHAMP, FRANCE
"I dream of this space still, 40 years on," says Vancouver-based architect Gair Williamson of the Le Corbusier-designed chapel that continues to draw 80,000 architecture lovers each year. While Williamson has never directly referenced this legendary building in his own work, the visceral experience of visiting it forever influences his perception of interior spaces and the power they can hold. "A polychromy of light pours through the south wall in the manner of the great Gothic cathedrals and directs your gaze to the left and the altar, while the bowed ceiling moves you to genuflection."
ZOË MOWAT, ZOË MOWAT DESIGN, ATELIER BRANCUSI, PARIS, FRANCE
Montreal-based furniture designer Zoë Mowat drew inspiration for her Stack Lamp from sculptor Constantin Brancusi's Endless Column, which she discovered while visiting his Paris atelier. The famed artist willed his studio and its contents to France, and it was later reconstructed, exactly as it was, by architect Renzo Piano as part of the Pompidou Centre. "The atelier is a very calm and immersive space that has a kind of soft creative hum I can't quite describe," says Mowat. "Surrounded by his work and tools, one is immediately drawn into his vision and method."
JOHANNA HURME, 5468796 ARCHITECTURE, NORDIC PAVILION, VENICE, ITALY
While preparing to represent Canada at the 2012 Venice Biennale in Architecture, Winnipeg-based architects Johanna Hurme and Sasa Radulovic visited the Nordic Pavilion, designed by Sverre Fehn and built for the same exhibition in 1962. "The room is a beautiful demonstration of how the most simple architectural means can create a space that really moves people," says Hurme, "The way in which natural light falls through the depth of the concrete roof members elevates the space and creates a serene, almost weightless atmosphere – a shadeless, Nordic quality of light. The open space is interrupted by three large tree trunks, blurring the outdoors and indoors. "I think the human reaction to this room is universal and visceral, an achievement that most architects spend a lifetime trying to accomplish."
JEFF WORTLEY, DESIGNSTEAD, NIKELAB 1948 COURTYARD, LONDON, ENGLAND
On his last visit to London and Nikelab's 1948 store, Torontobased designer Jeff Wortley, who specializes in retail spaces, discovered that a shop could double as a community gathering space. Designed by U.K. firm Hotel Creative, the store is built under the arch of a railway line and features a dramatic entrance with two lit up white lines leading into the enclosed courtyard. "It's really welcoming and despite being technically outdoors, it acts as a decompression zone, a place away from the chaos of the streets," he says. "That makes it ideal for meet-ups, community gatherings or even just a pause point for shoppers."
KATE ALLEN, RAD ARCHITECTURE, CHÂTEAU DE CHENONCEAU DINING ROOM, LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE
As a designer behind many of Calgary's top eateries, Kate Allen was struck by the humble beauty of the staff dining room in Château de Chenonceau, which is in stark contrast to the rest of the castle's luxurious interiors. "For me, the heart of the castle was found in the kitchen, where a large harvest table sits in front of the fire and beneath the soft curves of the vaulted ceiling," explains Allen. "This charming little space is unpretentious, authentic and fosters the act of gathering around food. It has offered inspiration as we explore the de-formalization of dining in our work."
SHANE PAWLUK, IZM FURNITURE, LIVINGSPACE INTERIORS, VANCOUVER
Edmonton-based furniture designer Shane Pawluk found inspiration in the angular staircase of Livingspace Interiors. "I was immediately drawn to the minimalist aesthetic and intelligent use of geometry," says Pawluk of the Omer Arbel-designed interior. He and his design partner Jerad Mack love to explore angular forms, sometimes referencing Livingspace's sharp corners. Pawluk describes the Livingspace showroom as striking the right balance between stark and decorated. "We hope to evoke a similar feeling with our furniture collection," he says. "Designed, without being superfluous, and minimalist, yet warm and inviting."