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What are your Top Ten favourite Canadian designs ever, and can give you give us a sentence or two on why you think they are important and meaningful? I have always argued that Canadian design would only strive if it were recognizably Canadian. Of course we do not know exactly what that means in terms of shape and colour. We know of the success of recreational products in general: BRP, Pelican, Louis Garneau, Bauer, CCM etc. here in Québec, but they hardly have a common form language. So I am going to choose what I see as typical Canadian:

1- Thomas Lamb’s Chaise lounge (image above). As in many good Canadian designs there is some reference to a more international heritage (The crossed legs of the Barcelona chair are very recognizable) and yet the way it is translated in wood (teak) and the extra support in the back point toward a certain austerity on one hand and a “less risky” construction in the back on the other makes it look Canadian. I think it represents Canada well in the MoMA collection. plasticase-629

2- Michel Dallaire’s PP Briefcase. Again, there is a European inspiration in Peter Raacke’s “Ulmer briefcase” from 1966 but Dallaire’s solution for both the details of the overall shape and the closure is innovative and as far as the closure is concerned very elegant. The challenging flat surfaces (Raacke facilitates the injection moulding process by curving these otherwise difficult surfaces) are refined and the radii are so well chosen that the product is neither box-like nor too monolithic. To find a way to make the two parts equal in spite of the closing mechanism is brilliant.

3- The “Laser” sailboat by Ian Bruce. Again, the overall concept is close to the “Finn”, an older Olympic class, but by giving the boat both more stability and more “headroom” for the skipper and by making it more affordable Ian Bruce made it to a worldwide success. With the “skidoo” it is part of the early successes in leisure and sports products, which is undoubtedly an area in which Canada is doing well, both in and outside Canada with bright designers like Michel Lussier at the helm of the advanced developments of Adidas.


4- Ambient lighting fixture PAS for Sunar by Douglas Ball. Douglas Ball is in many ways my hero, not in the least because his ongoing concern with real problems both in the work place, in transportation of handicapped people, the early intensive use of computers etc. In this particular case, the PAS fixture inspired me to develop what would become the core idea of Axis Lighting to divide and define clearly three different kinds and strengths of light: light for circulation areas, ambient light and task light. Although more recent fixtures have dramatically improved the energy efficiency of the Sunar product, the choice of putting the fixture on top of the dividers, the combination of direct and indirect lighting, and the refined shape makes it a great Canadian design.

5- The Garbo trash can for Umbra by Karim Rashid. I was in the jury of several Virtu competitions and so I do remember Karim’s first products when he was still working with KAN in Toronto. From the start he knew how to give structure to organic form, which is rather unusual. Most of the time organic becomes easily form-less. Not in Karim Rashid’s case. The commercial success does not need to be mentioned because everybody has one…Umbra itself is of course a large part of that achievement.

6- The fork and knife set designed by Jamie Ibbet, part of the Alto Design dinner tray. With the well-known exceptions, a weakness in Canadian design is form and the way form is organized, structured and balanced. This fork and knife is an exception to that rule. It reminds me of Todd Wood’s garden tools. It is at the limit of mannerism but it does not cross the line, which I appreciate because it is such a sensitive area of design. It is so much more difficult to show restrain than to show off.

ronron_17- Olivier Desrochers chair for his own production: od-design. I was born and grew up in a furniture workshop and the fact that a chair was the most difficult product to design has been repeated to me since my early years. It might be the reason why I never tried to design one. Olivier Desrochers’ chair is not perfect. I find the upright in the back, under the backrest slightly too heavy for the overall shape. But it is the most beautiful chair on the Canadian market and I wish it were produced industrially. To me Olivier Desrochers’ chair is to Canadian design what Carl Malmsten’s city hall chair was to Swedish furniture design.

8- The Top & Derby cane by Matthew Kroeker. I can’t wait to need one of these canes. I am passed 70, so I soon will be one of the happiest users of this so simple, yet so elegant and very well made object. I hope I need one soon!

9- Dianne Croteau and Richard Brault’s instruction dummys for Actar Incorporated. These are not beautiful objects, in the aesthetic sense, but they are beautiful in all their intentions. These dummies are very Canadian in the sense of being no nonsense, functional and well made. It is also a product that requires all the entrepreneurial skills one can muster and Dianne and Richard have done just that. My admiration for an effort like that is without limits.

10- I also love Claude Maufette’s trophies, Patty Johnson’s North-South Project, Lukas Peet’s lighting and last but not least Marcel Girard’s Tukilik series for Danesco.

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