Design aficionados of Toronto rejoice! The Interior Design Show is kicking off today and it’s right in your backyard.

IDS 12 is Canada’s largest contemporary design event and since its inception in 1998, over 500,000 design pros, media and consumers have attended these spectacular annual events. The show begins today and continues until the 29th. The 27th is trade day (click here for all the deets).

All the excitement is happening over at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It promises to be a particularly thrilling event as the always forward-thinking design firm RAW Design has created a unique installation that will greet attendees as they enter the show.

Supervised by Roland Rom Colthoff, principal architect at RAW, the exhibition aims to frame the experience for IDS12 visitors. Titled StripTease, the exhibition is comprised of over 1000 strands of felt hanging from the ceiling and is intended to remind attendees of the experience of arriving home.

We thought this sounded pretty wicked awesome and wanted to know more, so we gave Roland a call at his office to see if he could shed some light on the genesis of this intriguing project. Read our interview with him and check out more picture below:

BuzzBuzzHome: How did this project initially take shape? Were you approached by IDS and asked to participate?

Roland Rom Colthoff: We were approached by them in a competition format. I think they asked three firms to look at this and come up with an idea for their entryway.

We wanted something that would be engaging and have some real material qualities to it and be somewhat experiential as you passed into the space. Fortunately, they saw some potential and chose us.

BBH: How much creative freedom did you have over the direction of the piece?

RRC: 100% They said show us something.

BBH: How exactly does this installation relate to the broader themes of the event?

RRC: Well it’s an abstract connection. What we wanted was a welcoming gesture for people coming into this show. My response to trade shows is that they’re kind of cold and distant from you. You can get engaged with particular pieces, but it’s not normally a hugely rewarding experience in terms of walking around the space. We wanted something that really captured you as you walked into the show.

We started with the idea of a tunnel that you would go through as you would go up the escalators. There would be an element of surprise and anticipation as you entered. We gradually changed the idea to a giant velvet curtain that you pass through. To realize that we fell upon the idea of using strips of felt.

BBH: And that’s where the name “Strip Tease” came from?

RRC: Yes. We started with the name “String Theory” and wanted to do it with strips of string. It ended up being not visually weighty enough to do what we wanted to accomplish.

BBH: So you had a team of design students working on this?

RRC: We had a team of Ryerson and OCAD students help us out. However, all the design work was done at RAW Design with input from Mark Tholen, an industrial designer, who we came across quite early in the process to help source the felt. He hooked us up with The Felt Store, which supplied all the material. It’s all 100% natural fibre, it’s actually wool.

We started this back in November. Luckily, we have a client, Reserve Properties, who we’re working with on Motif. That project is an existing warehouse building and Reserve let us use the space to put this all together. It’s 1300 individual pieces of felt. We had to sort, measure, assemble onto stainless steel cables to be hung in the space and then package it all up and get it to the conference centre last Sunday. We spent the entire day rigging it.

BBH: What kind of experience do you want people to have as they’re walking through?

RRC: We wanted it to be very tactile. There are safety issues so when you’re on the escalator you can’t touch them. They do hang down to the floor of the convention centre so you could walk over to touch them. I think even just passing by, you still get the tactile quality of it and realize you’re passing through a warm, insulating material — much like coming home.

BBH: There’s also a digital component to this as well — tell us more about that aspect.

RRC: It’s not only the felt that you’re passing through, there’s an interactive component. We worked with Christie Digital Systems and Gesturetek on this. It presents images of the attendees of the conference at super-scale. It’s going to be moving so it won’t be totally static. The projection of light is actually quite fabulous. As you’re walking up the escalator, it’s kind of like going through a waterfall or a million stars. It will be very visual.

BBH: How do you see this exhibition fitting in with how the City of Toronto is progressing in terms of development?

RRC: We’re always looking for the sensual qualities within buildings. Buildings need to appeal to people in many different ways. That’s sort of the high intellectual approach of urban design, but it always comes down to what a person experiences when he goes to his apartment, what’s the procedure in getting to the street to the front door. We’re quite concerned about that. We like making that route engaging and interesting for people. This exhibition is one way of doing it.

Thanks for taking the time to chat Roland! Click here to find out more about IDS12.

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