When Stantec Inc. selected the location of their new home in downtown Toronto, their design team wanted to give part of the iconic building back to the city and the arts community. The office is located in the former McGregor sock factory at 401 Wellington Street West.
Many Torontonians—and Stantec team members—have a personal connection to the century-old historic building. “I remember buying socks here years ago,” says intern architect Karen Zwart Hielema (Toronto, Ontario). And the writer remembers visiting the old storefront to buy a high school uniform many moons ago.
Stantec architects and engineers transformed the post-and-beam warehouse into a modern design studio, the building’s main entrance had to be moved from Spadina Avenue to Wellington Street to provide access to multiple tenants. The design team didn’t want to turn the old entrance into a simple window, so it got creative, reconceiving it as a contemporary art space: the Stantec Window Gallery. “This really was about giving back to the community,” says Karen, a member of the committee that curates the space. “That original entrance has a beautiful exterior frame around it that we wanted to use.”
‘Con(Des)struction’ makes reference to the inevitability of life-death cycles, the impermanence of life. It refers to the primeval instinct of construction, creation, growth and life coexisting with an opposite impulse of destruction, decay, and death. Life forces us to negotiate amid these two poles.
We live in a duality of temporal and perpetual; between conventional and spontaneous acts, theological and scientific theories, anxiety and calmness, war and peace, all flowing as a continuous series of events that we experience both as individuals and collectively; they conform the many passages of our existence. It is through these that we perceive the reality around us and manufacture our own truth… only to destroy it again, in the endless cycle of construction and destruction.
The installation is meant to convey the idea of the perpetual cycle between construction and destruction. It uses ‘moire patterns’ to create the perception of a distinctly different space and the illusion of constant movement.
This site specific installation is designed to interact with the viewers depending on their location and mobile condition: by car, transit, bike or on foot (from the park across the street or at the sidewalk closer to the window).
Pedestrians strolling along the sidewalk and drivers inching down Spadina Avenue at rush hour can experience the artwork. Many exhibits referenced the building’s location in Toronto’s historic garment district.