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Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.


Usually, I like to write about events that are still happening in an effort to encourage you all to get out there and experience design for yourselves. That would have been the case if the Museum of Vancouver fell into my usual “flight pattern” but I really have not been there sine I lived in Kitsilano. Thanks to the advent of social media and Linus Lam‘s invite I caught wind of the last days of the Migrating Landcapes exhibition which had been on display since November the 3rd and is now closed. But don’t let that worry you. Today I am going to give you as much content as possible to help you see what I saw this past weekend.

A little background: Migrating Landscapes is a national Canadian design competition that was intended to attract emerging Canadian designers and task them with creating projects that deal with migration as a design influencer. North America, as we know it today, is largely made up of immigrants; that’s me and you just about everyone you know and, thanks to this, a good cross section of designers from many ethnic backgrounds were given the opportunity to tell their stories with their hands and ingenuity. To quote the website directly, entrants were specifically asked the following:

“How might specific cultural memory be captured and rendered, informing the ways we generate design?”
“How do divergent perspectives come together and thereby create new contextual landscapes?”
“Can the juxtaposition of personal vernacular memories and questions of context and content provide insight into contemporary architectural production?

Pablo 184x300 Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.

Pablo and his wife with their award winning entry. Not shown is their imminent new daughter. Congratulations in advance guys!

The British Columbia manifestation of Migrating Landscapes culminated in the form of a month-long exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver consisting of the region’s top fifteen submissions. At the end of the month; that being the 25th, the evening I was attending, the top five would be announced by a jury made up of local art and design luminaries. The chosen projects would migrate to the National Exhibition in Winnipeg for display and final consideration for inclusion in the 2012 Venice Biennale of Architecture, the most important event of its kind in the industry. The nation’s best will be exhibited in Italy for three months before being packed up once again and spread out even further across the globe. Think of it as little design capsules meant for the rest of the world to experience a bit of the culture of Canadian design.

When I got to the event I met up with five people I know from the scene: Pablo Leppe, Linus Lam, Sophia Sengsuriya, Jonathan Igharas and Omer Arbel. It just so happened that each of these individuals played an important role in making this exhibit a success. Pablo is one of the Vancouver Design Nerds who I’ve worked with this year. He’s also on of the winning entrants who will be having their work shipped off to Winnipeg. Congratulations are in order! Pablo is co-founder of space-hive, a collaborative studio space that might be a great place to get involved with other designers. There are several places like this around town and I am grateful for this. On the design scene it’s not hard to find his name popping up whenever there is a high profile design opportunity to be exploited. Here is a list of a few of said projects:
Vancouver Laneway Housing
Re-Fab: Design for Sail
Livable Laneways (This would be the project that I worked on with Pablo and the Design Nerds before I got stuck in Toronto for the rest of the summer)

Soph Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.Sophia, is that very same girl who I met at IDS West this year and several times since around Vancouver. Sophia actually provided the first round of photos for the exhibit website way back when it was first put up in the beginning of November. This is just one of many examples of how much Sophia gets involved in Vancouver Design. I’ve seen her at practically every event or gathering since and I take my hat off in recognition of her enthusiasm and energy to get out there and make the best of everything. And I thought I got around!


Linus2 Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.Linus is another personality who is becoming more and more synonymous with Vancouver Design. He is the brain behind several initiatives; most notably the founder of Edison & Sprinkles and Editor-in-Chief of Artsy! Dartsy! As such he is constantly busy. Linus is another one of those people who will do whatever it takes to get involved. Once again, full credits and respect. This night he helped promote the actual event (which is how I found out about it), tended bar, and took on the role of Host and Panel Discussion Moderator.


OmerArbel Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.As I mentioned, the illustrious Omer Arbel and I have had run-ins in the past and it was good to see him once again contributing to the collective intellect. In case you don’t know, he is the creative director at Bocci, the principal at his own studio, Omer Arbel office and was famously commissioned to co-design the Olympic medals last year. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Several of his pieces are considered to be collector’s items and have permanent homes in various international museum collection. Omer is multi-talented and loves to get involved and he’s usually a pretty approachable guy; just don’t challenge him to a fencing match. That night he was joined by Peter Cardew, Germaine Koh, and Chris Macdonald (who are each respected creative leaders in their own rights) to make up the jury.

John Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers. Jonathan is a good friend of mine from school who’s worked with me several times. Vancouverites know him as The DJ Trike man. But that’s not the whole story. The Trike is one of many design projects by John the Industrial Designer. When he’s not spinning phat beats at hip parties around town he is pushing form and function through MAKEUSE, his design practice, or lending his skills to 18KARAT.



Jury Collage 244x300 Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.

(Top) Jae-Sung Chon, The Organizer. (Inset) Imu Chan & Mira Yung's entry wins special recognition. (Below) The venerated Jury. Left to right: Germaine Koh, Omer Arbel, Peter Cardew, Chris Macdonald

After the awards and special distinctions were announced, an open panel discussion was held which gave the audience a chance to really communicate with the jury. The conversation revolved around the importance and the potential for more initiatives like Migrating Landscapes which could bolster the Canadian Design canon. I didn’t really come with the intent to ask any questions but this subject matter sparked something in me and caused me to put my hand up. To paraphrase, I said, “someone once told me that there is no industry here, only lifestyle, and that if I wanted to be successful I’d have to do all my business in or move to the US. And yet, here we are, a room full of designers, trying to make our way in Canada anyways”. I put it to the panel of jurors to explain to me, what is keeping them here, in Vancouver of all cities. There was an uncomfortably long silence and Linus had to interject in order to get the conversation flowing again.

The mingling for me afterwards was all about me asking people the same thing: to migrate or not to migrate?. I got many perspectives and I was glad to hear some very strong opinions. The gist of it was that here in Canada, and especially in BC, we have this special opportunity to shape the future of Design right now. Vancouver is literally still being built and is a place that is refreshingly shallow in terms of traditions. This particular situation gives us much freedom to be the futurists that we, as designers, need to be. It really is the wild west and each one of you is a pioneer. We are not just in control of our personal design careers; together we can collaborate. Together we can get together and scheme (why else do you think I started this blog?). And together, we citizens of the design community can give birth to the design industry that we all feel is lacking.

Entries Collage 210x300 Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.

(Left to right) Caner Oktem, Imu Chan & Mira Yung, D'Arcy Jones & Amanda Kemeny & Daan Murray & Melani Pigat, Tracy MacTavish & Kate Snyder & Thomas Maxey & Kelvin Cornelssen, Joel Letkemann, Bryan Beca & Steve DiPasquale, Winston Chong

While, understandably, many jump ship and do indeed leave the country to find work it’s the designers who resolve to stick around and get proactively involved with the community that are leading the way. Readers, this is important. Each of the people I’ve mentioned in today’s post are shining examples of what standing your ground and getting all you can out of your surroundings is all about. They all do it in their own way, but what is important is, they are doing it. This all connects to what I’ve been saying since I returned from hiatus. Remember the Mousetrap analogy? I feel Vancouver is teetering on the cusp of a revolution. If you are reading these words and feeling what I am telling you then you already have the means to be a part of it. It’s in our hands, my friends.

I say this often but I will say it again. Do follow me and all of the others mentioned here to see what’s up on the scene. Come out, meet us, and get on the win wagon. And don’t just stop at social media. A follow on twitter or facebook is nice but nothing will ever replace face to face contact. Next time you see any of us attending an event, show up and introduce yourselves. Let’s all be friends today so we can shape tomorrow!
ExhibitCollage Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers. As you walk in you get to tell a bit about your migration story in a a few fun ways. This activity lets you write on little blocks and then stack them up in spots where you have lived.

MOVcollage Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers. The front facade and foyer always fascinate me.

RedTents Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers. It was interesting to see those Red Tents show up in Germaine’s presentation. I didn’t know they were so prominent during the Olympic Torch Relay.

3 Responses to “Migrating Landscapes. Migrating Designers.”

  1. Hi Ryan, thanks for writing about Migrating Landscapes on your blog, and great photos! We here at Cityzen are diamond sponsors of the competition because we truly believe young architects and designers can change the world. Just look at what Yansong Ma did for Mississauga with his Absolute towers. For more ways to get involved and to see the latest updates, you should see our blog: http://blog.mycondomylife.com.

  2. Vanessa says:

    The idea of tirnyg to value and articulate those things design influences is something the world needs to understand. Too many unimportant things take precedence over design because they can be easily valued. However, thanks to events like this and what appears to be a reawakening as to design, spearheaded by Apple, like it or not, the world may soon value design in a manner more commensurate with its impact.

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